It used to be that my go to method for cooking was roasting anything and everything – but then, something revelatory happened.
My friend Gemma brought over an Ottolenghi dish she had made for a pot luck lunch. It was a salad of French beans and mangetout (both of which had been blanched) finished with roasted hazelnuts and orange zest.
This is a recipe I had previously overlooked, quickly dismissing it as a bit too faffy – but once I gave it a go myself I realised that blanching vegetables takes mere minutes (literally!), not to mention that it also preserves colour, nutrients and a whole lot of flavour.
If you’re not already on board with blanching then I urge you to give it a go and in a bid to spur you on, I’ve included my blanching rules and some recipe inspiration for you below.
THE GOLDEN RULES OF BLANCHING:
1 // Bring a pan of unsalted water to a vigorous boil.
2 // Chuck in your veg of choice.
Make sure they’re not too crowded in the pan – if you plan on blanching a lot of veg I would recommend doing them in batches.
3 // Watch the time!
French beans: 4min, mangetout: 1min, tenderstem broccoli: 3min, broad beans: 2min (remembering to shell your broad beans post-blanching – unfortunately a laborious task but well worth it for the vibrant jewels you’ll find lurking inside), asparagus: this depends on their thickness but generally 3-4min so that they’re no longer hard but still have some bite to them.
4 // While your veg are cooking prepare a large bowl filled with super cold water.
5 // Drain your veg and immediately plunge into the ice-water. This will stop them cooking any further and losing any colour.
GREEN BEANS, ASPARAGUS & BROAD BEANS WITH FRENCH DRESSING //
I made this over the weekend serving it with some leftover roast chicken for a perfect light lunch.
Top and tail the beans and slice the asparagus at an angle into spears of 7-10cm. Next, blanch your veg then simply mix with a dressing of 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 generous tsp Dijon mustard, 1 finely diced shallot and a sprinkling of salt.
For extra crunch, top with some toasted pine-nuts.
GREEN BEANS & TENDERSTEM BROCCILI WITH TAHINI DRESSING //
I served this as part of a big buffet style lunch alongside rustic breads, platters of smoked salmon, a large Israeli salad and selection of frittatas.
Blanch your veg and set aside. Whip up a quick tahini dressing by blending 3 tbsp tahini paste with 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tbsp water and 1 crushed garlic clove. Mix this dressing through the veg and then sprinkle with a handful of sesame seeds and finely sliced spring onions.
1 // Your veg can be prepared and chilled a day in advance.
2 // If you’re planning to blanch a couple of different types of veg remember that they’ll all have different cooking times. I find it easiest to re-use the cooking water and remove each batch with tongs or a slotted spoon and deposit them straight into the ice-water.