Tuesday 29 June 2010

Going Green

As I was topping and tailing some green beans the other day, it occurred to me, that these lovely runners remind me of Praying Mantis insects. Now, I like Praying Mantises and I like green beans, so it could have posed quite a dilemma. But considering the mating habits of creatures, ( the female bites the head off the male and devours it while mating, so appeasing both appetites as it were), one shouldn't be too fussy about these things.
The Bushmen believe that a Praying mantis is a manifestation of God come to earth. Here in South Africa, our friend Joan tells us, some refer to the Praying Mantis as Outa Jesus. I like that. Apparently in Arab and Turkish cultures it is believed that the Mantis points pilgrims to Mecca. And others believe that the Praying Mantis assists lost travelers by pointing the way home.
What I do know is that I love the presence of them in our home and garden. On the day we moved into our house, we found one of the old wooden banister. In an empty house, she had come to welcome us. And we also found one on our old grapefruit tree, on the day that we decided to try and revive it instead of pulling it out and replacing it with a more fashionable lime tree.
So I am not put off by their rather alarming similarity to green beans. It wouldn't put them off, so why should I be daunted? Anyway, I eat my green beans respectfully.

I like them best in a peppery groenboontjiebredie (green bean stew). I can't bear them when they're boiled without love or respect (usually for too long) as a necessary extra vegetable on a plate of food. For me, under those circumstances they have absolutely no merit or charm. But it's time to broaden my repertoire. So I tried this the other night. I lessened the quantity of beans as there were only two of us, but I have a heavy hand with lemon, and I suppose I should have lessened that accordingly as well. But I didn't. And still tasted good. Lemony, buttery, peppery and with enough crunch. Try it sometime.

The Nigella Lawson recipe for Green bean and Lemon casserole ( all in her own words). I found this one on the wonderful world wide web.

1kg fine green beans
75g unsalted butter
few drops olive oil
1 lemon
Maldon salt and fresh pepper
Serving Size : Serves 8–10

1Bring a big pot of water to the boil, while you top and tail the beans. Once the water has come to the boil, salt it and cook the beans until they have lost their rawness (about 6 minutes after the water comes back to the boil), but retain a bit of crunch.
2Strain them, and put the pot back on the stove over a low heat with the butter and olive oil. While the butter melts, chop up the lemon. Put it on a chopping board, cut a slice off each end, just enough to remove skin and pith, and then cut downwards, turning the lemon as you go, to peel the fruit fully. Don’t worry if in order to remove all the pith you cut into the fruit a bit: just take the pieces of fruity peel over to the pan and squeeze in any juice you can. Then cut the lemon up on the board: I just slice and let each slice tumble into bits on its own. Add the lemon pieces and all the juice that collects to the melted butter and stir well with a wooden spoon, adding the drained beans.
3.Swirl the pan vigorously and turn the beans in the lemony butter. Add salt to taste and lots of freshly ground pepper. I love white pepper (out of deference to my mother’s taste and practice) or the much-abominated 1980s restaurant-style mixed pepper, but neither is crucial.
4.Remove to a warmed casserole making sure you don’t leave any lemony, buttery juices behind

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