ArchiveAugust 20, 2023

Bold Beans Cookbook

Whoever would have imagined that we’d be back into tights and woolly jumpers in early August…

This week I’m zoning in on beans and pulses. Apparently, there are literally thousands of varieties, I’ve been thinking a lot about beans, I’m a big bean fan, they’re one of my essential year-round store cupboard ingredients, just as brilliant for summer salads as they are for gutsy winter stews. I’ve tasted and cooked possibly 10 to 12 types so that leaves thousands more to go!

Beans are a totally brilliant food, definitely a super food, a very inexpensive source of protein, plus they are also the farmers friend because they fix nitrogen naturally in the soil though the nodules on their roots.

Beans contain lots of fibre and are a very valuable source of essential vitamins and minerals. They help to reduce cholesterol, decrease blood sugar levels, contribute to a healthy gut biome and are of course vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. 

At a time when the world we live in is facing a myriad of problems, not least fragile food systems, food insecurity and the now very evident climate issues…CO2 and methane levels are the highest for over 2 million years. 

We’re in a proper mess and there’s certainly no single way to solve the complex climate challenges but beans can certainly be a small part of a sustainable nutritious climate positive solution. 

They can grow anywhere from sea level to 3000 metres, in harsh conditions and poor soil. Super nourishing and an especially important gift during this cost of living crisis. People survived on beans when meat was hard to come by. 

I recently added a new cookbook entitled Bold Beans to my library, a collection of super exciting bean recipes collected by Amelia Christie-Miller (published by Kyle Books) so I’m having fun trying out new recipes.

A few basic bean facts:

  1. Source the very best quality beans you can, many on general sale are of very poor quality…
  2. Brexit has complicated supply, but if you’re in London, do go along to Brindisa in Borough Market where they have an outstanding variety of beautiful quality pulses or buy online –
  3. It’s essential to soak beans before cooking. 
  4. Toss them into a spacious bowl, cover with plenty of cold water and allow to soak at least overnight or better still for 12 hours plus until they more than double in size.
  5. In warm weather, refrigerate the beans while soaking otherwise they may begin to ferment.
  6. Drain and cover amply with freshwater.
  7. I love to cook beans in a terracotta pot, I somehow feel, it gives them an extra, je ne sais quoi…
  8. Cover and cook gently until tender. The cooking time will depend on the age of the beans and how gently the beans are simmered, a heat diffuser mat can be a help to keep the heat even. 
  9. Don’t add salt until the end of cooking, salt will toughen the skins. 
  10. A piece of streaky bacon or salt pork added to the beans while cooking enhances the nutrient level even further.

Here are some recipes from the Bold Beans cookbook to enjoy…

Black Bean, Coconut and Lemongrass Broth

Recipe taken from Bold Beans published by Amelia Christie-Miller published by Kyle Books

Making a homemade curry paste fresh is far easier than you might think, and it makes a world of difference in this recipe. We learned this trick from the veg queen, Anna Jones. Sometimes curries can be heavy and rich, but the blitzing of the fresh herbs really brings a lightness to this broth. (Of course, you can cheat and use a Thai green curry paste for something similar). The balance of creamy coconut, fresh lime, sweet vegetables and earthy black beans makes this a super satisfying, take on a Thai green. 

Serves 3-4

For the curry paste

4 tbsp neutral oil (sunflower)

thumb-sized piece of ginger (50g), peeled and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 heaped tsp ground turmeric

4 spring onions, roughly chopped

1-2 small green chillies

small bunch of coriander (15g)

4-5 mint sprigs, leaves picked 

For the broth

2 x 400ml cans coconut milk

1 veggie stock cube, crumbled

1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari

1 lemongrass stalk

700g jar black beans with their bean stock or 2 x 400g cans black beans, drained (we used 250g dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked the following day – this can take anything from 30 – 60 minutes)

2 red or romano peppers, cut into 2.5cm strips

200g mangetout, sliced into bite-sized pieces (or fine green beans or sliced courgettes)

300g quick-cook noodles

juice of 2 limes

maple syrup, to taste, if needed

shop-bought crispy onions, to serve (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients for the curry paste in a food processor and blitz to combine.

Spoon the mixture into a large, heavy-based casserole dish or a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and warm through, stirring for a minute. Add the coconut milk, stock cube (we used 300ml of bean cooking liquid) and soy or tamari. Bash the lemongrass stalk using a rolling pin or jar of beans and add that to the pan as well.

Add the beans, along with 1 tablespoon of their stock (or water, if using canned) and the red pepper. Let this bubble away for 8-10 minutes until the pepper is tender. Finally, add the mangetout and bubble away for about 4 minutes until cooked, adding the quick-cook noodles for the last minute. Finish by adding lime juice to taste. You can add a squeeze of maple syrup at this point if the curry needs some sweetness, or some more soy if it needs more salt.

Serve in big bowls and top with crispy onions, if using.

Note from Darina

If you wish to make your own crispy onions or shallots.

Slice the peeled onions or shallots thinly.  Spread out on kitchen paper and allow to dry out. Cook until golden and crisp in hot oil, moving them with a metal spoon as they cook.  Drain on kitchen paper.

