beans beans, magical beans


warm butter beans with rosemary & garlic

When I was growing up, I thought there were two types of people in the world.

It seemed to me that the difference between the two camps was all about their choice of what to have on toast when Mum was having a rare night off from cooking. It was whether you went for the tinned baked beans or spaghetti that really counted.

As far back as I can remember I was a dedicated spaghetti gal. There was something about those soft, wormy strands floating in their tomatoey sauce that really did it for me. I loved my ‘sketti‘, as we used to call it. Back then, the thought of baked beans made my skin crawl. I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was because I’d heard a song in the playground about them and their musical effects on the digestive system. Or maybe it was just that I wasn’t a fan of green beans and thought that no beans could possibly taste any good. Who knows?

These days I’m very different. True, I can’t remember the last time I had to choose between spaghetti and beans out of a can, but if I had to make the decision right here, right now, I’d definitely go for the beans. It seems to have crept up on me over the years but it’s time to come clean and admit it. I just love legumes out of a can. Are there any other canned bean die hards out there?

It began with chickpeas I’m sure. With warm salads like the pumpkin and chickpea one that I blogged about last week or Molly’s one can meal of chickpeas with parmesan that also got a mention. Or a roast baby onion & chickpea salad that was a star during a camping holiday in the Northern Territory a few years ago.

Then it expanded to the bean twins of Borlotti and Cannellini. I pretty much use them interchangeably, although must admit a slight preference for Mr Cannellini. I’m always disappointed by Mr Borlotti’s colour compared with the vibrancy of his fresh state. I think my first white bean foray was with a Donna Hay salad of white beans, tinned tuna, tomato & lemon. I loved how the beans added both a lovely soft texture while making the meal a lot more substantial. Something that I’ll be adding to my dinner inspiration list when things start to warm up.

From then on, I’ve always had a can of beans in the cupboard. Just in case I feel the need to make some of my favourite things:
white bean and walnut puree
cannellini beans with prawn
baked eggs with chorizo & cannellini beans.

Just when I thought I knew pretty much all I needed to know about canned beans, along came a certain Irishman. While his name wasn’t Jack, he knew a thing or two about beans. In particular he professed to being a big fan of butter beans – a bean I hadn’t even heard of. In short order I was soon hooked and butter beans became a welcome regular addition to the canned section of our pantry.

And so it was one wintery Sunday evening that the magical butter beans came to the rescue. We had our newly loved-up mates Aggie and Geoff coming for dinner but I had forgotten to organise something for us to nibble on at the start. A quick check in the pantry and the butter beans caught my eye. A toss in the frying pan with some oil, rosemary, garlic and chilli and there we had it. A lovely warm starter to smear on crusty bread.

The beans were a hit. There was something about how the rosemary and garlic came together to bring just enough flavour highlights to the simple beans. With some chilli for subtle warmth, they were just the thing to begin a meal on a coolish Sunday night.

A few weeks later I was still thinking about the beans and how well they would go with lamb. Lets just say that the classic marriage of lamb and rosemary really is much better off as a menge-a-trois with some beans from a can. Try it for yourself.

a cosy sunday night dinner
warm butter beans with rosemary & garlic
warm salad of lentils with roast baby beets, walnuts and pancetta*
tiny chocolate cakes

*note: I used the base lentil salad recipe from HERE but beefed it up with some roast beets, toasted walnuts and crispy fried pieces of pancetta.

a quick midweek dinner

pan fried lamb cutlets with butter beans rosemary & garlic
rocket & radicchio salad

warm butter beans with rosemary & garlic
serves 4 as a starter

You can make bruschetta and have the beans already dished up on toast that has been rubbed with the cut side of a clove of garlic. Alternatively serve in the middle of the table with bread on the side so your guests can help themselves.

I’ve made this with cannellini beans and butter beans. While I have a slight preference for the slightly larger and firmer butter beans. Borlotti beans would also work well as would chickpeas.

1 x 400g (14oz) can butter beans, drained
3T olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely sliced
2 small sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
pinch chilli flakes, optional
extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Bring the kettle to the boil and pour over drained beans to rinse off any canned flavour and drain well.

Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat and add oil. Add remaining ingredients and stir fry beans until they are golden and warmed through. Season well and serve with a drizzle of peppery extra virgin olive oil.

pan fried lamb cutlets with butter beans rosemary & garlic
serves 2

Lamb cutlets have to be up there as one of the quickest meals to prepare. They are something I often think to pick up on the way home for a mid week dinner. Of course you could make a meal of the beans on their own, but they are even more delicious with some juicy pink-in-the-middle cutlets.

1 x 400g (14oz) can butter beans, drained
6-8 lamb cutlets, trimmed
3T olive oil
1/2 lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely sliced
2 small sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
pinch chilli flakes, optional
extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Bring the kettle to the boil and pour over drained beans to rinse off any canned flavour and drain well.

Heat a frying pan large enough to hold the lamb in a single layer over a medium heat. Season lamb and rub both sides with a little olive oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side or until to your liking. When you turn the lamb, add the lemon cut side down to the pan to warm and help release the juice.

When the lamb is ready remove from the heat, transfer to a clean place, drizzle over lemon juice and rest in a warm place while you cook the beans.

Return the pan to the heat with the remaining olive oil and warm. Add drained beans, garlic, rosemary & chilli and stir fry beans until they are golden and warmed through. Season well and divide beans and lamb between two serving plates.

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