© David Loftus
good old french bean salad
I had this salad in a bistro in France and it was fantastic. You know, twangy and mustardy and so nice to eat as a starter before the main course arrived. It reminded me that sometimes cooking rules should be broken. We're told that beans should only be cooked until they're al dente, but I think we should cook them for a bit longer. I'd rather run my nails down a blackboard than eat a squeaky al dente green bean! So here's a recipe for properly cooked beans! Keep your eyes open for different colour beans – green, yellow or black – as a mixture will make it even more interesting. And when preparing them, leave the wispy ends on as they look so nice.
Bring a pan of water to a fast boil, add your beans, put a lid on the pan, and cook for at least 4 to 5 minutes. Boiling the beans fast like this helps them to retain all their nutrients. Meanwhile, put the mustard and vinegar into a jam jar or bowl and, while stirring, add the olive oil to make a good hot French dressing. Season carefully with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then add the finely chopped shallot, the capers if you're using them and the garlic.
Remove one of the beans from the pan to check if it's cooked. If it holds its shape but is also soft to the bite, it's perfect. Drain in a colander. Now, while the beans are steaming hot, this is the perfect moment to dress them – a hot bean will take on more of the wonderful dressing than a cold one. It is best to serve the beans warm, not cold, and certainly not at fridge temperature because the flavours will be muted and boring. Serve the beans in a bowl, sprinkled with chervil if you like – it's a delicate, crunchy herb that goes well with beans. Serve as a salad in its own right, or as an accompaniment to a main meal.
• from Jamie's Dinners
• 4 handfuls of French beans, stalk ends removed
• 2–3 heaped teaspoons good French mustard, to taste
• 2 tablespoons good-quality white wine vinegar
• 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
• optional: 1 tablespoon capers
• ½ a clove of garlic, finely grated
optional: a small handful of fresh chervil