When we lived in Burgundy we were spoiled by our elderly gardener who loved to grow green beans. He would bully his elderly wife into picking them so we had literally buckets delivered each day. Then it was up to us to prepare them for the table. Luckily we had lots of cooking students who would sit around dangling their feet in the swimming pool while they hulled the beans. The chef would keep huge pots of water boiling, so it was a poor year if we did not freeze upwards of 50 bags of blanched baby beans to keep us going during the winter.

The best way to serve them, my teenage daughter Emma discovered, was to let a couple of bags of the half-cooked beans defrost, then poach them gently in large amounts of butter in our biggest wok. The results were a revelation to those familiar only with ‘crisp’ green beans.

Serves 6-8
2 lb/900g green fresh or frozen green beans
½ cup/110 g butter
Salt and pepper

 1. If the beans are fresh, trim the ends, then blanch the beans in generous amounts of boiling salted water, cooking them for 7-10 minutes so they are still firm but no longer crisp, then draining and rinsing them with cold water. If the beans are frozen, simply thaw them as they will have already been blanched.

2. Melt the butter in a large wok or a big skillet. Add the beans with a little salt and pepper, cover and cook them over the lowest possible heat for up to an hour, stirring occasionally. They will gradually soften and mellow, absorbing the butter to brown slightly and develop their full flavor.