I wonder if runner beans appear a little unapproachable to some, with their hard, almost crocodile-like scaly flat sides, and remarkable length. As it happens, very little needs to be done to turn them into an excellent side: just top and tail and peel the stringy edges, then cut into fork-sized pieces; steam or briefly boil, and serve with butter or oil, salt and pepper.
But perhaps a little more could be done to draw in any remaining doubters. Here, they’re sliced finely and accompanied by the fat, salt and smoke of good lardons, and the tang of a hot cider vinegar dressing. It’s a versatile side, although pork, veal and fish such as hake, skate or cod are particularly good matches.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 400 g runner beans
- 150 g smoked lardons
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 banana shallot, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 8 stems flat-leaf parsley
- 50 g walnut halves, roughly chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Run a vegetable peeler down the edges of the runner beans, then cut them lengthways into 2–3 long thin strips per bean, like spaghetti. Cut these into 4–5 cm lengths and bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the beans in the boiling water for 3–4 minutes, or until just starting to flop, but still bright green and with bite. Drain and return them to the pan.
- Meanwhile, put the lardons in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan with the oil and cook over a medium heat (starting from cold helps render the fat). As the lardons begin to turn golden, add the shallot and cook for 3–4 minutes.
- Remove the frying pan from the heat and pour in the cider vinegar. Stir to combine the fats and the vinegar, then scrape and pour the pan’s contents over the drained beans. Add the parsley and walnuts and a generous grind of black pepper (the lardons will provide enough salt). Toss well to ensure the beans, bacon and other bits are thoroughly mixed. Serve immediately.