from one generation to the next
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.