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Jane Grigson’s Greek Bean Stew

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It’s no secret I hold the late English cookbook writer Jane Grigson in high esteem. She came to food writing in the post WW2 period when the English were entering an industrial food revolution after emerging from a prolonged period of food rationing. She was appalled by the quality of produce, groceries and cooking in Britain.

My affinity with this book most likely relates to my own childhood food experiences. My parents were first generation Australians born of English parents who had emigrated just before the 1930s depression. They had both grown up in thrifty households where plain cooking was the norm, well cooked cheap cuts of meat, boiled vegetables and stodgy puddings. Eating for pleasure meant cake.

In the late 1970s I had a growing interest in cooking family food in new ways using both familiar and new ingredients. Jane Grigson brought to me in her Vegetable Book the gift of inspiration, recipes that treated vegetables as tasty and exciting. I learned much from these hallowed pages.

Cooking from Grigson’s “Vegetable Book” for the Cookbook Guru 35 years since it’s publication has been an interesting experience, especially in the height of an Australian summer. Few raw vegetable salad recipes are included and cooking methods seem unnecessarily long and complex, but the ideas and flavours are timeless.

Grigson’s recipe for Greek Stewed Beans is an old, old favourite, but cooking green beans in acidic tomato drains them of texture and colour. Following Grigson’s ingredient list exactly I modified the method and was able to give the dish a contemporary look and feel without compromising the flavour.

It was delicious served at room temperature garnished with a crumble of feta cheese to pay respect to this recipe’s Greek heritage.

The original recipe is for 1 kilo of beans cooked in 500g ripe tomatoes. Prepared using my method, the amount of beans should be reduced to 500g. I substituted spring onions for the onion specified in the recipe to comply with my dietary restrictions.  I also halved the specified 175ml olive oil.

The Cookbook Guru blogging forum is exploring Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book.

Grigson’s Greek Beans 2015 

500g young green beans topped and tailed

2 medium onion sliced or chopped

1 clove of garlic crushed with salt

90 mls olive oil

500g ripe sweet roma tomatoes, chopped

3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

sea salt, black pepper, sugar to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

Top and tail the beans, then steam for 6 minutes. They should be firm, vibrantly coloured and not squeaky when bitten into. Refresh in cold water, dress with a little olive oil and set aside.

Warm the olive oil and gently sauce the onion and garlic until soft.

Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer until thick, about 10 minutes.

Stir through the ground cumin, then season to taste with salt, a generous amount of black pepper and a little sugar if your tomatoes are too acidic.

Stir through the parsley.

Spoon half the sauce into a serving plate. Arrange the beans on top then spoon over the remaining sauce.

Garnish with a little crumbled feta cheese.

Delicious served with lamb.

About ladyredspecs

I live in sunny Brisbane, Australia. My love of good food drives me as a cook, a reader, a traveller, an artist and but mostly as an eater. I cooked professionally for many years but have no formal training. Simply guided by a love of eating good food, respect for ingredients and an abhorrence of artificial additives, I cook instinctively applying the technical know how acquired by experience. I hope you enjoy what I share Sandra AKA ladyredspecs

25 comments on “Jane Grigson’s Greek Bean Stew

  1. dunelight
    February 22, 2015

    This is why you have a food blog and I don’t: I would throw the tasty beans in my lamb stew. I love green beans. Would probably like this dish but you ended the post by mentioning lamb and I went to the place where I’m gonna throw green beans in the next time I get some nice lamb. 😀

    Like

  2. Glenda
    February 12, 2015

    Hi Sandra, Coincidentally, I have been thinking of making this dish as I have piles of frozen beans and preserved tomatoes. I thought the frozen beans may hold out better with a long cook as they are not the best with a quick steam – fresh is much better. I was fascinated by how long you have to cook the beans for – the recipe I use calls for 50 minutes. I note Jane’s recipe calls for only 30 minutes. It is still a long time. Maybe Debi is right, the beans used may be a lot tougher than the ones we get today. I think I will try Jane’s original and see what I think. I like the idea of feta on top.

