The best ever, super garlicky beans

I’ve been having a real issue with automated machines lately. Cash points are just about okay, although every time I use one my heart slightly skips a beat knowing my card will get eaten. Train and tube ticketing machines are worse as I always seem to find myself prodding and to no avail. “Can it really be possible that transport related machines have subpar sense detection?”, I muse contemplatively. Oh god, while I’m on transport – aeroplane inflight entertainment systems are particularly irritating. The amount of times I’ve tried to watch Citizen Kane and ended up re-watching Armageddon and it being entirely the fault of technology is… no times. I love Armageddon. BUT they still are crap.

However, the one piece of automated machinery that really REALLY riles me is the fudging bunt(cake)ing supermarket self service machine. They’re also a total mind fudge because I, like many of you I presume, really relish the whole scanning aspect of the system. I felt real pride when the big supermarkets decided it was time that humble folk, such as myself, could essentially work for them for free to scan my own vegetables. I liked the idea of alleviating multimillion pound corporations of their labour costs and moving towards a more impersonal, Orwellian society. I actually did because I loved the whole scanning thing. But they stripped me of that pride when I realised how unromantic the system is. There’s no room for human error. I decide I don’t want a lemon which I have already scanned, I have to wait for assistance. I pick up, just PICK UP, a lemon off the “bagging area” (how I loathe those words) and for a moment my convictions flicker – do I, don’t I want to purchase said lemon? – but I stick to my guns and put the lemon back in b******* a*** and now there’s obviously an “unexpected item” in the ******* b****** a*** and I have to wait for “ASSISTANCE”. The word bagging is so utterly disgusting that hearing it daily and having almost just written it frice is serving to further my complete fudging anger with the situation.

It all came to a head the other day when it was a bit like life was just really trying to get me. Not only did I have to queue for an unreasonably long time to scan my own food, the first item I scanned made me “please wait for assistance”. So I waved as cheerfully as I could to the man who was paid to scan and stock things and he said, “wait one minute, there’s no one here.” Well, actually there was someone “here”. You. Man behind the counter, you. But while the inaccuracy of his words did irk me, I waited understanding that he didn’t want to leave the counter unattended and my assistance should probably come from someone else. But as I waited, I saw tens maybe hundreds, probably thousands of people successfully check out their shopping. This pissed me off for two reasons. Firstly,  I had clearly been waiting for days for this so called “assistance”. Secondly, how on earth could millions of people successfully check out their items?! Why did they not need assistance?! Am I particularly bad with automated machines?! I started to feel a little embarrassed but it was okay because the anger soon returned. The-man-behind-the-counter eventually realised I had now been waiting for decades and decided that he was capable of plugging in his magic code.

I found this infuriating.

What I found more infuriating was that he then asked me how I was. “I have wasted my twenties waiting for you to assist me, that’s how I am”, is what I wanted to say. Instead I said “fine thanks” but in a curt tone with little eye contact. Then he asked me if I was alright. The audacity! “No, I’m not alright!” is what I didn’t say. I said, “I’m just stressed”. Which was a really pathetic response and has now made me super embarrassed because apparently I want the-man-behind-the-counter to know that I get stressed when I’m doing my supermarket shopping. Shame everywhere. That’s the only way to describe it. At least nothing could get worse. Oh, it could. What’s the other thing that comes with automated machines?


From my lifetime of waiting by the self-service-check-out-machine, I had managed to become a great conductor. I continued with my shop painfully. Every time, I had to “look up item”, a nice little jolt of electricity ran through my body. You know when you see people on the street and they look so sad and dejected, like they need a hug? That was me before the electrocution. Now imagine seeing the sad, dejected girl and punching her every few seconds.

In short, I hate self-service shopping. But the good thing that came out of this experience was the beans. The beans were great. The beans did not electrocute me. The beans were first introduced to me by an amazing woman called Tess who is friends with my mom. Tess brought them for Christmas linner (not a typo – lunch + dinner) and even alongside a stupidly good goose, wonderfully spiced carrots and insanely delicious stuffing, these stole the show. Since Tess’ beans (by which I mean my first tasting of them, which I believe should become a religious holiday), I have been making them for dinner parties and people have said, “Ali, how do you get your beans not to be beans but to be BEANS?!” I say, “Tess”. To give you another taste of how good these are, I went on holiday with my boyfriend and he said the only thing he really missed about home were… Tess’ beans… and then he tactfully said along with the rest of my cooking but really we were at an all inclusive hotel where he could order pizza at 5am. So I’m pretty sure he just meant Tess’ beans.

The point is, if Carlsberg did beans, these’d be ’em. And I hate self-service shopping.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a side, but probably only 1 the first time you try them)

250g french beans
2 large cloves garlic
1 tbsp boiling water (just knick it from the beans' boiling water)
1.5 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil (as ever I recommend oil made from Arbequina olives)
1 big pinch of salt
1 big pinch/grind of pepper
Toasted white sesame seeds

Toasted black sesame seeds


  • Put a saucepan over a medium flame, fill with water and bring to the boil
  • Meanwhile top and tail the beans.
  • When the water is boiling, throw in the beans.
  • Crush the garlic into the serving dish, add the water, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • After the beans have been rapidly boiling for five minutes they should be done. However, check every so often.
  • When the beans are done (they should still have a bite to them), drain and add the your serving bowl. You can run them under cold water if you like. They look prettier if you do this, but in my experience, do not taste as good.
  • Mix the beans with the dressing in the serving bowl and check the seasoning.
  • Then sprinkle liberally with the sesame seeds.
  • Wait for at least 15 minutes before serving so that the flavours have time to intensify. This is meant to be served room temperature.


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