Thursday, August 09, 2007

Slow Haricots

This one is easy peasy and lovely in lunchboxes. Slow cooking the beans with herbs and chilli imbues them with a delicate flavour all the way through. I don't mind using tinned beans so long as they are good quality and not sugared or brined. They wash off quite well and are great for a quick standby salad but they will never be as good as cooking from scratch. For the moment it takes to add water to dried beans to soak them overnight you definitely get rewarded with a much more interesting texture once they've been cooked.

Haricot beans have a lot going for them - they are cheap, nutritious - rich in iron, magnesium and zinc - and absorb the flavours that surround them as they cook. They start out as pencil-thin, green pods, hand-picked when just the right size. When dried, haricots become small, white, oval-shaped and can be found in traditional dishes from the Middle East to Italy, France, Greece, and North America, particulary as the main ingredient in Boston Baked Beans. In french, all beans are haricots. In english it's just the little dried white ones.

Slow Haricots
250g/9oz dried haricot beans
3-4 garlic cloves, unpeeled and crushed
Sprig of fresh sage and fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 dried red chilli
Olive oil

Soak the beans overnight then drain and rinse. Put them into an ovenproof dish with all the other ingredients except the oil tucked around then add water to cover by about 1cm/1/2". Bring to the boil on top of the stove, skim any froth from the top then glug some olive oil over the dish. Put the dish into a very low oven - gas 1 - for about two hours till the beans are tender. Add salt towards the end - salt added earlier will toughen the beans irredemiably.

When the beans are done, drain and discard the aromatics. Put into a fresh bowl. Dress with 2 tablespoons of fresh olive oil and some fresh ripped basil while still hot, then serve at room temperature.

Eat lots and be full of beans!

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