Bean salad conjures images of sad tins and limp mixed beans presented to vegetarians after a last minute panic before a dinner party. Yes, I was a vegetarian once! A long time ago. Beans that have lived too long in saccharine sweet syrupy and salty water. Beans that once had flavour but that is now mainly erased. Beans too soft to be interesting.
Yes. Beans? They can be so much better.
This doesn’t come from a point of view of judgement or snobbery. I abhor both. The thing with beans is once you try them cooked from dried or take the time to cook them yourself, you spot immediately that there is a world of difference. It is also an incredibly frugal way to cook. A 500g packet of dried beans can cost as little as £1 and it will feed you for a week. Of course you won’t want to eat beans for a whole week, they would quickly lose their lustre. They freeze so well though, and I freeze them in 250g portions, the approximate equivalent of a tin.
But they take so long! Nah. Soak them overnight even if strictly speaking you don’t need to, or are told you don’t. It takes no effort and it saves on cooking time and improves on texture. Most small beans will cook in half an hour. Larger, in 45 minutes. Easy.
Which beans? Any and all. The ever present chickpea, adopted by so many cultures. As happy in an Italian soup bowl and a Spanish stew as in a Middle Eastern hummus. Butter beans! Small plump luscious ones from Greece and once twice the size from Spain called Judion de la Granja. Spain in particular has an enormous love for beans and sells them from enormous sacks in markets. Yes, Italy does too, but in Italy the selection is more focussed. I find new beans in Spain all the time.
Batch Cooking Beans – Never a Trauma, More of a Joy
Yesterday I cooked a batch of haricot beans. The original tinned baked bean. Small and pert, when cooked from scratch they present al dente and are at home in soups, stews, salads. Many things. I am not inclined to repeat recipes. I get bored. I like to try something new every time or at least put a twist on something I already know.
The first of the recipes for this batch of haricot beans is what I had for lunch today. Black pudding (that travelled with me from Ireland) on a bed of haricot beans in a smoked sherry vinegar and mustard dressing. Smoked? I use a smoked rapeseed oil which I found locally but a quick search reveals that it is available online and also other smokehouses make it too. It is a terrific ingredient lending a savoury richness when used as a finishing oil in a dish. You can use a normal oil if you can’t find one or don’t fancy the smoked flavour. It will still be really good.
I used radicchio which was growing in my garden. So beautiful, like a delicate burgundy rose. Too small to be bitter yet, I just softened it. You can use another green like cavolo nero if you prefer.
- 1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
- Sage leaves - number depends on size, about 2 tbso if it was chopped (but don't chop them!)
- 100g black pudding, sliced into 1 cm thickness
- a handful of radicchio
- 250g home cooked haricot beans or 1 tin of drained white beans
- 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
- sea salt
- Espelette pepper or mild chilli flakes
- neutral oil for frying
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped, then crushed with the back of your knife
- 1/2 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 2 tbsp ages sherry vinegar
- 3 tbsp smoked rapeseed oil
- Sea salt
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