The Australian saltbush plant produces one of the most unique flavoured herbs of all time. Combine the deeply earthy flavours that give way to a naturally salty finish with the crunch of the purple beans drizzled with garlic oil.
Why You’ll Love This Side Dish
Introducing unusual produce to family and friends is always such a treat.
Don’t you just love it when they love your dish and are wowed by something new? We have no doubt the native Australian saltbush herb will make for a great talking point.
This side dish is a straightforward recipe to make, and it will go with almost any main fare you’re putting up for dinner, be it roast lamb, steak or a rotisserie chicken. The saltiness from the native saltbush and the aromatic crispy garlic oil really elevates the quickly blanched purple beans.
Oh and yes. Recipe says purple beans but images suggest otherwise. Read on to see why.
What is Australian Saltbush?
Saltbush is a grey-blue shrub that is native to Australia. They can be found inland and grow in dry conditions. The plant is about 3 metres high and about 5 meters wide and refers to the plants of the Atriplex genus.
They are referred to as saltbush because the plant has a bush-like disposition. Their leaves are greyish-blue and are diamond-shaped with tapered ends. They are a resilient plant as they can thrive in arid temperatures.
There are over 50 varieties of saltbush, with the Old Man saltbush, Grey saltbush, Point Henry saltbush and the Ruby saltbush being the most popular. Indigenous Australians call saltbush Tjilyi-tjilyi.
Saltbush was used as natural fodder for sheep and cattle while also consumed by Indigenous Australians for centuries. Saltbush also has medicinal properties and is mainly used as a poultice for wounds or burns.
What Does Saltbush Taste Like?
They are called saltbush because it has a delicate salty, soft, earthy flavour and you can actually use them as a direct replacement for salt as a seasoning agent.
Saltbush contains 20% less sodium than table salt, so this is a fantastic way to give any side dish natural salty flavours.
How to Eat Saltbush?
You can eat saltbush leaves as part of some mixed leaves or garnish topping in your salad, wrapped around meat and fish to allow the flavours to infuse, or it can be dried and used as a condiment.
The dried version was used a lot to make damper (traditional Aboriginal bush bread that is cooked over an open fire) as a natural seasoning.
For this recipe, we are dropping saltbush leaves into hot oil and letting it crisp up into delicate wisps of deliciousness!
Flavour/Texture: The purple beans or purple green beans are quickly blanched for an al dente finish. We want to maintain the crunch rather than thoroughly cook through and become too soft.
The deep-fried saltbush leaves become extremely delicate and they melt in your mouth. Together with the beans, they are crispy and crunchy!
As for flavour, it is garlicky and salty served on top of a bed of fresh beans. The garlic that has been cooked through turns into these golden-brown pops of aromatic goodness. That oil is properly infused and tastes so good!
Ease: This is a fairly easy side dish to put together, albeit every component does require some cooking. But they are quick. Purple beans are blanched, the Australian saltbush leaves are quickly deep fried, and the garlic is just microwaved.
So prep is not complicated, and assembly is super easy.
Time: A 20-minute recipe with a lot of time waiting for the water to boil, oil to heat up and the garlic to crisp up nicely in the microwave. You can prepare the purple beans and garlic oil ahead of time but don’t do the saltbush leaves too early to keep the crispiness.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this Saltbush, Purple Beans and Garlic Oil recipe:
Native saltbush leaves: These natural salty and earthy native leaves have such a distinctive taste that they simply can’t be replicated. Just get a small bunch at your farmer’s market.
Avocado oil: This is my preference for vegetable oil. In particular, it is fantastic for high heat cooking. It doesn’t break down, nor does it have a pungent smell that can overwhelm a dish. But any good vegetable oil will work.
You will need this for deep drying the saltbush leaves and also to make the crispy garlic oil.
Garlic: Get some good garlic, as this is an essential component of the side dish. We’re simply going to heat it in the microwave. Yes, the microwave! Read the instructions below.
Purple beans: Treat purple beans as you would regular green beans. Pretty to look at, although it does lose its colour when it’s put through the cooking process. Shame as they are stunning to look at!
