Tuesday, 6 September 2011

How to make a Mixed Bean Salad

I need to be kept away from nice food shops; delis, specialist grocers, heck, even Waitrose! Why? Because even though I have a list of items which I am meant to get, I end up wandering around, picking up all sorts of things because either 'That looks nice!' or 'Oooh! That will come in useful!'. I ought to be more disciplined. I try to make sure whenever I go shopping I always have a list, and that I am not hungry when I go (being hungry when you go food shopping is guaranteed way of buying a whole load of stuff you neither need nor can use within their best before dates), but I usually buckle under the pressure of temptation.

So, on one such trip to Waitrose, I picked up a packet of dried mixed beans. I was attracted by the lovely colours and the sheer variety of sizes and shapes of bean in the packet. It was like a party of colourful happy little beans going on, how could I resist?! Thankfully not a product to break the bank (currently available for £1.09 for 500g), it went straight in my basket with not much in the way of thought as to what I'd do with them.

Poor packet of beans! They languished in my larder drawer in the kitchen for a long time, unused and unloved. I'd been inspired by their looks to bring them home, but had no idea of how to show them real love by making something tasty with them.

I had to put my thinking cap on, before thinking that they could be made into a salad in much the same way as you might make a French style rice salad; boiled up, drained and soaked in vinaigrette whilst still warm to soak up all the flavours.

One word of warning: you do need to remember to soak the beans the night before you intend to make this dish. If you forget, don't try to boil the beans for longer in the hope they will cook through eventually. Chances are you will end up with some of the beans being cooked and others rock hard. (Unless you are prepared to cook them in a pressure cooker, which I do not possess).

Here is my French-inspired Mixed Bean Salad, then. One for the vegetarians, since I've neglected them for quite a while, who may want to serve it with some grilled halloumi cheese on top, or perhaps with some rocket salad by the side. Him Indoors and I being fully signed up meat eaters had this with pork chops!

If you don't want to use the Waitrose bean mix, then you could make your own bean mix. I'd say you didn't need as many varieties as 10. Equal amounts of borlotti, cannellini, flageolet, and red kidney beans would be just right for this salad. Same rules about soaking overnight apply.

You may notice from my pictures that I foolishly added some rosemary to the beans when boiling them. I have not included them in my recipe as they do not make enough of a difference to the flavour and they go all soft and lose their colour and texture through being boiled for so long. And you can't easily pick them out once the beans are cooked. I experimented so that you don't have to!

Serves 2-3


150g Waitrose 10 bean mix
2 bay leaves
1 handful fresh flat leaved parsley, finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely sliced with some green included
80-90g sugar snap peas, halved
60g asparagus spears, cut into 1” sections, tips held to one side
80g fine (French) beans, cut into 1”-1½” sections
8 halves of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped
45ml olive oil (although you could use some of the oil which came with the sun-dried tomatoes)
20ml red wine vinegar
Ingredients being prepared #1

Ingredients being prepared #2


  1. Soak the dried beans for overnight in plenty cold water in a non-metallic bowl. Drain and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Place into a saucepan with the bay leaves, cover generously in cold water, put on the hob and bring to the boil. When boiling, lower the heat to a simmer. The beans will take 45mins to 1 hour to cook. You may need to scrape off some frothy scum from the top.
    Boiling the beans: note the scummy foam - ICK!

  3.  Whilst the beans are cooking, prepare the rest of the salad.
  4. In a separate pan, bring some water to the boil. Add the fine beans and boil for 2 mins. Add the asparagus and boil for another 2 minutes, then add the reserved asparagus tips and sugar snaps. Boil for a final 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to arrest the cooking process.
    Veggies boiled to retain crunchiness and firmness

  5. Put the olive oil and red wine vinegar in an old jam jar and give a good shake. This is the easiest way of getting them to combine into a vinaigrette.

    Boiled beans: leave out the rosemary!

  6.  Drain the beans in a colander, remove the bay leaves and give a light rinse (but don't let the beans get cold). Put the boiled beans into a non-metallic bowl and dress with the vinaigrette, mixing thoroughly. Add the sun-dried tomatoes. Leave to cool.
  7. Now mix in all the remaining ingredients thoroughly and leave for 5 minutes for the flavours to mix.

    Mix and allow the flavours to combine

  8. Serve with grilled halloumi.

Meat eaters' variation:
  1. Marinade 4 pork chops in 4 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp lemon juice for at least 20 minutes.
    Marinating the pork

  2. Whilst the meat is marinating, heat a griddle pan.
  3. When ready for cooking, make sure the griddle is HOT. Then cook the pork chops for 4-5mins each side. Allow to rest for 3 mins. Serve with or on top of the bean salad.

    The finished dish

1 comment:

  1. I made the bean salad again with a variation. This time I took 2 unpeeled cloves of garlic and added them to the cooking water with the beans, and boiled them as long as I did the beans. I then had to carefully scoop them out as they had softened a lot over the cooking time. I peeled them and mashed them with pestle and mortar. I then added the mashed garlic to the dressing and shook it all up in the jam jar as described above. The result was a very tasty dressing indeed. If you don't like garlic quite as much as I do, then you could just add the one clove. But garlic is good for you and a favourite flavour of mine, so I was a lot more generous.