French Beans as a Salad

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You'll find this recipe in:
The Principles and Practices of Vegetarian Cookery
By: John Smith
London, 1860

The Original Recipes:

French Beans as a Salad.
255. Cook them in water as above, drain them and let them cool. Season them, some hours before using them, with pepper, salt and vinegar; then cover them well. At the time of serving, drain off the water which they will have yielded, and add salad sauce.

French Beans (Haricorts verts).
254. Remove the fibres and wash the beans; put them in boiling water with a little salt; when cooked put them in cold water to preserve their colour...The better to preserve their colour, put a double linen cloth on a sieve, and on this cloth a good spoonful of wood ashes. Pass the water, in which the beans are to be cooked, over the ashes and through the sieve. This method may also be adopted when cooking artichokes. (There's more to this recipe, but this is the info we need for our purposes)

Salad Sauce.
505. Eggs two; water or cream one table-spoonful; oil or dissolved butter two table-spoonfuls; salt or powdered lump sugar one tea-spoonful; mustard one tea-spoonful; vinegar three table-spoonfuls; to these may be added a tea-spoonful of tarragon vinegar; or basil vinegar, etc; or a table-spoonful of chopped leaves. Boil the eggs twelve minutes, then put them in cold water for a few minutes; rub the yolks, which must be cold and hard, through a sieve with a wooden spoon, or pound them in a mortar, then mix them with the water or cream; add the oil, sugar, salt and mustard; and, when these are very well mixed, add very gradually the vinegars, and rub the whole until blended. Garnish the salad with the whites of eggs cut in pieces.

My Recipes:

French Beans as a Salad

Green Beans
Vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

1) Wash the green beans, then trim the tops & tails. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the green beans. Once cooked, drain and submerge the beans into cold water.

2) Drain the green beans again after they've cooled and put them into a bowl or container. Add some salt, pepper and a little vinegar. Stir, then store in the refrigerator. Strain off any liquid, add the Salad Sauce and stir. Garnish with the sliced egg whites.

Salad Sauce

2 hard boiled eggs
1 tbsp water or cream
2 tbsp oil or melted butter
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp mustard powder
3 tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider)
1 tsp herbal vinegar or 1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I added chives)

1) Slice the hard boiled eggs in half, separate the yolks and cut the egg whites into pieces. Put the yolks into a bowl and mush with the back of a spoon.

2) Add all the other ingredients to the bowl and mix well with a fork. Add the Salad Sauce to your salad, then garnish with egg white.

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In my regular life, I am weirdly enough not a follower of recipes. For this reason, The Principles and Practices of Vegetarian Cookery is one of my favourite historic cookbooks because John Smith wrote his recipes in the same spirit of how I normally cook. He offers a lot of options, substitutions and variations, so you're able to easily use the same recipe when you're craving some variety or you've got different ingredients in the house.

Not having wood ash handy at home, and also since I didn't plan ahead to bring a small container of ashes home from work, I unfortunately couldn't try Smith's suggestion of passing the cooking water through a sieve filled with ashes before bringing it to a boil. This method is supposed to keep the beans' bright green colour. If you end up trying it, please let me know how it turned out! I'm especially curious how the ashes affect the taste of the beans.

If any of you are marveling over the fact that this recipe comes from a vegetarian cookbook published in 1860, The Principles and Practices of Vegetarian Cookery is not the only vegetarian cookbook to be published in this time period. Vegetarianism wasn't a part of mainstream culinary culture, but it was an important aspect of the health movement that was gaining a lot of momentum at this time. I think a blog post just looking at early vegetarian cookbooks is a must, so keep an eye out for it.

Until then, I'll share my favourite article about mid-19th century vegetarians from Slate: The Exquisite Wistfulness of 19th-Century Vegetarian Personal Ads. These lonely Vegetarians were searching for a spouse who shared their commitments to Vegetarianism, Hydrotherapy, Temperance, Phrenology or Dress Reform. I feel for these people, considering how small a segment of the general population would have shared their viewpoints. I also would love to know if any of these advertisements produced a love match and a long & happy marriage, wouldn't you?

Read the Cookbook: