Fresh string beans are the summer alternative to winter bean soups. If you grow your own string beans, you can use them in this recipe. There's a happy reason why I prefer the frozen variety: they are easier to deal with in terms of preparation. I tend not to buy them from fresh markets, because the farmer may have used too much fertiliser, and the beans become tough and fibrous, whereas frozen ones (despite the cultivation method used) always cook to tenderness, and don't need cleaning. To prepare fresh string beans, you need to top and tail each one separately, taking care to pull away any stringy fibre from each side. If they are very long, chop them in half. You can also use okra (lady's fingers), otherwise known as bamies in Greek cooking, instead of fasolakia to make this dish. Another popular way to eat them is to brown some chicken pieces in olive oil, and when they are half-cooked through, to add the remaining ingredients of this recipe. Green beans go especially well with meat stewed in tomato. I also add barbounes beans - they look like white haricot beans with a streaky red mesh design on their skin), to suit the different tastes of my family: someone wants green beans, someone else wants white beans.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 500g packet of frozen green string beans
1 250g packet of frozen white beans
5 small potatoes, peeled and qaurtered
3 courgettes, cut into chunks (only in summer; I never buy greenhouse grown zucchini in the winter)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into medium-sized rounds
400g tinned tomatos
a bunch of parsley
salt and pepper
Brown the onion and garlic in the oil in a large pot. Then add, in layers, the string beans, carrots, courgettes (topped and tailed), white beans and potatoes. Pour the pureed tomato over everything, and add enough water to just cover the pot. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the chopped parsley, cover the pot and cook until the potatoes are done, about 35-45 minutes. Serve the beans with leftover roast meat, boiled egg, cheese or just as they are.
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