Cooking up our allotment greens!

By Councillor Paulette Hamilton

Last week my cabinet colleague, Cllr John O’Shea, visited the Walsall Road Allotments in Perry Barr. While he was there, for National Allotments Week, he kindly received a donation of green beans from plotholder Tony Cotterell.

Green beans

Tending allotments is a great way to stay fit and healthy and they can provide you with fantastically fresh produce to put on your dinner table. And, so many of you already do. Birmingham allotment plotholders produce 2.9 tonnes of produce every year – that’s the equivalent marketplace value of £4.3m!

So with this in mind, I headed over to the Civic Catering kitchens to meet up with their executive chef, David Hurlestone, to learn how to best cook the beans, how to make some tasty green bean recipes and what more can be done with veggies you grow in the garden.

We also made a quick video – watch the full version here.

First things first, how to cook a green bean like a master chef

David explained that you should put them straight in to boiling water and blanch them for just a couple of minutes. Once cooked, immediately drain the water from the pan and cover the beans in ice cold water for around 5 minutes. This will give you an al dente bean with a fabulous squeaking sound when you crunch down. When home grown and cooked right, there’s no need to add salt or oil. They’re great just as they are.

Next up, it’s recipe time!

The three main dishes David showed me are a potato and green bean rosti, tomato and green bean salad and homemade coleslaw.

First, the potato and green bean rosti – peel and then boil some potatoes. Once cooked, grate them into a mixing bowl. Next, finely chop the raw green beans, an onion and some chives and add them to the potato. Give it a good mix, add a little olive oil and, if needed, season. Spoon the mixture into approx. 8cm circular moulds, move them on to a baking tray and then put in the oven for around 12-15 minutes or until lightly crisped.

Our second recipe was for a green bean and tomato salad – once you’ve cooked your green beans (as a pro, using the method above), cut them into 1 inch/2cm long sections. Take an equal amount of tomatoes (there’s a whole range of different tomatoes you can now grow and use in this recipe whether you’re basic tomato, cherry, plum, yellow, heritage – the list goes on!) and cut into small sections – if using cherry tomatoes, halve them. Finely dice some red onion and then mix all the ingredients together with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

For our final part of the dish, we made homemade coleslaw with a homemade mayonnaise. First finely slice cabbage (either red or white) and red onion lengthways. Grate carrot and add to the cabbage and onion. Next we’ll make the mayonnaise. In a clean mixing bowl, add an egg yolk, a teaspoon of English mustard and some cider vinegar and whisk together. Now start gradually adding sunflower or vegetable oil. If it looks like it’s about to split, add a little more of the vinegar. Keep whisking until you have a relatively thick consistency that resembles a loose mayonnaise. Now mix this in with the cabbage, carrot and onion.

Plate them all together and there you have it! Three lovely dishes that can be quickly and simply made, for a delicious but healthy tea, for all of the family.

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To find out more about Civic Catering, please click here. Or, for information on how to get an allotment plot, please click here.

This blog was posted 19 August 2019

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