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      February 13, 2015

      Hi Glenda, it would be an excellent way to use up frozen beans. I have made it many times cooking to the time Grigson specified. The flavour is fabulous but it’s not a great looking dish

      Like

  3. Fae's Twist & Tango
    February 11, 2015

    Super interesting photography angle of this delectable dish. One of the reason I love visiting your blog is for the introduction of food developers/writers’ cookbooks and stories you share.

    Like

  4. Eha
    February 11, 2015

    This is a delightful vegetable dish I have always prepared ‘by touch and feel’ but shall copy your recipe to the nth degree to improve mine!!

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      February 11, 2015

      Tweak till your heart’s content Eha, Jane wouldn’t mind…

      Like

  5. Margot @ Gather and Graze
    February 11, 2015

    What a lovely way to serve beans Sandra… could possibly be a meal all on it’s own! Although with some grilled lamb chops or cutlets on the side… yum! These are the sort of flavours that I love.

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      February 11, 2015

      It not only looks good but tastes great too, fabulous with lamb or as a light meat free meal. Enjoy…

      Like

  6. Mary's Country Kitchen
    February 11, 2015

    Different and looks yummy and also a beautiful picture

    Like

  7. chef mimi
    February 11, 2015

    A wonderful green bean dish. I make something similar that includes greek olives, but without cumin. Great ingredients!! I’ve never heard of this author, so I’ll look into her cookbooks. Anyone back “then” who tried to go against the rampant commercialization of food wins a gold star in my book!

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      February 11, 2015

      Mimi, I’m sure you would love reading Jane Grigson. The companion to the Vegetable Book, simply called Fruit Book is even better. Social history jumps off the page. Olives would be a delicious addition to beans and tomatoes

      Like

  8. cheergerm
    February 10, 2015

    A beautiful rendition of a classic, love the fresh twist Mrs R! I adore and rely on my similar Lebanese stewed bean dish but always looking for new ways with green beans, I have added this to my ‘must cook soon list’. (Yes, I do have such a list… )

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      February 10, 2015

      I have a list too Cheery, crossed a few things off this week. This is a great treatment for beans, really yummy!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. suej
    February 10, 2015

    What a great update for this dish! Must try it one day….

    Like

  10. trixpin
    February 10, 2015

    What a lovely way to dress up beans, and they go so well with tomatoes I can imagine this tasted delicious. Great idea to add the feta too. Yum 🙂

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      February 10, 2015

      Glad you like it Trix, you’re so right beans and tomatoes are delicious together

      Like

  11. vannillarock
    February 10, 2015

    This dish looks and sounds like I need to make it tonight! Anne

    Like

  12. Leah
    February 10, 2015

    Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:

    From a Bean salad we head into a bean stew. Lady Red Specs has put a modern twist onto this dish to maximise the colour and flavour. Make sure you check it out.
    Happy Reading and Happy Cooking,
    Leah

    Liked by 1 person

    • ladyredspecs
      February 10, 2015

      Thanks Leah, it doesn’t take much to bring these dishes up to date they have such good bones. Xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  13. My Kitchen Witch
    February 10, 2015

    I really like your “fresh” version of fasolakia. The traditional Greek way is good, too, but you are right, it does wash the colour from the beans. The long cooking may have had something to do with the size and age of the beans – i.e. tougher and larger than the green beans we get today. I always add crumbled feta to mine – makes it a whole meal particularly with a good crusty bread to sop up the tomato sauce. Grigson strikes again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ladyredspecs
      February 10, 2015

      There is much in Grigson’s Vegie book that I think reflects the improvement in quality of produce, though the cynic in me wonders if the nutritional value has been reduced. I love the robust flavours of this dish and as you say, add fetta and bread to mop up the juices, yum!

      Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on February 10, 2015 by in FODMAP diet, Food, Gluten Free, Light Savoury Dishes, Side Dishes & Salads, The Cookbook Guru, Vegan, Vegetarian and tagged , , .
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