This is a ‘mercy mission’ to save one of my very best friends, Jacqui (also know as Paris Jacques or PJ for short, as she becomes ‘Parisienne’ as soon as she steps off Eurostar!) from serving up uninspiring green beans with my ‘chicken and caramelised fennel’ this evening…….
I have never been a lover of green beans until I sampled them cooked this way while staying in the lovely Provincal town of Toulon, and now I have converted countless ‘Brits’ and ‘Frenchies’ who did not like them either – including my three step children………
So without further ado here is the recipe – Haricots Verts like you have never tasted before…………
serves 4 alongside another vegetable
500g fresh green beans, topped and tailed and cut in half
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of freshly dried thyme
1 bay leaf (feuille de laurier)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
A glug of olive oil
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
Please note – in the photograph there are also some petits pois – this is because I had some leftover at hand and just threw them in at the last minute, but normally I make without.
Soften the shallots in the olive oil in a large frying pan with a lid (couvercle) then add the garlic and the tomatoes and cook very gently for 1-2 minutes
Add the beans and mix well, cover and cook very gently for a further 2 minutes
Add the lemon juice, thyme and bay leaf and enough water to cover the beans completely
Cover once more and simmer gently for between 1 ½ to 2 hours until the beans are completely soft and the juice has reduced by two thirds (60%)
Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.
Close your eyes smell those flavours – you could almost be in the South of France………….
A little note about Toulon for all of you who are enjoying reading about my life in France.
Toulon is a lovely ‘real’ town situated between, and overshadowed by, its two much more famous neighbours, Marseille and Nice. It is primarily a naval port, and if the saying ‘All the nice girls love a sailor’ is true, then there are plenty of ‘Matelots’ to say ‘bonjour’ to strolling around here in their smart officer’s uniforms……..
After saying that, there is much more to Toulon than a tour around the naval port. The town boasts the biggest daily market in Province and also a not half bad rugby team hails from here…….
There is also a pretty scary funicular railway to the top of mount Faron where you can see magnificent views of the coast. And a water bus leaves the port every 15 minutes from around 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening during the summer months for the 15 minute sail to the beautiful beach at ‘Les Sablettes’
The town is full of little squares, each with a fountain in the centre and surrounded by enticing shady cafes, to retreat out of the Mediterranean sun. There is also a very good selection of seafood restaurants and trendy cocktail bars to chose from opposite the ‘pleasure port’, where some of the yachts moored there could rival those at Monaco or Cannes!
The beautiful ‘Calanques’ (France’s answer to fjords) are a short drive or train ride away, and the lovely town of Aix en Province is also within very easy reach.
Less crowded, less touristy, more relaxed and more real than most of the other resorts on this stretch of coastline, and just around 4 hours by TGV from Paris.