Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book and a Bean Salad recipe

I love veggies, being an old - no I mean former - vegetarian.  I have never felt that veggies were an also-ran; I am happy to eat meatless meals, and save the planet a wee bit by not eating up those methane-producing cows.  This month I am joining in with other book-loving bloggers in The Cookbook Guru Book Club, where Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book is the current month's feature.  I have never read one of her books before, nor used one of her recipes, though I am aware of her and her influence on English cooking.  I am more familiar with Sophie her daughter, whom I have watched on many a TV show.

I am enjoying my read through Jane's book.  Well, how could you not when she has a fabulous sentence like this about cucumbers? - "The cucumbers of Ur-Nammu, who lived in Mesopotamia 4000 years ago, refreshed him so well that he built a temple to the god Nanna."  Isn't that wonderful?  Sure there are no photos here, but I don't feel the lack of them, as I am loving her prose so much.  Okay, so her recipes are probably a little too English, a little too old-fashioned for current tastes but there is still much to like and be inspired by here.  I chose to make a salad - American Three-Bean Salad.  

Here's where you are going to laugh folks!  I misread the recipe, and ended up using about a third of the beans I should have for this dish.  Jane suggests using dried beans that you boil up before adding to the salad, though she does say you could use tinned red kidney beans as one of the 3 types.  I was making this for dinner so didn't have hours or overnight to soak beans (not that I had any dried ones in the pantry), so I decided I could get away with using canned beans.  I always have lots of chickpeas around so I grabbed those, then red kidney beans and haricot beans.  This was my downfall!  I remember saying to Mr Pickings that 100 grams of each didn't seem like a lot of beans, and I was right.   I completely forgot that 100 grams of dried beans is going to give you about 300 grams when soaked and cooked.  So yes the other ingredients were woefully out of whack.  It still tasted fine!

Here are Jane's ingredients:

100g. of dried chickpeas
100g. of dried red kidney beans
100g. dried haricot beans (aka navy beans) and/or black beans
8 tbs spring onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5-6 tbs olive oil
parsley and chives - no set amount, just to your taste
1 tbs vinegar or lemon juice
salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Jane's method:

soak the beans - Jane does not tell us for how long - clearly we are supposed to know this already
boil the chickpeas for 2 hours or till tender
boil the red kidney beans separately for 1.5 hours
boil the haricot beans for 1 hour - (throw them into the same pot as the chickpeas says Jane)
drain the beans
throw them whilst still warm into a salad bowl
mix in all the other ingredients
place in the fridge so it can chill down
throw on extra chopped herbs when serving, if desired

Well, as you know, this is not what I did!  I used tinned beans which I think is very sensible in this busy world of ours.  I realised as I was making it that there would be way too much spring onion so I only added a few tablespoons; this equated to about 5 whole ones which was still a bit too much.  And I used lime olive oil rather than plain to give it a bit of punch.

My ingredients:

100g. tinned chickpeas
100g. tinned red kidney beans
100g. tinned haricot beans
2-3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped - yes I kept the same amount of garlic!
2 tbs lime olive oil
1 tbs lime juice
parsley and chives
salt and pepper, and a couple of pinches of sugar


Mix everything together in a bowl
Scatter over the herbs

You could easily double or triple this for a larger gathering.  It did me and Mr Pickings just fine as a side dish with baked chicken.  Jane says this is a most beautiful dish, the colours and shapes like a painting!

beans, glorious beans!

get snipping 

and more snipping 

pour in the oil 

stirring the beans (blame Mr Pickings for the fuzzy shot) 

delish with chicken and avocado

To be brutally honest, this was not my fave dish of all time, but I would make it again with Asian flavours.  I think it needs lashings of chilli and coriander, but then it wouldn't be an American salad would it?


  1. Just reblogged this onto The Cookbook Guru. Thank you for your yummy contribution and welcome to the club. Leah

    1. hi leah
      thanks for that. I am happy to be a new member of the club:)

  2. I love beans so I am sure I would like this oddly balanced or not.

  3. I love beans so I am sure I would like this oddly balanced or not.

    1. i love beans too tania so we found it quite tasty!

  4. I too have just discovered this web site - Sherry - great isn't it? I love this book and have used it for years, my copy is very worn - I tend to use it as inspiration and when looking for a classic and then do my modern twist on it. Do seek out some of her other books as they are all excellently written and a joy to read.

  5. again such crystal clear pictures!! I think the salad looks wonderfully perfect! love beans in any dish :)

  6. What a nourishing dish! Do you know that perhaps oddly, I was craving beans last night? Perhaps I was craving this! :D

    1. hi lorraine
      beans? that's a weird craving:) I love chickpeas the best so that is what I crave at times.

  7. Hi Sherry, I know it is basic but it is still good nourishing food. I must admit, I am finding a lot of the recipes are bit ho hum. I think Australian tastes have changed from 70's English cooking. Glenda

    1. hi glenda
      i think you are right. we are all used to much stronger and spicier flavours these days!


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