Fresh, young runner beans are a gem amongst the many wonderful vegetables available during the British summer. At their best they are at once tender, succulent and bursting with flavour. – eat the seasons
Runner beans are a popular summer staple here in Britain and they’ve been making regular appearances in our organic box. Prior to living in the UK, I’d never seen or eaten runner beans. As a result, they’re a mystery and I never know what to do with them. The end result is a big ol’ pile of beans in my fridge, threatening extinction with each passing day.
So this evening, I decided to face the beans. While contemplating my options, I had a sudden recollection of green bean casserole – you know, the kind made with mushroom soup and french fried onions. I didn’t have either of those ingredients but I decided to go for it anyway. The result was both delicious and vegan! I think this will be my go-to method for dealing with runner beans in the future.
How did I veganize it? Instead of mushroom soup, I made a mushroom gravy using Mark Bittman’s Bechamel Sauce. Instead of french fried onions, I sauteed onions in olive oil until they were golden then tossed them with a mix of flour and cornmeal. In the future, I’ll use breadcrumbs for this step, but I didn’t have any on hand. Regardless, these beans rocked my world. Ultimate creamy rich comfort food without all the weird preservatives and additives in traditional green bean casserole. You could even argue that it’s healthy, as I used whole grains for the crumble top and olive oil for my fats. And of course, there are the runner beans, which are a good source of vitamin C, folic acid and fibre.
But I didn’t really eat this for the health benefits. I ate it because it tasted good. Really good. Next time I’ll add fresh mushrooms in addition to the dried.
Here’s the recipe… I’m estimating some of the quantities here because I was pretty much winging it. But it should give you some ideas if you’d like to try your own vegan green bean casserole at home.
Runner Bean Casserole
The gravy for this is adapted from Mark Bittman’s Bechamel Sauce.
5-6 cups runner beans
For the gravy:
2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
salt and pepper
For the crumble topping
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for crumbling
1 onion, sliced into thin rings
2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp cornmeal
salt and pepper
“Top and tail” the runner beans, then slice them into very thin diagonals. Fill a pot with boiling water and a good pinch of salt. Add the runner beans and cook until they are tender. When they are done, “shock” them under cold water to stop them from cooking further.
Make the gravy: Rehydrate the porcini mushrooms by soaking them in about 1/2 cup hot water. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until they are soft. Slowly add the flour and mix with a wire whisk. Turn the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour turns tan (about 3 minutes). Add the mushroom soaking water, the soy milk and the stock, whisking all the while. Let the sauce simmer on a low heat until the mixture is at a desired thickness. Add the diced porcini mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste.
Make the crumble top: heat the olive oil on a medium heat then add the onion. Cook until the onion rings start to brown. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour and cornmeal and toss with the onions. Add a bit more olive oil until you’re able to form crumbs with the mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Make the casserole: Mix the runner beans with the gravy then put in a casserole pan. Top with the crumble topping. Bake at 350 F / 180 C until the top is golden and crispy.