'Eat your beans, pipike,' my mother would say - 'pipike' being a term of endearment meaning 'little chicken' in Magyar. I would pout and slump my shoulders, for my mother's green beans cooked as zöldbabfőzelék (or green bean stew) were not a favourite of mine. In fact, I disliked that dish (and it's spinach counterpart) so much that I can still recall gagging with every mouthful. Zsa Zsa, the family's little black dachshund (and my very best friend for many years), would look on from her red and white basket, ears pricked, eyes wide, and I could tell that she was pleased it was someone other than her naughty self being scolded (albeit gently).
Mum didn't ever force me to eat, she was glad if I had a few small meals throughout the day, rather than 'three straight'. Actually, I think she consulted a specialist one time, as she was concerned at the small amounts that I ate. He reassured her that I was healthy, active and happy, and so she was more relaxed about it. 'Que sera, sera,' she would sing merrily with Doris Day, I can still hear her and see the joy in her eyes... 'whatever will be, will be... '.
Before I started school and while my father was at work at his barber shop, mum and I ate plenty of good things together. Lots of sliced red and green capsicum (bell pepper) accompanied by Swiss cheese. Crusty continental bread cut into 'horses' topped with bite sized 'soldiers' of lean speck or Kaiserfleisch. And apples. Mum was always either grating apples or cutting up apples for me with her green plastic apple cutter/corer. I think I still have it somewhere in a drawer. I suppose it would be almost vintage now. The kind of item some bloggers might buy nowadays as a prop.
So now, back to the beans. I'm sure I would eat zöldbabfőzelék if my mother made it for me today. My Hungarian cook and blogger friend, Zsuzsa has shared her recipe here and I must admit it looks as though it would make a delicious side. Green beans are plentiful at our local farmer's market, and so fresh that one cannot fault them. I've combined them with home-grown chillies (frozen from the summer), home-grown garlic, melt-in-the-mouth eye fillet, red eschalots, and French green peppercorns in brine.
My recipe is adapted from one by Luke Nguyen in his book The Songs of Sapa - stories and recipes from Vietnam. Luke uses winged beans in his version, which I sometimes find hard to source. I have added a few ingredients, including the green peppercorns, chilli and sesame oil. I also skip adding fish sauce in the stir fry process, as I prefer a drier finish.
Would my mother have liked this? Perhaps not, with the chilli and zesty peppercorns it may have given her heartburn. Peter and I love it, and it features regularly on the menu at our place.
BEEF WITH BEANS & GREEN PEPPERCORNS
500g beef eye fillet, sliced into strips
1-2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce*
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 clove garlic, chopped
2-3 bird's eye chillies, chopped
2 red eschalots, sliced
250g green beans (or snake beans) cut into 1cm lengths
1 tablespoon brined green peppercorns, drained**
coriander, to garnish
baby spinach leaves, to serve
rice to serve, if you like
Combine the beef strips in a Pyrex bowl with half the peanut oil, sesame oil, fish sauce, caster sugar and chillies. Mix well to ensure the beef is evenly coated. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or so. Heat a wok, add the rest of the peanut oil and then stir fry the beef quickly in batches, ensuring that you maintain the temperature of the wok and do not 'stew' the meat. Toss in the green beans, eschalots, garlic and peppercorns, and stir fry until just tender, only 1-2 minutes. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately on a bed of baby spinach leaves and steamed rice. Serves 2-3 as a main meal.
* Use less or more fish sauce depending on your taste preferences and the saltiness of your fish sauce.
** I use a French brand of green peppercorns in brine, available from supermarkets and specialty stores.
The process in pictures...
Serve immediately... enjoy...
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Tell me, which particular foods, if any, made you gag and slump your shoulders as a child? And do you enjoy eating the same food now that you have grown up?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.