I love the versatility of vegetables, don't you? You can make them into soups or salads; you can eat them raw (well, carrots anyway); and have you ever tried a broccoli stalk? It is one of the tastiest things ever. If you are cutting up the florets, then be sure to munch the stalk as you cook - just peel the skin off and you have a tasty treat. Raw peas are delicious too, especially freshly popped from the pod, like little green sweets. Vegetables are often underrated, but you should never underestimate them.
This week's recipe can be eaten alone, or with a meat dish such as lamb. It is easy, very healthy and extremely tasty. As with all my recipes, the key is to get the highest-quality ingredients. So in this case, if the French beans look like they came all the way from France on a raft, go shop elsewhere.
My spies tell me that the quality of vegetables in Abu Dhabi isn't always what it could be. Apparently if you want the best, you need to get up at the crack of dawn, or even before, to head down to Port Zayed, where the boats come in laden with goodies. I love buying food from as close to the source as possible. To me, supermarkets are sterile, unfriendly places. Give me a market stall any day.
I was in Italy recently and was heartened to see women fighting to get to the front of the queue at the fruit and veg stand in much the same way as the ladies of London battle to get to the shoes in a Jimmy Choo sale.
You might be wondering why a Leeds lad like me has even heard of Jimmy Choo? I must admit when I first came across the name I thought it must be cockney rhyming slang. You know, like trouble and strife for wife. But I knew Tamara Mellon (who founded the brand) in my youth, and so naturally the name stuck with me. It's amazing, actually, how many of the gang I used to know have gone on to bigger and better things. Rachel Weisz was among them, for example. Back when I knew her, she was just a schoolgirl, and now she's married to Mr Bond.
And back when she knew me, I was just a sous chef, and now look at me, a celebrity chef with my very own column!
Enjoy the beans my dears, and remember, everything, and everyone, has great potential - even the simple French bean.
MAKE IT YOURSELF
French beans with tomatoes and mint
1.2kg French beans, trimmed
6 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely shaved
400g tinned tomatoes, sieved to remove the seeds
2 pinches sugar
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 large handfuls of fresh mint leaves, chopped
1. Cook the beans in plenty of boiling salted water for 10 minutes until tender.
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the onion and garlic and sauté over low heat until soft (do not allow to brown).
3. Drain the beans and add them to the pan with the tomatoes and sugar.
4. Season to taste and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add a little of water if the mixture gets dry.
5. Top with the chopped mint and serve.