About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, February 05, 2007
Texturally Speaking
I had many wonderful meals at a little French restaurant, smack bang in the old industrial heart of South Melbourne. La Madrague was started by Jacques and Annie Heradeau in 1979 and they ran it for 24 years before selling it in 2003. There were many things on the menu that I tried for the first time here including bone marrow sauce (sauce bordelaise) and a sinfully decadent chocolate fondant dessert.

But one of the dishes that has stuck in my mind is the wonderful flageolet beans that they served in a creamy sauce of garlic and parsley. There was plenty of garlic in it, in fact for me it was the large presence of garlic that made the dish. For years I have wanted to recreate this dish at home, but for the most part was unable to locate flageolet beans either tinned or dried.

Flageolet beans are a small green pulse much loved by the French and they have a particular affinity for lamb. Some consider them to be an immature kidney bean, but here is a very scholarly article about them.

Recently I was very happy to find a supply of the dried beans at The Essential Ingredient in the Prahran Market and embarked upon a journey to recreate my taste memory. Besides the garlic my other strong memory of flageolets was their creaminess and it was this that has proved to be my stumbling block. When I got home with my treasure, I consulted a few cookbooks to determine how long to cook the beans; the general consensus was for between one and two hours after a preliminary soaking.

So I followed the directions to the letter, but after an hour and three quarters of simmering they really weren't creamy at all, there was a definite crunch to them. Afterwards I rang the store to find out more and after being questioned if I added salt to the cooking water (I didn't) there was no real answer. The beans still tasted great, but they weren't melting in the mouth.

This last weekend I went again, this time I simmered them for two and a half hours, but I would have to say they were still al dente and I was becoming concerned that they would fall apart. They were again very moreish but without the texture I was looking for. So now I'm down to this. Do they in fact need to be cooked longer, perhaps three hours or more or was La Madrague in fact using tinned flageolets which would be creamy and soft?

If any readers know the answer to either, I would love for you to let me know. Because when I find out I will post a recipe for them that will knock your socks off. Also if you could let me know where to find tinned ones as well.

In an aside when I was googling flageolets I discovered it was a name for a musical wind instrument related to the tin whistle. Do you think the consumption of flageolet beans would make you a better player? Probably!


  posted at 7:48 am

At 3:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first French restaurant was Quenette in North Melbourne, which later became Jean-Jacques. I was a regular at Bullfrog, still one of my favourite restaurants ever. It's Paris Go now.

At 8:41 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Salt to early in cooking is a very common reason but you've eliminated that. How about age? Not yours, the beans, if they are really old you can cook them forever and they'll never get tender. Dried beans you've used as pie weights will never get tender either!
I'd say just pop on a plane and hit Paris! Every little grocery on the block has them in cans/tins.

At 10:30 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi kitchen hand, I've got a seafood cookbook from Jean-Jacques but I can't say I really use it anymore. I did eat there, not in North Melbourne but after he moved to St Kilda. Funnily I can't remember the name of my first French restaurant. It was on a first date and funnily I don't remember the girl's name either. I do remember that I found it in The Age's Good Food Guide and it was the sauces I recall that were fantastic.

Hi tanna, I asked about the age of the beans when I rang the store but they insisted that they were fresh. In my experience fresh crop dried beans don't need a lot of cooking. Right, where's my passport...

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