Variations and Substitutions
Green beans: Please note that once purple beans are introduced to heat, they turn green. So, of course, using regular green beans will be fine. If you have leftovers you can try our Lemongrass Chilli Green Beans Stir Fry or Green Bean, Truffle Butter Breadcrumbs and Quail Egg Salad.
Vegetable oil: You can use any vegetable oil for deep frying and for making garlic oil. Avocado oil was used as it withstands high heat cooking exceptionally well and doesn’t have a strong flavour.
Saltbush replacement: Nothing can really replace native saltbush but understand it’s not something easy to procure. Sage would be a suitable replacement and would taste fantastic with the beans.
Nuts and seeds: For more crunch, feel free to add nuts and seeds of your choice. Sunflower seeds, pepitas, pistachios and pine nuts would be great matches.
Step by step instructions for how to make Saltbush, Purple Beans and Garlic Oil.
Pick saltbush leaves to yield 1 cup.
Add 1 cup of avocado or any vegetable oil into a medium sized saucepan. When hot, deep fry saltbush leaves for about 15 – 20 seconds.
Remove when crispy and lay on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Chop garlic cloves finely and place in a microwave safe bowl. Add 3 tbsp of avocado oil. Place in the microwave 30 seconds at a time until the garlic has turned golden brown and slightly crispy.
Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Add a small amount of salt.
Remove the ends of the purple beans and blanch in salted water for 2 minutes. Remove and place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry and set aside to cool.
Place the beans on a serving plate and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle with garlic oil.
Place crispy saltbush leaves on the top.
Season with a little more salt and pepper to taste.
Great Mains for This Side Dish
How to serve Saltbush, Purple Beans and Garlic Oil? These main meals are perfect for it.
For a quick 15 minute meal, these pillowy creamy pesto gnocchi is great for a mid-week meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Purple beans or sometimes known as purple green beans are essentially green beans with purple skin.
Like most purple vegetables that we know, such as purple carrots, red cabbage and purple cauliflower, the purple and sometimes deep violet hues are caused by a pigment called anthocyanins.
Apart from their colour, they have the same structure and flavour as regular green beans.
Purple beans are purple because of the presence of anthocyanin pigment. This pigment is water soluble and is not stable when it is introduced to heat.
When you cook these beans at a high temperature, the pigments start to break down and disperse. The lovely purple pod colours disappear and what you’re left behind is a green bean, which essentially is green chlorophyll.
Fresh native saltbush is hard to find. Your farmer’s market or specialty greengrocer that may stock some unusual herbs may be your best bet. If you’re interested in the dried version, you’ll be able to find some online.
What a side dish to complement your lunch or dinner! The native saltbush leaves are super yummy, and I love adding something a little different to top off an otherwise boring side dish of just beans.
Drizzle on top with the crunchy garlic that was roasted perfectly in the microwave, and you’ll be amazed at how flavourful it all is!
Saltbush, Purple Beans and Garlic Oil
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Pick saltbush leaves to yield 1 cup.
- Add 1 cup of avocado or any vegetable oil into a medium sized saucepan. When hot, deep fry saltbush leaves for about 15 – 20 seconds. Remove when crispy and lay on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
- Chop garlic cloves finely and place in a microwave safe bowl. Add 3 tbsp of avocado oil. Place in the microwave 30 seconds at a time until the garlic has turned golden brown and slightly crispy.
- Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Add a small amount of salt.
- Remove the ends of the purple beans and blanch in salted water for 2 minutes. Remove and place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry and set aside to cool.
- Place the beans on a serving plate and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle with garlic oil.
- Place crispy saltbush leaves on the top.
- Season with a little more salt and pepper to taste.
- Please note that once purple beans are introduced to heat, they turn green. So, of course, using regular green beans will be fine.
- You can use any vegetable oil for deep frying and for making garlic oil. Avocado oil was used as it withstands high heat cooking exceptionally well and doesn’t have a strong flavour.
- Using the microwave to make garlic oil has consistently produced the best results. The oil remains clean, and as you’re doing it 30 seconds at a time, you can control how golden brown the garlic becomes without burning it.
- Nothing can really replace native saltbush but understand it’s not something easy to procure. Sage would be a suitable replacement and would taste fantastic with the beans.
- For more crunch, feel free to add nuts and seeds of your choice.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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