Cuisine Fiend

garlicky runner beans


buttered runner beans

Nobody likes to admit they were wrong. It’s human nature – nobody knows their stuff better than we do ours. So naturally, I am the be all and end all of food; nothing infuriates me more than someone professing they know better about cooking, nutrition and such unless they are professionally qualified.

So if I say things like: ‘kale is inedible’, ‘shortcrust pastry always wins over puff’, ‘you have to separate your eggs to make a decent cake’ and ‘muffins? who cares about making muffins?’ I expect to be listened to and applauded. I don’t like to be contradicted; even less so to realise myself, albeit in the privacy of my own dinner plate, that I might possibly not have been entirely right.

garlicky runner beans

And so I have been saying for what seems like centuries that runner beans are a huge misunderstanding; a stringy, fibrous and tough vegetable that is grown in England only because the English don’t know any better about haricots verts, Italian beans and so on. I have probably had one run-in with the runners and decided for ever. Well guess what – I was completely wrong.

One thing in my defence is that runner beans, like a lot of vegetables in this country, are picked too late: when overgrown and over-tough. I have toyed with the idea of using them since I had a cheffy dish of the beans raw, sliced stick thin and tossed in some supremely sophisticated dressing. I’ll cut to the chase now (to the run, ha!):  they are gorgeous. I bought some with the raw cheffy thing in mind but couldn’t be bothered so I sliced them, blanched them, buttered them. Epiphany. It’s so good to be wrong if it means a brand new dish to be enjoyed.

garlicky runner beans

Servings: 4Time: 15 minutes


  • 500g (about 1 pound) runner beans, as slim as you can get
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp. dried white breadcrumbs
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan
  • a large pinch of sea salt flakes


1. Top and tail the beans; de-string on both sides. Rinse them in cold water and cut into diamond shapes on a really long diagonal. Use a sharp knife or a mandolin on the widest setting.

sliced runner beans

2. Bring a pan of salty water to the boil; add the beans and simmer for 4-5 minutes until crunchy but not tough. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them cooking further.

the best runner beans

3. In the same, empty pan over medium heat melt the butter; add the garlic slices and fry gently until the butter foams and the garlic colours very slightly. Stir in the breadcrumbs.

how to cook runner beans

4. Return the beans to the pan and toss with the garlic; cook for a few minutes mainly to heat them up again. Stir in the white pepper and the Parmesan.

5. Serve immediately sprinkled with a pinch of salt flakes.

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