- Food & Drink
Runner bean, Lancashire cheese and hazelnut salad
Back in April I was contacted by the British Beans and Peas Campaign and asked if I’d like to take part in the Great British Runner Bean Revival. Now, if there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a revival. And to help me revive runner beans they were offering me a grow-your-own kit.
This was a thrilling prospect, mostly because I’ve never successfully grown a thing in my life. I have a black thumb, visiting death, disease and unhappiness on all of God’s green and pleasant things. I’ve even killed mint. Repeatedly. And a cactus. I’m not one of nature’s farmers.
So I accepted the invitation and a few week’s later filled little pots with crumbly black compost and pushed a bean into each one. I planted 5 and lovingly poked, prodded, bothered and watered them every day until, incredibly, little green shoots appeared. I had made life!
The plants thrived, twirling their way out of the soil. Pleasingly, they looked exactly like the paper and cloth beanstalks I’d seen jerkily climb their way up stages in pantos as a child.
Then I had to go for eye surgery. I’d be away for 2 weeks, and so would my housemate. The plants were carefully packed into the car boot and transported to the south coast, where 2 of them promptly died. Runner beans are not good travellers.
My dad planted the remaining beanstalks into larger pots and I carefully carried them back to London. I put them in the garden, near where I’d like to plant them out, and left them there until my housemate planted them for me (I pull a similar move with plates by the sink for washing up).
The beans exploded up the fence. One day they were bobbing their heads near the lawn, the next they had scrambled over the top of the climbing frame and were making a break for next door’s washing line. Everyday another dozen runner beans ping into existence and I’m rapidly filling my freezer with blanched beans that’ll keep me in greens throughout the winter.
The first crop, however, was turned into this salad. Squeaky slices of just cooked runner beans rub up against smoky toasted hazelnuts and creamy dabs of Lancashire cheese. It’s large enough for a main course for 1 or as a side salad with charred slabs of lamb for 2.
Runner bean, hazelnut and Lancashire cheese salad
150g runner beans, topped, tailed and sliced into inch-long lengths
4 smallish tomatoes, quartered
15g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
25g Lancashire cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp hazelnut or extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of sugar
Cook the runner beans in salted boiling water for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and rinse with cold running water. Drain again.
Arrange the runner beans on a plate with the tomatoes. Scatter over the hazelnuts and Lancashire cheese.
Place the oil, lemon juice and sugar in a screw-top jar with some seasoning and shake to emulsify. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Drizzle over the salad and serve.