At the Harvest Lunch in the village the conversation turned to the weather (inevitable in an English social situation) and its effect on our vegetable gardens. We agreed that it had been a very bad year for outdoor tomatoes and that no-one had a glut of courgettes. We also agreed that beans had done very well, but that the season for green beans was just about at an end – when I suggested using the mature beans shelled from the pods there was a pause in the chatter "Oh, can you do that?" someone said. Maybe I had overstepped the mark and alluded to a peasant style of cooking that civilized people had left long behind?
These beautiful shiny beans in shades of indigo are the semi-mature Poletschka beans (a climbling bean from Ukraine from the Heritage Seed Library) grown in our vegetable garden. Impressed by the tender and sweetly flavoured green pods I decided to save lots of seed for planting next year. But I had to try the flavour of the beans before they dried, after all flageolet beans - fresh haricot beans - are a gourmet dish in France traditionally served with lamb.
Supper last night was my nouvo-peasant recipe, "Chicken Poletschka":
Two large spring onions (scallions) chopped and cooked in a little olive oil in the trusty Le Creuset shallow 'buffet' casserole. Add skinned chicken joints, two whole unskinned garlic cloves, sliced mushrooms, cubed aubergine - home grown :), fresh shelled Poletschka beans, cook on a gentle heat until chicken is browned and the mushroom and aubergine lightly cooked. Lay slices of tomatoes over the top - home grown Marmande tomatoes :), and sprinkle with finely chopped fresh savoury, THE herb for beans, and black pepper. Add some boiled water to just below the level of the tomatoes. Cover and cook in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the veg has been prepared and cooked and "The Archers" has finished. Excellent accompanied with mashed squash and rainbow chard.
Poletschka beans cooked in a casserole or soup are plump and delicious, and the indigo colour turns a warm pinky brown. Don't knock peasant food!