You could hardly call our handful of runner beans a glut but I did have to come up with a quick way to use them up before we set off on holiday. It happens every year; all the plants I’ve been tending for months are suddenly laden with fruit just as we’re going away.
These beans have some heritage too. Peter’s father Royston Bassett was one of the most positive, generous spirited men I’ve ever met, he was also the king of beans. Roysty Reg, as we all called him, grew literally hundreds of pounds of both broad and runner beans every year. “When you’ve got beans you’ve got friends” I remember him announcing as he filled his wheelbarrow for the umpteenth time. The journey home from the allotment, with the Kings Head en route (where Roysty did a great trade swapping beans for pints with his mates) was often an eventful one. He managed to misjudge the kerb once, somehow ending up underneath his upturned wheel barrow, finishing up like a giant metal tortoise. He was such a fabulous character, always up for a laugh. His antics go down in family history, perhaps my favourite is the time the Bassett family went out for a celebratory family meal. It was back in the seventies and Roysty was sporting a fashionable blue velvet jacket, purchased for the occasion. The waitress asked “would Sir like a roll?” “don’t mind if I do” said Roysty as he jumped down from the table and rolled on the floor picking up every bit of crumb, hair and carpet fluff on his blazer.
When Roysty died earlier this year, aged 91, he left a huge sack of his prized beans, dried and ready for podding. It was wonderful, as Imi and Pete podded the beans on the doorstep lots of our friends and neighbours stopped for a chat as they passed by, most of them left with a handful of beans. Roysty’s beans have gone to Spain, London and countless gardens around Bristol and I know that this sounds rather sentimental, but Roysty seems to live on through his beans.
So here is the recipe for the quick lunch frittata that we dived into before heading off to very sunny Spain (more about that at a later date) It really helps to have a small, deep, non-stick frying pan. Mine is a rather expensive, but incredibly resilient, 20 cm SKK pan that I bought at Divertimenti. It’s THE perfect Spanish tortilla pan too.
Runner Bean Frittata
A handful of young runner beans, topped and tailed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 piquillo peppers, sliced ( you could use roasted bell peppers)
a small bunch of chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
a dash of milk
salt and black pepper
String the runner beans if necessary (mine were very young and pretty string-free) and then blanch them for a couple of minutes in a pan of boiling water, drain and then run under the cold tap to keep them lusciously green.
Fry the garlic, piquillo pepper strips and beans in the olive oil for a moment or two until you’re enveloped in wonderful smells.
Take a bowl and beat up the eggs with a dash of milk until well mixed. Tip in the fried veg’ and season with plenty of salt and pepper.
Reheat the frying pan with an extra tablespoon of olive oil and pour in the egg mixture. Now cook over a low heat until the sides of the frittata are beginning to come away from the pan. Place a large plate over the pan (the top will still be a bit runny) and turn the omelette over onto the plate. Slip it back into the pan and cook the underside. (if you can’t bear the idea of turning the frittata you can bake it in the oven at about 180 c/350 f for about 15 minutes or until just set, but not rubbery)
Now it’s up to you, if you’re going to eat the frittata warm then it can be delicious to leave the centre quite juicy and loose but if you are planning on eating it cold later then continue to cook until the centre is set. (Just press on the top to see if the centre feels at all wobbly or insert a skewer if you’re really unsure)
Frittatas are fabulous for all kinds of vegetables – favourites of mine are: courgette, mint and parmesan or caramelised onion, thyme and goat’s cheese.
And if you really do have a glut of runner beans, you lucky things, then try Diana Henry’s recipe with anchovies , Xanthe Clay has plenty of great ideas for you and do take a look at The Foodie Bugle post by Andrew Green.