When I dreamed up this title, “Giving it Beans”, I knew it was “punny”, but I had no idea that it would end up having such resonance in the days that followed.
The Husband, over the last year or so, has begun embracing the art and science – and it really is also an art – of the vegetable garden. This is significant because, as I’ve mentioned before, he was a stock farmer in a past life, with no interest in, let alone, he used to tell me, any success with, things that were green and had their feet in the ground. He was much happier – and more effective – with warm-blooded creatures that ate, breathed and – well, you know the rest of the sentence…!
This season, his tomatoes have been winners, about which we are both delighted – we can’t live without them. We have grown these for years, but last year’s crop was dismal, making this one a bit more notable. However, the crop that’s been more spectacular, has been the beans.
Notwithstanding the fire, which left one end of bean patch rather the worse for wear.
Before the fire, we’d had a goodly crop, with bean meals for breakfast, dinner and tea. Almost literally. One forgets how amazing nature is: we thought that with this damage, that was the end of the beans. Nope. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!
It’s been the most peculiar summer – weatherwise. We had February heat in November, and February was not as hot as it could have been, and the summer nights have been mostly quite cool, without the oppressive heat we’ve come to associate with them. Consequently, and in a bastardisation of the “peas pudding” rhyme, we’ve continued to have green beans hot; green beans cold, tra la…
I’ve had to become quite innovative to avoid our having too much of a good thing.
Green beans with pesto and balsamic reduction. Green beans with zoodles and olives. Green beans with mushrooms, red onion and topped with grilled parmesan.
And then, there’s more: green beans with pasta. Green beans with passata.
Eventually, in self-defence, and to give us a bit of a break, I preserved some using a traditional Afrikaans recipe: curried beans. The recipe I use is in my mother’s recipe book.
I have jars of them on offer at the market and one morning I heard a browser comment, “Curried beans! It’s years since I’ve seen these.” A local, and a regular customer, says that they’re a meal in a jar. Also in the last little while, although I can’t remember where, I heard a remark about “traditional curried beans”. That got me thinking. The village Piano Man and foodie, had lent me a quartet of recipe books a while ago. All of them very interesting, and this comment about curried beans sent me to one in particular: Renata Coetzee‘s The South African Culinary Tradition.
In it, and in my old favourite recipe book, and through GoG,* I found various a version of the curried bean recipe that I’d been using.
On left, the cover to Coetzee’s book, and the recipe yielded by her research. On the right, Mum’s handwritten recipe, from Auntie Doris, and dated 1973, with our notes converting from imperial to metric, and for making it in larger quantities. All three recipes are fundamentally the same. Mum’s recipe includes water for the sauce – I’m thinking that next time, I’ll reduce the water.
Auntie Doris’s Traditional Curried Beans
4 lb (1.2kg) green beans, cut
2lb (0.6kg) onion, thinly sliced
3tbsp cornflour (maizena)
2tbsp currry powder
3 cups vinegar (white or brown)
3 cups sugar
2 cups water (which I may now omit)
2 tbsp salt
Cook beans – not too much – you still want some crunch. Pour boiling water over the sliced onions and leave for 5 minutes. Pour off the water & repeat. Combine with the cooked beans in a large enamel or stainless steel pot.
For the curry sauce, put the sugar, salt, cornflour, curry powder and water in a stainless steel or enamel pan and boil for 5 minutes. Add to the bean mixture and boil for 5 minutes.
Bottle in sterilised jars and seal.
The finished product:
As I finally get to publish this post, I reflect that today would have been my Mum’s 90th birthday.
Top, with Mum and Dad and Auntie Doris; below, mum in the mid-1960’s I think, and 20 years later.
I am also reflecting on the last weeks: three people in our village are bereft. All have lost their life partners. One of them, a daddy’s girl like me, lost her papa and then six weeks later, her love. One of my oldest, but faraway friends, and who shares my Mum’s birthday, has just lost her dad. My heart breaks for them all.
Life is hard. Life is good. Give it beans.
Next time: The Fairy Godmother’s Bean Salad
*GoG – good old Google. Google is old now, isn’t it?