So this is my lunch. No, really, it is. Or I should say, was. Yesterday’s to be exact. Dan has been away for the past three days, his first trip of any length away from here since lockdown was eased, and suddenly I have found how much there is to do here when you are here alone. So time has been at a premium and yesterday the solution to not giving myself more to do than was manageable was to make my real life lunch the subject of today’s recipe.
The Kitchen Garden provides one of the main focusses of attention right now, with a tidal wave of produce rapidly gathering momentum, which needs harvesting, preparing and preserving. Every day there is a new round of beans, courgettes and tomatoes to harvest and these ingredients have featured in some way or another in most of our meals for the last couple of weeks.
The bush beans, ‘Cupidon’ and ‘Aquilon’ (the first of which we grew for the first time last year, the latter of which was new to us this year) have been providing a steady stream of fine green beans for around a month now. Although you do have to crouch to pick them it is very easy to de-top them while picking by pinching the stalk end of the bean, and it is possible to amass quite enough for dinner for two in a matter of seconds. We have probably blanched and frozen around 5kg over the past couple of weeks, and probably eaten the same amount. Although they are now on the wane and showing signs of exhaustion the first of the climbing beans are just forming, so we should have a perfect handover.
The bean recipe features the first of our polytunnel tomatoes, of which we are inordinately proud. We are still at the point where we are just keeping on top of the harvest and managing to eat them all, but plans are afoot to dry, bottle and puree the tomato deluge when it arrives. The simple tomato ‘sauce’ here can be made in bulk, flavoured with any herbs you like such as thyme or fennel, and kept in a container in the fridge or frozen to add to any number of simply cooked vegetables when you like.
The Italian way of serving summer vegetables in a sweet and sour agrodolce dressing or sauce is a favourite summer way with anything from cauliflower to mushrooms to fennel and courgette. The sharp, salty flavours are good on a hot day, but work equally well warm from the pan or at room temperature if the weather takes a colder turn.
The vinegar and honey dressing can be flavoured with anything you feel like. I might use fennel seed, bay leaf, marjoram, cumin or pink peppercorns depending on what is available. Some sliced anchovy, finely grated lemon zest and toasted pine nuts would work well too.
When time is of the essence it is best to keep things simple in the kitchen. No more ingredients or food preparation than is absolutely necessary. I use whole herbs and spices and keep cooking methods the same for multiple dishes so that things can be cooked together. This has the added benefit of reducing washing up. The method below is written to make both dishes at the same time, as I did today, so that they arrive at the table together.
You will need a large saucepan, a small saucepan, a colander, a small bowl and two medium mixing/serving bowls.
These dishes are perfectly filling alone, but can easily be augmented with a tin of sardines, a boiled egg, a slab of feta cheese or a piece of grilled halloumi.
Green beans & tomatoes
200g fine green beans
200g cherry tomatoes, mixed colours are good
1 large clove garlic
A small handful of small fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
Zucchini in agrodolce
1 medium or 2 small courgettes, around 350g
5 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
3 tbsp honey
1 fat clove of garlic
1 tbsp currants
2 tbsp extrafine capers
¼ tsp dried chili flakes
½ tsp whole coriander seed
12 black olives, stoned
A couple of stalks of flat leaved parsley, leaves removed
A small handful of small, whole mint leaves
Fill the large saucepan with water and bring to the boil.
Make the agrodolce. Put the vinegar and honey into the small saucepan with the coriander seed, chili flakes and clove of garlic which you have crushed under the blade of a knife. Put over a low heat until the honey has melted and the mixture is hot. Take off the heat and pour over the currants in a small bowl. Leave to soak.
Put the courgettes and beans into the pan of boiling water. Bring back to a simmer and cook with the lid on. Remove the beans after 10 minutes, refresh under cold water and drain. After a further 5 minutes cooking carefully remove the courgettes from the pan and leave to drain on a plate until warm enough to handle.
While the courgettes are cooling put the olive oil into the cleaned small pan and put it back on the heat. Roughly crush the second clove of garlic and fry in the hot oil until lightly browned. Tip in all of the tomatoes, put the lid on the pan and turn the heat up high. Cook hard for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan frequently, until the tomatoes are breaking down, but still retain some shape. Take off the heat. Season with salt. Scatter over the mint and parsley.
While the tomatoes are cooking cut the courgettes into chunky pieces and put into one of the mixing/serving bowls. Pour over the agrodolce mixture while the courgettes are still hot, add the capers and olives and mix gently so that all the pieces are coated. Leave to stand while you finish the beans.
Put the green beans into the other serving bowl and pour the still warm tomato sauce over them. Mix gently to combine. Pour over a little more olive oil if you like. Scatter over the basil leaves.
Recipes, words and photographs: Huw Morgan
Published 8 August 2020