Coco de Paimpol Haricot Beans
Head Chef George gets excited about our first crop of Coco de Paimpol haricot beans, find them on our menu this month at the manor…
Coco de Paimpol is a beautiful variety of haricot bean that has been grown in Brittany since the 18th century. It is quite unique and is semi-dried on the plant, picked and podded to produce the most delicious cassoulet. As the beans do not fully dry, they have a much more pleasant texture and hold their shape much more easily. The completely white bean is also larger and plumper than the dried haricot that we are used to. It is so well recognised in France as a top-quality product that the vegetable received a protective appellation d'origine contrôlée in 1998, just like a fine wine or cheese.
So why am I talking about a French bean when we should be growing our own veg? Well, last year we bought a sack. We didn’t cook with them, instead the gardeners spread them out in the glasshouses to cure/dry and planted them in the garden a few months ago. The result is a hugely productive row of delicious beans that we are using to cook with. We thought that they would require bamboo frames for them to climb up, but they are not climbers, and instead they grow in a bush from the ground. They are picked when the pods turn yellow with little purple marks on them, taken down to the kitchen, then podded and braised slowly in a stock without the need to soak.
We serve them in a few ways, whether it is braised in pork stock and served with some seared confit pork belly on the lunch menu, or braised in a chicken stock and served with Swiss chard, yellow chanterelles, sliced lardo and roasted monk fish. We always braise them with a whole carrot, stick of celery and half an onion so that they can be easily removed, and finish with fresh picked thyme leaves, a little lemon juice and some butter. They also puree very easily and a circle of this piped onto the plate helps to keep all the juices around the beans from escaping.
A little tip when soaking/cooking any legume in a stock, whether lentils or dried haricot, is to use soft water with a low calcium and magnesium content. This is because these minerals reinforce the skins of the bean and make them taste tough. Adding salt can do a similar job, but salt has both a positive and negative affect on the cooking of the bean, so a little salt while soaking/cooking is advisable and then finishing the seasoning of the beans at the end. If you live in a hard water area and are serious about cooking the perfect bean, then you can always buy a low mineral content mineral water such as Volvic or Highland Spring.