Bean salad 2/2: cavolo nero with scarlet runner beans and roasted purple Brussels sprouts

In my previous post I told you about the joint kitchen project I undertook with my friend the other day. We set out to each make our own version of a bean salad, using one of the beautiful bean varieties harvested from her vegetable garden. The previous post ended with the recipe for Anca’s salad; in this part 2 it’s time for mine!


Bean salads are lovely and versatile. The key to making them appealing and interesting is to combine the beans with fresh ingredients of contrasting texture and flavour. Starting from there, the resulting dishes can be completely different in character, which will have you happily eating them every season of the year.

Whereas Anca’s pinto bean salad is cheerful and sunny, I’ve taken the seasonal wintery approach, highlighting ingredients that are at their best right now. From the different bean varieties available I picked the scarlet runner beans and combined them with matching deep dark colours of cavolo nero and purple Brussels sprouts. I added hazelnuts for crunch, topping the lot with sugar snap peas and lots of fresh herbs for crispness and contrasting colour.


The cavolo nero is used raw here, simply massaged with some lemon juice and sea salt for a few minutes to tenderise the leaves. The Brussels sprouts are roasted with with lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper, which turns them into a lovely sweet and savoury addition. Topped with peppery radish sprouts, this is just one big bowlful of seasonal goodness and I couldn’t be more pleased with it!

Now that our national St. Nicholas celebration is over, I can start focusing on my plans for Christmas family dinner. Our tried and true approach is to fill the table with different small vegetarian dishes to suit everyone’s taste and appetite. This salad is smart enough to be on the shortlist for that, but it’s also sturdy enough to bring along for lunch on regular weekdays: just tip the cavolo nero and the dressing in a jar and top with the remaining ingredients. Putting the more tender herbs and beansprouts on top and only mixing it all right before eating will keep everything crisp and fresh.


If you can’t get hold of scarlet runner beans, black beans will give the same dramatic colour effect; flavourwise you could substitute the runner beans with lima beans. For notes on the use of dried and canned beans, see the pinto bean post.

Happy cooking!


Cavolo nero salad with scarlet runner beans and roasted purple Brussels sprouts – serves 4


  • 80 g dried scarlet runner beans or 250 g cooked beans
  • 200 g sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
  • 500 g purple Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup or agave syrup
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. hazelnut oil
  • 250 g bunch cavolo nero (if not available, swap for kale)
  • 15 g flat leaf parsley
  • 50 g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 80 g radish sprouts, beansprouts or microleaves



Tip the beans into a pan, cover them with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, start checking for doneness after 40 minutes. Strain and rinse, then keep them in cold water until using.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7.

Bring a second pan of water to the boil. Add the sugar snap peas and blanch them for about 30 seconds until vibrant green and still crunchy. With a slotted spoon, take the peas out and transfer them to a colander. Rinse them in cold water, then set aside.

Add the Brussels sprouts to the boiling water and blanch them for a minute. Because their colour is acidity-dependant, blanching them like this will turn them into a blueish green, but don’t worry about that; roasting them with lemon juice afterwards will revive their bright purple colour. Drain and rinse in cold water. Halve the bigger ones lengthwise, leave the smaller ones as they are. Toss the sprouts with a tablespoon of the olive oil and put them on a baking sheet. Season them generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast them in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, strip the cavolo nero leaves off the stems. Discard the stems and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Tip them in a bowl and sprinkle them with salt and a tablespoon of the lemon juice. Using your hands, rub the leaves with the salt and lemon juice for a minute. This will soften them, turning them dark green, light and crunchy.

Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with the maple syrup. After their 10 minutes roasting time, take the Brussels sprouts out of the oven and toss them with half of the lemon mixture. Put them back in the oven and roast them for 5 more minutes, until caramellised and crisp at the edges.

Mix the  olive oil and hazelnut oil with the remaining lemon mixture and whisk to make a dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the sugar snap peas into small strips. Divide the cavolo nero over 4 plates. Top with the sugar snap strips, the roasted Brussels sprouts, parsley leaves, hazelnuts and the radish sprouts or microleaves.