The food I dream of when I think about my beloved Greece tends towards peasant cooking and simplicity. Beans are perhaps the most typical of true peasant food and this one my favourite ways to make them! The recipe can be made with any type of good quality bean, and if you’re going to cook them from dry you might as well make a big batch, that you can freeze or use for other recipes (bean salad or soup, bean and herbs dip etc).

Ingredients

250g dried beans or 2 tins, drained (discard liquid) – haricot, frageolet, cannellini, borlotti, butterbeans any beans you like!
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 big celery stick, washed and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp sweet or smoked paprika
2 bay leaves, break in half for more flavour
300 fresh tomato, roughly chopped or tinned tomatoes
1 tsp tomato paste
1 handful of fresh herbs. For this recipe I usually prefer parsley, chervil, oregano and thyme!
½ tsp boukouvo or chilli flakes (optional)
½ cup of wine (optional)
Sugar or any fruit molasses, to balance the acidity of the sauce
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Method

If you have time on your hands, it’s really worth the effort to cook your own beans. Cooked dried beans taste better and they also create a lovely creamy broth that can be used in your recipe. Soak the beans overnight, for at least 12 hours. Drain the beans and transfer them to a heavy pot, cover by at least 10cm of water, add bay leaves and simmer slowly till turning just tender. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Remove the pan from heat and season with salt.

Pre-heat your oven to 180 C. In large and deep pan, warm some olive oil over a low heat and fry the onion for a few minutes. Add garlic, celery, carrots, half of your chopped herbs and cook for about 5 minutes. Now is the time to add some more aromas, add paprika, chilli flakes, tomatoes, tomato paste and the wine and cook until tender and fragrant, for about 8 minutes. Add sugar or fruit molasses to balance the acidity of the tomato sauce.

Bring together the cooked beans and the vegetable and tomato mixture in a deep heavy bottomed pot and add enough of the liquid in which the beans have cooked to come about half way up. Season to taste with salt, pepper and maybe some more olive oil. Stir well and put in the oven and cook gently and uncovered for about 40 min. Check out your beans occasionally and add more bean broth or warm water if needed.

Add the remaining chopped herbs (if you fancy add some more chilli flakes and some dried oregano would be a great idea!), then add some olive oil and adjust the seasoning if needed. Served with feta, bread, grilled sausages or wilted greens.