Slow-baked Greek bean recipe

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You’ll get a generous casserole dish full of this, but if you’re going to go to the trouble of soaking, shelling and slow-cooking beans, you may as well make the effort worthwhile. And it’s not without its perks – the gentle monotony of peeling beans was surely the world’s therapy before we invented life coaches and bubble wrap.

  • Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1⅔ cups (250 g) dried butter [lima] beans
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle for cooking the halloumi
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 14 oz (2 x 400 g) cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1 jelly vegetable stock pot
  • 1½ heaped Tbsp tomato purée [paste]
  • ¾oz (20 g) fresh oregano, leaves roughly chopped, plus extra to serve
  • ½ tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 9 oz (1 x 250 g) pack of halloumi, cut into 1.5 cm [⅝in] cubes (opt for a vegetarian alternative if necessary)
How to Make It
  1. Put the beans in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave them to soak for a day or so, until the skins are really loose and easy to remove. Pop them out of their little white jackets and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan (325°F) Gas 3.
  3. Heat the oil in a large casserole over low heat and sauté the onion and garlic gently for about 10 minutes until softened and translucent. Add a can of tomatoes, then refill the can with water and tip it into the pan. Add the second can of tomatoes and another 2 cans of water, then add the shelled beans, jelly stock, tomato purée and three-quarters of the oregano.
  4. Pop the lid on the casserole and bring the liquid to a boil on the hob. Put in the oven and bake for 3 hours, stirring once an hour or so, until the beans are really tender. They will break down into shards, rather than the mush you would get from the canned variety, but should still be very soft. Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the sugar, sherry vinegar and the remaining oregano. Season really well with salt and pepper (the beans will take quite a bit of salt).
  5. Once the soup is ready, prepare the halloumi. Heat a drizzle of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and fry the halloumi cubes for 4–5 minutes, turning frequently with tongs, until it is picking up some colour on all sides and feels soft.
  6. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the halloumi dice, a good grind of coarse black pepper and a few more oregano leaves.
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