If green beans make you think of granny’s Sunday lunch where she forced you to eat soggy, grey beans, it’s time to revisit them. Green beans benefit from a ‘less is more’ approach, and so you want to cook them very quickly, on a high heat. The more traditional way is to blanch them for a minute or two in salted water, before dunking them into ice cold water to stop them overcooking. Sautéing them, where you cook them in a little olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat, stirring often until they’re bright green but still crisp, is another great way of cooking them. Our favourite way, however, has to be in a tempura method, where you toss them in a light tempura mixture and fry them for a few minutes. The result is a perfectly-cooked bean encased in a delicately crisp batter.
Broad beans might require a little more preparation than other green veg, but they’re well worth it. If you’re buying beans in the pod, simply pop open the outer skin to reveal a fluffy inner, which is where the actual bean is. You’re not quite done here, though, as the bean is covered by another skin that is bitter and unpleasant to eat. This skin can be a little tough, so you might need to tear it gently to release the bean. This may sound fiddly, but you’ll find once you get into a rhythm, it becomes somewhat therapeutic – trust us. After that, you’re finally ready to cook your broad beans, which also only call for a few minutes of cooking. Similar to green beans, you can either blanch broad beans for two minutes in salted water, or you can gently saute them in olive oil or butter.
You might be most familiar with the frozen or tinned kind, which require little more than heating up, but when you see how easy it is to cook fresh peas (and how noticeably delicious they are), you’ll be a convert. Simply blanch them for a minute or two in well-salted water, and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Don’t let the name trick you, baby leeks aren’t just young versions of their regular namesakes, they are their own separate vegetable. Their preparation method isn’t that much different, however, and you can use them the same way you would regular leeks. Give them a quick rinse and check over for any bits of dirt, and then you’re ready to cook. You can roast them whole, add them to a soup, or even – as their delicate flavour means they can be eaten raw – finely slice them and pop them into a salad.
Now you’re armed with all the knowledge you’d ever need for cooking winter greens, here are our favourite recipes using them.
Tempura green beans
If you’re constantly fighting to get the family to eat more green veggies, this is the recipe you need. No one can resist crispy tempura and the texture of green beans work exceptionally well with this cooking method – you’ll have them fighting over these!
Get the recipe for tempura green beans here.
Pepper-and-onion salt-smashed pea pasta
Here, leeks and peas work together in perfect harmony to create a substantial, yet light, pasta dish.
Get the recipe for pepper-and-onion salt-smashed pea pasta here.
Leek-and-onion soup with ricotta frittata
A celebration of the entire allium family, this soup is a delicate broth that doesn’t skimp on flavour. If you want to, you can skip making the frittata and serve some crusty, olive oil-fried bread on the side.
Get the recipe for leek-and-onion soup with ricotta frittata here.
Sautéed baby greens
This makes for a great side salad to grilled fish or chicken, or a light main all on its own. Swap out the greens for whatever you have available – peas and broad beans would both work well here.
Get the recipe for sautéed baby greens here.
Soufflé omelette with hot-smoked deli fish, avocado and creamy parmesan leeks
This is the ultimate anytime meal, serve it for brunch or a quick dinner. The combination of flavours here is also quite open to tweaking, meaning no one would be mad if you scattered some peas into the omelette before cooking.
Get the recipe for soufflé omelette with hot-smoked deli fish, avocado and creamy Parmesan leeks here.