String beans, green beans, snap beans, fine beans, haricots verts – these names all refer to pretty much the same thing: a green climbing bean, long, thin, slightly waxy to the bite and these days seemingly forever in the shops.
No doubt you’ll have your own preferred way of cooking and serving green beans already, but if you want to do something a bit different there are any number of options: sesame and soy, garlic and bacon, almond and brown butter… I could go on, although I think this combination of beans and a Dijon mustard and shallot-heavy dressing is as good as any. Do give it a go. Warm green beans enjoy the same dressing, though there’s just something about it that’s particularly good when served cold. Tuna, salmon, pork chops and chicken are classic matches.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 500 g green beans
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon golden caster sugar
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 banana shallot, very thinly sliced
- Sea salt and ground white pepper
- Trim the woody tops off the beans. I tend to bunch them together and cut with scissors to save time. I also keep the stringy ‘tails’ on and leave the beans whole and long.
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. When the water is rolling rapidly, add the beans. Return to a gentle simmer and cook for 3–5 minutes. Pull one out to taste every 30 seconds or so from 3 minutes onwards. There’s a fine line between slightly waxy and under-flavoured; crisp, verdant and sparky; and soft and dull. It’s the middle level that you want. When the beans are ready, drain immediately and plunge into iced water or rinse under cold water until cool.
- Whisk or shake together the mustard, vinegar, oil and sugar until the dressing has emulsified. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and the garlic and mix one more time. Pour the dressing into the bottom of a large bowl and add the shallot. Toss in the dressing and leave for 2 minutes or more, then add the cooled green beans and stir well to ensure all the beans are coated.