I own too many cookbooks. Ok, maybe not too many. (How many is too many?).
Maybe not as many as this guy. And certainly, I don’t create nearly as many delicious dinners as he does.
But last night, I vowed to make something from one cookbook I had never used before: Nigel Slater’s Real Cooking.
I’m also on a ‘living leaner’ buzz, thanks to Móna. I’m trying to plan my cooking a bit more (by more, I mean actually doing some planning), with a focus on working my way through all the storecupboard essentials (read: so, so many bags of dried beans) I have gathered. So last night I decided that tonight we were having beans for dinner!
After a flick through Real Cooking, I decided on this recipe. I grabbed two random varieties of beans (because I never have exactly what a recipe calls for) and proceeded to soak them overnight.
This morning, I rinsed the beans well under running water and popped them in the slow cooker. I covered them with about 1 – 1.5 inches of water, popped in a couple of bay leaves, and set the slow cooker to low for about 10 hours. If you haven’t got a slow cooker (or can’t be bothered with all that hanging about), after soaking the beans overnight, pop them in a saucepan, cover with plenty of fresh water, throw in the bay leaves and simmer for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, skimming off any white scum that rises to the surface. Whichever method you use, when the beans are cooked (can be crushed with light pressure, but not falling apart), turn off the heat and leave the beans in the cooking liquid until you are ready to use.
As I said above, the following recipe is adapted from Nigel Slater’s Real Cooking. I didn’t have all the ingredients he listed, but I muddled through and it worked out ok. So ok, in fact, that I am sitting here with a burnt tongue from gobbling down my bowl too quickly. I even took that terrible photo above so that I could share this recipe as soon as possible!
This is also a recipe you can go as fancy with as you wish (or as your pocket allows). Lidl and Aldi have their own brand tins of peeled plum tomatoes, or you can use some fancy tinned Italian tomatoes. You can pick authentic pancetta, or use half of the double pack of smoked bacon lardons from Lidl. This recipe served two for dinner with another 2 portions for lunch the next day.
What You Need:
250g dried beans, prepared as above. Nigel recommends cannellini, flageolet or haricot beans. I had some pinto and cannellini beans, so used half and half
2 bay leaves
1 white onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
a couple of handfuls of diced fat smoked bacon, such as pancetta ( I used 25og of beech smoked rindless bacon lardons from Lidl)
1 medium carrot, diced
1 small glass of white wine, optional
2 x 400g tins of peeled plum tomatoes
a few handfuls of green beans (I used some frozen green beans)
grated parmesan cheese, to serve
What To Do:
Grab a big saucepan and heat some rapeseed oil, enough to just cover the base of the pan. Add the onion and garlic and fry until soft, but not browned. Throw in the bacon and cook until the bacon fat has started to turn golden. This should just take a couple of minutes. Add the white wine, if using, and allow to bubble for about 30 seconds.
Add the diced carrot, tomatoes and their juice, the beans and enough of their cooking water to cover everything in the pan. I used all the cooking liquid, you may even need to add more water. Allow to simmer for about half an hour.
Don’t be alarmed if the whole plum tomatoes are floating unattractively at the top, they will break down as they cook.
Add the green beans, snapping them in half as you add them (or cutting in half, if fresh). Simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring every so often to break down the tomatoes.
Add some salt (you may need quite a bit, so give it a taste) and plenty of black pepper.
Ladle into bowls and grate some parmesan over the top. Serve with crusty bread (or toasted day-old bread).