Wednesday 5 August 2015

Cheery chops

As usual I had no idea what to cook for dinner tonight, but there were chops in the freezer and wasp-gnawed apples in need of use, so I came up with a baked dish to serve with some of last year's potatoes and some of this year's massive crop of runner beans.

Leftovers - all the additions made a lovely sauce
Four pork échine chops
One apple, cored but not peeled, cut into large pieces
Four shallots, peeled, whole
One head of garlic, separated into cloves
Three tablespoons apricot nectar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place the chops in a baking dish and scatter on the apple pieces, garlic cloves and shallots. Drizzle on a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 180 degrees for half an hour, turning the chops over once. Add the cherry tomatoes, pour on the apricot nectar, check and adjust the seasoning and return the dish to the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes have collapsed and all the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with mashed potato and steamed runner beans.

I adore runner beans. I used to grow the variety Painted Lady, but I don't bother now - it doesn't "do" well here. Even in a normal summer, conditions are too dry for it to set seed. In France, runners (phaseolus coccineus to the botanist) are called "Haricot d'Espagne" and are mainly grown for their pretty red-and-white flowers. French beans, phaseolus vulgaris, are to be found in every potager.

Moonlight in full flower with beans on their way
Once again, "Moonlight" is producing splendidly, despite the drought and high temperatures. We now have a full complement of eight perennial "Moonlight" plants, each with a thick root like a parsnip under the ground. The stems disappear entirely in the autumn, and nothing happens until the end of May when the first scrawny leaves poke up out of the ground. In order to be sure I got some Moonlight I had sowed some more seeds by then, of course. These had to be planted in a different location because the original patch was full. So next year there could be two patches of perennial Moonlight. "Bulgarian Purple" also came up with one perennial plant.

Firestorm (red) and Moonlight (white)

This year I am trying "Firestorm", a red-flowered runner/french bean from the same stable as "Moonlight", but I am somewhat underwhelmed by its weak growth and yellowish leaves. It is not coping with the heat as well as "Moonlight", either, and I have had no beans from it yet, nor likely to in short order, whereas both patches of "Moonlight" and the climbing French beans "Cobra" and "Kew Blue" have both started to produce.

Kew Blue
Of all these, my favourite for flavour is "Kew Blue", which I obtained from the Heritage Seed Library. It is a stunning plant, with lilac flowers, dark green leaves, deep purple stems and long, smooth purple beans, which it produces plentifully. I save some seeds every year, and the dried beans cook well, too.
But for a widely available commercial bean, you can't beat "Moonlight".

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