White Bean Soup with Hazelnut Rosemary Pesto

Recipe taken from Bold Beans published by Amelia Christie-Miller published by Kyle Books

For best results, the parsnips, pears and onion should all be chopped into similar 2cm chunks.  When roasted in their skins, the garlic cloves deliver a sweet but rounded depth that we LOVE, and the nutty rosemary pesto makes it even more flavoursome. If you don’t have time to make pesto, use shop-bought and stir through 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried rosemary just before serving.

Serves 3

3 medium or 2 large parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped

2 pears, peeled and roughly chopped

1 large onion, roughly chopped

3-4 fat garlic cloves, skin on

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin (optional)

700g jar white beans with their bean stock, or 2 x 400g can white beans with 200ml veg or chicken stock (we used 250g dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked the following day – this can take anything from 30 – 60 minutes)

about 450ml vegetable or chicken stock

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pesto

small bunch of parsley (about 15g), roughly chopped

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves (or sage fried in olive oil until crispy)

50g blanched and toasted hazelnuts (or walnuts or pine nuts)

50g vegetarian hard cheese or Parmesan, or Pecorino, grated

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/Gas Mark 6 and line a roasting tray with parchment.

Tumble the chopped parsnips, pears, onion and whole garlic cloves (skin on) onto the roasting tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with the cumin, salt and pepper and give it a good mix.  Roast for 35-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and have started to caramelise. 

While the veg is roasting, make the hazelnut and rosemary pesto. Combine all the pesto ingredients in a blender and blitz until a chunky paste is formed. Alternatively, grind the ingredients in a pestle and mortar for an even chunkier texture. Season to taste. Add more olive oil to loosen if necessary (we added an additional 7 tbsp olive oil to loosen the mixture to our liking).

Remove the roasting tray from the oven. Squeeze the garlic out of its skins and tip the contents of the try into a large, deep pan. Add the beans with their bean stock (we added 500ml), along with the additional stock, and blitz until smooth using a handheld blender. How much additional stock you add will depend on the consistency you like your soup. Heat the soup through until hot.

To serve, pour the soup into warm bowls. Top each one with a spoonful of the pesto. This soup can happily be made in advance (it will keep for up to 3 days) and can be reheated in a saucepan to serve. It will also freeze well; cook straight from frozen until piping hot.

Oaxacan Black Bean Salad with Corn, Avocado and Lime Vinaigrette

I love this perky Mexican salad and make it throughout the year with either fresh or canned sweetcorn.

Serves 6-8

2 x 400g cans black beans, rinsed and drained

or 450g black beans, soaked overnight and cooked for 30 minutes

175-225g cooked fresh sweetcorn or corn niblets

2 red bell peppers, deseeded and diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated

2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped

2 teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

125g chopped fresh coriander, plus extra to garnish

2 ripe but firm avocados, diced (preferably Hass)

corn tortilla chips, to serve


9 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp lime zest

6 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tbsp granulated sugar

Put the black beans, sweetcorn, red peppers, garlic and shallots into a bowl.  Sprinkle over the salt, cayenne and chopped coriander.  Toss gently to combine. 

Mix the extra virgin olive oil with the lime zest and juice.   Add the sugar and whisk to emulsify.  Pour over the salad and toss.  Season to taste and add a little more sugar if necessary to balance the lime.

Just before serving, add the avocados and mix gently.  Garnish with coriander and serve at room with lots of tortilla chips on the side.

Roast Fig, Butter Bean and Pecorino Salad

Recipe taken from Bold Beans published by Amelia Christie-Miller published by Kyle Books

Crisp and golden butter beans, sweet jammy figs, sharp and salty Pecorino and a zingy, creamy pistachio dressing – this little salad ticks all the boxes.  Perfect during late summer/early autumn when figs are at their best.  I love adding beans to so many things, salads especially, to instantly bulk them up and add some substance.

Serves 2

100g shelled pistachios

½ x 700g jar butter beans, drained (we used 200g dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked the following day – this can take anything from 30 – 60 minutes)

3 large, ripe figs, quartered

1 tbsp olive oil

small bunch of thyme (about 15g), leaves picked

25g aged Pecorino, Parmesan or veggie alternative, shaved

sea salt

lamb’s lettuce or rocket, to serve

For the dressing

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve

20ml white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

½ garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp honey

juice of 1 lemon

10g aged Pecorino, Parmesan or veggie alternative   

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking tray with parchment.

Tip the pistachios on to a separate baking tray and roast for around 12-15 minutes, until toasted and fragrant. Leave to cool and increase the oven temperature to 220°C (200°C fan)/Gas Mark 7.

Rinse the drained beans and pat them dry with a paper towel. Tip into a bowl, then add the figs, olive oil, thyme and a pinch of salt. Toss well and transfer to the prepared baking tray. Spread out evenly so that the ingredients aren’t piled on top of each other, then roast for 20-25 minutes, until the figs are jammy, and the beans are crisp.

To make the dressing, transfer 60g of the cooled pistachios to a small blender, along with the dressing ingredients. Add a pinch of salt and blitz to emulsify. You may need to loosen with a tablespoon or two of cold water to reach a drizzly consistency. It should look like a runny pesto. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Set aside.

When everything’s ready, assemble the salad. Toss a few good handfuls of lamb’s lettuce or rocket with some extra virgin olive oil and season with salt. Divide between 3 plates and top with the figs and beans, drizzling over any juice from the pan. Scatter over the Pecorino or Parmesan shavings, then drizzle with the dressing. Finish by roughly chopping the remaining pistachios and scattering on top. Serve immediately. 


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