After a break from Sunday Suppers – it’s been cold and it’s also low season. But that’s not what I really want to write about. I started this post last Monday, at about 05h30, intending to and it seemed that all hell broke loose in a manner of speaking. This is now the fourth attempt having nearly lost the draft entirely!
We have a slew of events coming up in the village – over three consecutive weekends: a poetry festival, a two-day trail run and then a three-day mountain bike race. My day job has been keeping me busy: cancellations, re-bookings and lots of to-ing and fro-ing as folk decide what they want to do. And then changing their minds. Again.
Among all of that, we’re also doing work on one of the cottages, about which I have told you before, and will again, when all’s said and done.
So back to last week’s Sunday Supper which is a winter-warming favourite but doesn’t do well for vegetarians. At this time last year, because things were so slow, I stopped advertising a vegetarian option, but a village swallow, Jill, berated me.
“You don’t do vegetarian!”
“I do,” I retorted, “you know that!” She regularly buys fare from me at the market. “Besides, I went on, the ad does say that a vegetarian option is available – you just need to say.”
“I know she said. But I need to be enticed….”
Anyhow, it’s good to heed potential diners and I took her advice and began including the actual vegetarian option with each Sunday supper menu. Well, it paid off: she and her husband have been a few times, and she more often than that – with her girlfriends – one such evening was this with friends, including one from England.
Anyhow, I digress. Only slightly; when I design the menu each week, it is with vegetarians (lacto ovo – I confess that vegans present a greater challenge) in mind. The first course, which is always (well only once it hasn’t been) a soup, is always vegetarian-friendly. The second course has two protein options to accommodate veggies, but the sides must work with both dishes. Because I have spatial challenges in my kitchen which makes doing elaborate meals a complete no-no.
Ok, so back to this particular menu which had, as you guessed it, a taste of France. We are fortunate to have innovative people in our village and one such is Lavender Lady who packs and markets McGregor Herbes de Provence, a fabulous blend of herbs, beautifully presented. So pretty, that when they are included in a dish, they are part of the table decor.
This week, they were the champion of the menu.
Well, as you guessed it, our veggie guests booked for dinner: they were winging their way back to England the following day. Anyhow, they kindly raved about the bean casserole and I facetiously said that I should write it up.
“Yes,” said Steve who has been a regular follower of my other blog for some time, “You should!”
I have already shared the Oxtail recipe, so here’s the recipe for the bean casserole.
Green bean casserole with McGregor Herbes de Provence
This recipe makes two generous portions, so for more people, ramp up the quantities.
About 300 to 400 g green beans
1 tin chopped tomatoes or an equivalent quantity of passata*
1 onion, chopped
125 ml red wine
1 – 2 cloves garlic (or to taste)
¼ red, yellow and green peppers – cut into strips – not too long
½ – 1 teaspoon McGregor Herbes de Provence (or to taste)
panko/breadcrumbs for the topping
grated cheddar + a hard cheese – finely grated ** for the topping
Sauté the onion in some olive or vegetable oil until glossy. Add the garlic, chopped and the tomatoes with the McGregor Herbes de Provence. Bring to a light simmer and then add the red wine. Simmer and reduce by about half. Then add the pepper and allow to cook through, but not become too soft.
The key to this casserole is not “killing” the beans. I loathe green beans that have gone olive grey-green because they’ve been over-cooked. So the secret is to cook them separately. I left them whole and placed them in a pot of cold water with a little salt. As soon as they came to a boil, I ran them under cold water and set them aside.
To assemble, place the beans in a casserole dish (I used individual dishes) and then cover with the sauce. Top with a layer of cheddar followed by a light sprinkling of breadcrumbs and the hard cheese. Bake in the oven until the casserole is golden brown and bubbling.
Our other guests were first-timers: a South Africa tour guide and four travellers from the UK. This is what all our diners had to say about that Sunday Supper.
* I would have used fresh tomatoes if had been in season, but right now, in the middle of winter, they’re prohibitively expensive. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, you probably need about four or five – blanch, skin and chop them and add them to the sautéed onion.
**I used a local very mature gouda known as locally as a Boerenkaas and which is hard and tangy. Montagu Mature also a great substitute for Parmesan and which I source from a nearby town and also hand cut to sell at the market.
If you would like a to save the recipe, you’ll find it here.
Until next time, and after the current flurry, over and out from
The Sandbag House
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