Sunday 10 July 2011

Gigandes Bean Stew

If someone asks what you are having for dinner and you reply 'beans' they will usually feel very underwhelmed and maybe even a little sorry for you. Beans have taken on a bad reputation and I am not sure why! All children love baked beans on toast, right? So why do people go off them when they grow older? Maybe it is because they are a bit of a hassle to prepare (soak etc), or maybe they are too simple, or maybe it is because of their minor 'side-effects'! All I know is that I truly believe beans are a humble ingredient that lend themselves to some fantastic dishes including cassoulet, chilli beef and above all gigandes!

Gigandes is one of my favourite Greek dishes. I used to get so excited when Nona had prepared them for our Sunday lunch and most other things would get ignored for the day, as I would load my plate with gigandes and a healthy helping of feta. Of course you need to have plenty of bread available to mop up the lovely juices!

Gigandes is a specific type of bean, as well as the dish. They are a large white bean, similar to butter beans and can be found in some Greek shops and delis. I also found them in Selfridges once! They are traditionally eaten warm or at room temperature as a side dish or second main dish. As with all traditional recipes, there are a number of different variations out there, obviously I think this is the best one - it is the family recipe, after all!

Serves 4

500g of gigandes beans or butter beans (dried)
3 medium carrots, cut in chunks
2 medium onions halved
500g chopped tomatoes or passata
120ml of olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of fresh dill, chopped

Soak the beans overnight in a pan, covering with 3 or 4 times their volume of water. Bring the beans to the boil in the soaking water and simmer for 10 minutes, then drain the beans. Add fresh hot water, cover by a couple of centimetres and bring back to the boil. Add the carrots, onions, olive oil, dill and the salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 1 hour, then add the tomatoes and continue to simmer for a further 1-2 hours, until the beans are tender. Add more liquid if necessary. Once the beans are soft, remove the carrots, onions and a few beans and blitz them. Return them to the dish to thicken the sauce. Finally, some recipes recommend you finish the dish off in the oven (180 fan oven) for 15 minutes, to get a bit of a 'crust' on top.

Don't forget the feta and the bread!

Serve warm or cold, with some bread and some feta.

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