This dish feels French to me. ‘Pourquoi?’ you may ask. There is something about it – the green beans, the salty olives and the ever so slightly sweet, and ever so very juicy tomatoes – that makes me think I am sitting in Provence with each and every bite. It’s summer and I’m picnic-ing in a field of lavender. Off Limoges china with a floral pattern.
Of course, the dish works just as well on grey evenings in wintery London. Arguably, even better as it helps to lift my spirits. You can serve it warmed straight from the oven or at room temperature, and have the luxury of preparing it far in advance. Tout seul as a starter, or as near-perfect accompaniment to anything from roast chicken to lamb cutlets or poached salmon.
First you lightly blanche the beans on the hob. Then you add the tomatoes and olives, and roast them in the oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. This really enhances the flavours of all the ingredients. As the beans warm, the olive oil and the cooking juices from the olives and tomatoes ooze into the most delightful light sauce. Do not – under any circumstances – throw even a drop of this out: it is like nectar of the gods. Save it all and use to dress the beans before serving. When the beans are all long gone, soak up what is left of their juices with crusty white bread. Sweet French Heaven.
For a rustic look (and to save on washing up), serve everything still in the roasting dish: toss the beans, mix the dressing through, and plonk on the table. Bon Appetit.
French Beans with Black Olives and Juicy Cherry Tomatoes
Serves: 8-10 as a side dish; leftovers are delicious the next day.
Prep Time: 5 mins; Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
- 1kg french beans
- 100g pitted black olives – buy the best quality ones that you can find
- 300g tomatoes
- generous glug olive oil
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Trim your beans or buy them already trimmed from the supermarket. Fill a large saucepan with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the water is galloping, add the beans and cook for three to four minutes. When the beans are ever so slightly cooked – i.e. they are still crisp when you bite into them, but no longer taste woody and bitter – drain the saucepan and toss the beans into a roasting tray with a generous glug of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Halve the cherry tomatoes and add them with the olives to the beans. Put the tray in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes are softened and the beans are very slightly browned. Serve immediately, or at room temperature.