The short and long of legumes

Beans and peas can move centre stage, writes Nigel Slater.

I like to serve a small and elegant deep-summer salad alongside a plate of roast spring carrots or sauteed courgettes. Such a dish is also substantial enough to be a main course when served with a rice pilaf.

There is a beautiful contrast of textures here, with long, slightly crisp climbing beans and plump broad beans and tiny garden peas. I cook the peas only briefly, so they are almost raw, but let the green beans cook longer, until they just start to bend, when their flavour seems at its best.

The creamy quality of the dressing is lifted with tarragon vinegar, though a plain, white wine vinegar will do if that is what you have. The dish is served slightly warm rather than hot.

Serves 2 with rice (4 as a side dish)

2 large stalks lemongrass

200g creme fraiche

150g green beans

100g young peas in the pod (weight in pod)

350g small broad beans (weight in pod)

2 Tbsp tarragon leaves, chopped

1 Tbsp tarragon or white wine vinegar

Cut the lemongrass stalks in half, then bash them with a heavy weight to splinter the stalks. Put them in a saucepan, add the creme fraiche and bring to the boil. Immediately remove from heat, cover with a lid and leave to infuse.

Bring a medium-sized pan of water to the boil. Top and tail the green beans and cook them in the boiling water, lightly salted, for 5 minutes or until tender but still lightly crisp. Remove from the water and set aside. Add the peas in their pods to the water and cook for 3-4 minutes, then drain and add to the beans.

Bring the water back to the boil, pod the broad beans then cook in the boiling water for 4-5 minutes depending on their size. Drain and set aside and, if you wish, remove from their skins.

Remove the lemongrass from the creme fraiche and stir in the chopped tarragon, a little salt and pepper, and the tarragon or white wine vinegar. Toss all the beans and peas in the creme fraiche dressing and serve.

 — Guardian News & Media

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