Last month I bought a cookbook named “The New Mediterranean Table”. It consists of recipes that are inspired by traditional cuisines of all the countries around Mediterranean sea, spanning three continents. The first recipe I wanted to try from the book happens to be the first recipe in the book (oh wow how interesting is that heheh).
I am not much of a bean person to be honest. Ok, I take this back, partially. I am a bean person, but I just feel lazy most of the time and buy canned beans. Because with beans comes the necessity of soaking overnight and if you do not do this well enough, then I get bloated like a huge hot air balloon. However, the giant beans in this recipe were intriguing enough to make me try. And the result: no bloating whatsoever, and a delicious new recipe.
I looked for what “giant beans” were. The type of beans that I found in the ethnic market (Hauler, in Kaisaniemi) which were giant in size was a Turkish brand and said “Bombay beans” on the package. It is a type of white beans, or butter beans I guess I can call them, that are, well, giant in size. And they get even bigger as you soak and cook them!
According to the instructions of the original recipe, the beans are to be soaked overnight (which means about 8 hours in general), however I soaked them for 24 hours instead. The original recipe also calls for dill, but since I absolutely hate dill, I replaced it with fresh mint and I think this gave a really fresh taste.
The dish takes a bit of time to make, especially if you soak the beans for 24 hours like me. After that you have to cook the beans, prepare the sauce and then bake them altogether. So there are a few steps to go through, but I’m telling you, it’s worth it! Enjoy your recipe!
Difficulty: ★★★ (Advanced)
(makes 1 oven pot, mine was 23×35 cm in size)
To cook the beans (sorry, no photo of those ingredients):
3 cups / 7.2 dl dried giant beans, soaked for 24 hours in cold water
1 celery stalk
a handful of fresh thyme, mint and one bay leaf, wrapped into a bundle
a generous amount of salt, to taste
For the sauce and baking part:
5 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
2 tsp granulated white sugar
8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cans (400 gr. each) chopped tomatoes with juice
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
Cooked and drained beans (and celery stalk and herbs bundle discarded)
To finish, on top:
1 cup / 2.4 dl feta, crumbled
60 gr butter
1 cup / 2.4 dl breadcrumbs
Mint leaves to garnish
1. In a big pan, put soaked beans, celery stalk and herbs bundle. Cover with water, at least 2 cm higher than beans, put the heat on medium high and bring to a boil. When it boils, put the heat to low and simmer, occasionally stirring, for at least 2 hours, or until the beans are soft and tender. Once cooked, add a generous amount of salt and stir a bit. If you are going to make the rest of the dish right away, then drain and discard the herbs and celery stalk right after it’s cooked. If not, you can cover the pot and put it in the fridge (after it cools down to room temperature) and keep it like this with the water and everything up to 3 days. I cooked the beans in the evening and made the rest of the dish during the next day.
2. When you are ready to make the rest of the dish, preheat the oven to 200C.
3. In a medium pan on medium high heat, put olive oil and heat it for a minute. Add onions and a pinch of salt and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent.
4. Add cinnamon and stir a little.
5. Add red pepper, sugar, garlic and stir a bit more.
6. Add chopped tomatoes with tomato juice and fresh mint. Stir a little and let it simmer on medium heat until the sauce reduces slightly, for about 5 minutes.
7. In an oven dish, put the sauce and beans, mix them a little. Spread crumbled feta on top and put in the oven, in medium rack. Bake for 20 minutes, or until beans bubble and feta melts a little.
8. While the beans are baking, prepare the finishing touch. In a medium pan, put butter on medium heat. When the butter partially melts, add breadcrumbs and keep stirring, until the crumbs get golden brown colour.
9. When the beans are baked, spread the browned breadcrumbs on top, garnish with fresh mint leaves (and drizzle some olive oil if you like – I didn’t do that). Enjoy!