This is a recipe I adapted from a lovely book called “Pulse”, by Jenny Chandler. It seems so simple, but something happens in the baking which I think transforms it from just beans in tomato sauce, into something a bit more special; the tomato base becomes jammy and rich, and loses any sharpness from the tomatoes – it’s really delicious. I made it whilst I was on a fridge clearing mission, looking to put off my supermarket shop for another day, so I didn’t have feta, which is what it should be topped with. I used some leftover hard goat’s cheese which I just crumbled and mixed with some chopped parsley, and it was lovely, but I would probably use feta next time.
Greek Baked Butter Beans
- 500g dried butter beans
- Big glug vegetable oil
- 2 large carrots, diced (I don’t bother peeling)
- 2 onions, diced
- 2-3 large sticks celery, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- Big pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
- Large bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Pinch sugar
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- Salt and black pepper
- 200g feta cheese, crumbled
- Soak the butter beans overnight, or do a hot soak, whereby you pour boiling water over them, and leave them to soak for an hour.
- Drain the butter beans, then put them into a pan with fresh water, and bring to the boil. Simmer until they are tender, but still al dente. Depending on the age of your beans this may take more or less time, mine took about 35 minutes. Drain them, reserving the cooking water, and set aside.
- Heat the oven to 200’c/180’c fan/gas mark 4.
- In a large saucepan, heat the vegetable oil, then add the onions, carrots and celery, and saute over a medium high heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for a few minutes further until the garlic is really fragrant, then add the tomato puree, chilli flakes and tinned tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper, then add all but a tablespoonful of the chopped parsley. Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the pinch of sugar and the vinegar, then add the beans, and enough of their cooking water to cover them. Supplement the bean cooking water with tap water if there isn’t enough. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
- Tip the whole lot into a large, oven-proof casserole dish, and bake, uncovered for an hour, checking half way through the cooking time. If it is looking dry, add a touch more water. It should end up looking slightly dry on top, but be deliciously moist and jammy underneath.
- Toss the crumbled feta with the reserved tablespoonful of parsley, and scatter it over the top before serving.
- It’s delicious just with toast as a light lunch, or could be made into more of a main meal with mashed potatoes, or some kind of grain, like rice, bulghur wheat or quinoa.