Christmas Day lunch — a table laden with season's eatings. Roast leg of pork with crunchy crackling and a drizzle of apple sauce. Orange marmalade-glazed ham studded with maraschino cherries, pineapple and cloves. A platter of prawns with thousand island dressing. Dauphinoise potatoes and baked sweet yam with maple syrup. Sponge cake trifle layered with custard, peaches and jewel-like blobs of jelly. Bowls of cherries and a berry-topped pavlova. And, best of all — crisp and delicious green beans. Yes, green beans.
So went luncheon on Christmas Day at my sister in law's house once upon a time in the days when I was married. We would eat and eat and eat until we could barely move. Then, 'stuffed like bloated budgies', as my brother in law would say, we would waddle to the nearest sofa or outdoors to the gazebo — for respite. The urge to nap after such feasting would come on quickly in the heat of the December afternoon.
Twenty-seven (or was it eight?) memorable Christmas lunches. There was always so much splendid food, and yet my favourite of all was the green beans. My sister in law had a special way with those green beans, so that they were never boring. Instead, they were vibrant, crunchy and delicious.
Christmas is a smaller affair these days and, I don't know about you, but I just can't seem to eat quite as much as I used to. That said, I do still love a feast on December 25th, and green beans will always have pride of place on my Christmas menu. I prepare them to this very simple (and very good) recipe.
GREEN BEANS WITH BACON AND ESCHALOT*
500g fresh green beans, topped and tailed if needed
1 teaspoon sea salt+
250g smoked bacon loin, sliced into strips
1 good sized eschalot, finely chopped
spray olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh curly parsley, finely chopped
Half-fill a medium sized saucepan with water and bring it to the boil. Add the beans and the salt+ to the pot, lower the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the beans are just tender. Transfer immediately to a colander and rinse under really cold water. This stops the beans from cooking further.
Heat a small frypan and spray with olive oil. Toss in the bacon strips and the chopped eschalot and saute until the eschalot pieces are golden and the bacon is cooked. Remove the eschalot and bacon from the pan. Melt the butter in the frypan, then add the beans, bacon and eschalot and heat briefly, until the beans are warm. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the beans in a dish, sprinkle with the parsley and serve. Serves 4-6.
*My recipe is adapted from Le Cordon Bleu Vegetables, 1997.
+According to the original recipe, adding the salt to the boiling water at the same time as the beans creates 'a fast bubble which helps to fix the chlorophyll' and thus maintains the vibrant green colour of the beans.
Parsley fresh from the jardin potager...
Salt is important in the cooking...
The process in pictures...
Beans don't have to be boring...
They can be vibrant, crunchy and delicious...
Tell me, what's your favourite dish on a fully laden festive table?
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.