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I have to admit that I’ve only stopped off here for a late night coffee, but Le Train Bleu restaurant quickly became one of my favourite places. Despite a rather unpromising location above the Gare de Lyon in Paris, it’s full of atmosphere, and transports you to another time and place, whilst leaving you feeling impossibly glamorous! That’s quite an achievement for a cup of coffee and a couple of macaroons!
Open since 1901, the café claims Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, Jean Gabin and Marcel Pagnol as regular customers. The restaurant certainly lends itself to rendezvous of all kinds!
I grew runner beans for the first time this year and boy, have they delivered! I bought plants rather than seeds and they have proved to be one of the easiest things I’ve ever done in the garden. Our freezer is packed with frozen beans and the last of them are still growing as I cut back around them in preparation for winter.
Aside from finding the time to pick all the beans, one of the issues was, when to pick the beans? When they’re small and less stringy, or big and bursting with fully grown beans? As I’ve only been picking every few days or so, I’ve inevitably ended up with a mix, but it’s definitely true that it’s best to avoid either end of the scale!
Looking for a way to use up some of this bounty, rather than another day of boiled runner beans, I came up with this simple recipe, which made a perfect side dish to a nut roast, or a light lunch served with rice. I made a double batch to freeze some, as here, so halve the quantity if you’re not so flush with beans!
We’ve also done well with tomatoes this year, as the weather was so great, so I was able to make this with our own plum tomatoes. Tins of tomatoes would work just as well.
Mediterranean Runner Beans
1lb runner beans
1/2lb plum tomatoes, skinned, or 2 tins
2 tsp sundried tomato puree
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 onions, chopped
Large handful of basil, chopped, or 2 tsp dried basil
2 tbslp olive oil
Fry the onions and garlic in the oil over a medium heat for around 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook gently for around 20 minutes. (You can speed up cooking time, but the flavour won’t be as dense). Add small amounts of water if the mixture looks like it might dry out.
Another seriously simple supper! These baby leeks appeared in my vegetable box last week, even though the leek season really only starts next month. But that does mean that this recipe can see you through the winter as a quick and nutritious meal. It was great served with brown rice as here, but this would be indulgent with a jacket potato, or good as a side dish to some veggie sausages. Before serving, sprinkle on some walnuts, pine nuts or pumpkin seeds for a bit of healthy crunch!
Garlic Baby Leeks with Sugar Snap Peas
1 tblsp olive oil
Small nob of butter
3 or 4 baby leeks, depending on size, cleaned and cut to 1/2 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic
Good handful of sugar snap peas, cut to 1/2 inch pieces
1 large tblsp cream cheese
2 tblsp milk + more if needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Walnuts, pine nuts or pumpkin seeds to serve (optional)
Heat the oil and butter until butter has just started to bubble. Add the leeks and garlic. Stir and cook over a medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes until starting to soften. Add the sugar snap peas and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the cream cheese and the milk. Add more milk if needed to make a sauce and stir briefly to heat through before serving. After serving, sprinkle with your choice of topping if using.