Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon

Last night I made a most splendid  fresh green salad but not with lettuce as you might think. The ingredients are so seasonal that you have to buy them NOW. Don’t wait, this is the moment!

preparing the ingredients: mangetout, fresh peas, green beans

It was a big hit.
Not only were the colours attractive but the many tastes worked  well together and of course it was so fresh. Our sort of salad basically:

does this appeal to you like it does to me?

 I went to my weekly market in Selami Çeşme yesterday afternoon looking for mangetout or snowpeas as I think they are known in the US. Here they are known as sultaniye bezelye. But before I went, I had a little look in my fab new Ottolenghi cookbook Plenty to see if he had any inspiring ideas of how to use these and of course he did! So I had a recipe in mind before I set out. This always helps as you take note of what other ingredients you need to buy and most importantly the amounts.  So here it is:
Green Bean Salad with Mustard Seeds and Tarragon
Serves 4
250g/8oz French beans, trimmed
250g/8oz mangetout, trimmed/sultaniye bezelye
250g/8oz green peas (fresh or frozen)
2 tsp coriander seeds/kişniş tohumu, roughly crushed with a pestle and mortar
1 tsp mustard seeds/hardal tohumu
1 tsp nigella seeds/çörekotu
½  small red onion, finely chopped
1 mild fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp chopped tarragon/tarhun (hard to find here: I omitted it)
30g/1-2oz baby chard leaves/pazı (optional)
Coarse sea salt

trimming the mangetout and podding the peas


·         Fill a medium saucepan with cold water and bring to the boil. Blanch* the French beans for 4 mins, then immediately lift them out of the pan and into iced water to refresh*. Drain and dry.
·         Bring a fresh pan of water to the boil and blanch the mangetout for 1 min only. Refresh, drain and dry. Use the same boiling water to blanch the peas for 20 seconds. Refresh, drain and dry. Combine the beans, mangetout and peas in a large mixing bowl.
·         Put the coriander seeds, mustard seeds and oil in a small saucepan and heat up. When the seeds begin to pop, pour the contents of the pan over the beans and peas. Toss together, then add the nigella seeds, red onion, chilli, garlic, lemon zest and tarragon. Mix well and season with salt to taste.

coriander seeds and nigella

zesting the lemon

·         Just before serving, gently fold the chard leaves, if using, with the beans and peas, and spoon the salad onto plates or into bowls.


1.       I do realize that Ottolenghi recipes are so fabulous because they use all manner of herbs and spices. They also use a lot of pans! But don’t be put off as the results really are worth it.
2.       *Blanching and *refreshing are two culinary terms that go together: they refer to cooking quickly and then stopping the cooking process quickly. The idea is that the vegetables retain their bite and their colour. Make sure the water is really boiling before you throw them in.  Put some ice cubes in your water when you refresh but only keep the vegetables in there a max of 2 mins otherwise they will lose some of their flavour. Drain on a paper towel.
3.       The spices mentioned here are all available either in the supermarkets in little packets or, if you feel like a fun outing, in the Spice Bazaar/Mısır Çarşısı in Eminönü (Istanbul). Other little shops will have some of them but probably not all.
4.       I was surprised that the mangetout needed ‘trimming’ seeing how new and fresh they were. But they did – very easy to do though.  You just need a good knife!
5.       We don’t get French beans per se – those elegant long slender ones – so I used regular green beans. These just needed topping and tailing at this time of year and I cut them in half.
6.       Peas are everywhere right now, great heaps of them in all the outdoor markets and manav or greengrocers.  They are very easy and quick to pod so don’t be disheartened! While still in their pods, by the way, they keep very well in the fridge for 6-7 days.
7.       Finally, the baby chard mentioned here: I haven’t seen any that can be described as ‘baby’ so I just used the regular pazı. Don't forget to cut out the middle stem if necessary.

Afiyet olsun!