Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Way Back Wednesday: Hannah Woolley's Sautéed Green Beans

I don't know that this will happen each and every Wednesday, due to the planning and preparation involved, but I'd like to start trying out some older recipes--that is, recipes from the 17th and 18th centuries. I'm lucky to still have access to databases like Early English Books Online and the Eighteenth Century Collections Online, because the University of Oklahoma lets engineers keep their OU netIDs for all eternity. The rest of us have to give up our access to internet resources on graduation. I just use Paul's log-in and I can access my old history-major haunts.  I didn't have to do much digging to find the first edition of Hannah Woolley's 1664 cookery book, The Cook's Guide: or, Rare Receipts for Cookery.  

While we started beans for our fall garden, they're not ready to harvest. I did find some lovely green beans at the organic market, so I decided I would make a modern recipe for Hannah Woolley's recipe for frying "Garden-beans." During the seventeenth century, John Tradescant the Elder introduced the English to runner beans.* For the preparation, Woolley writes: "Boil them well, then blanch them and fry them with sweet butter, whole pursley, and shred onions, and melt butter for the sawce" (p. 11).

Hannah Woolley's Sautéed Green Beans

Here's my recipe:

Sautéed Green Beans

serves 2

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 shallot, grated
1 lb green beans, blanched or steamed for about 5 minutes (so they're still crisp)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
freshly-ground sea salt

Melt the butter over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, grate in the shallot. Stir, then throw in the green beans and the parsley. Season well with salt. Cook just long enough to coat the green beans in parsley and butter.


Because the Restoration totally rocks and Sir Peter Lely is an awesome painter, here's one of his paintings of Charles II (painted sometime around 1665), who is one of my very favorite bad monarchs. He's best known today for his slew of mistresses. Besides that, he was the first monarch to allow women on the English stage (Charles II, feminist icon?) and he quite frequently performed the same kind of political acts that got his father beheaded and his brother dethroned, such as governing without Parliament for years while he secretly got funding from his cousin, Louis XIV.

from the Royal Collection

Plus he had all those little dogs.

Good King Charles II with his dogs
Rupert Everett as Charles II in Stage Beautywhich was ahistorical in the extreme, but I thought Everett made a great Charles

*Kate Colquhoun, Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking (New York: Bloomsbury, 2007), 131-132.


    1. Oh yum--I love green beans! And grating the shallots--how interesting. I've had them thinly sliced with green beans, but I like the idea of grating them. We were gifted with some tarragon butter this summer and have been eating all our green beans with that. Delicious.

    2. I have just gotten into using shallots more on a regular basis, so I will have to try this!

      P.S. I love the new header!

    3. You can still access the library! Ugh! Jealous. I was cut off.

    4. Oh, your green beans look so vibrant and delicious! I'm going to add shallots to ours tomorrow :)

    5. Coo, they look lovely. And love the idea of Way Back Wednesday... Also like the idea of tarragon butter. I keep buying little packets of tarragon with a mind to making some tarragon vinegar then getting cross with myself when they turn to mulch as I'm doing too much socialising!

    6. these greens seem very appetizing. and Charles II seems quite an eccentric monarch

    7. Okay, so where's the bacon??!!! How funny that we were just talking about green beans. These are very pretty and look quite yummy in spite of the missing bacon!


    Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.