I love this unctious beany dish which I have adapted from a recipe by Tamasin Day-Lewis based on the original Italian dish. We eat it lukewarm or at room temperature as the fancy takes us. It is equally delicious made with the chalky-textured speckledy borlotti beans or with butter beans (pictured here). The tomatoes are optional, some people prefer the dish without them. Boiling the beans with herbs and vegetables give the most amazing flavour to the finished dish but if you cant be bothered, its still worth making – just omit the onion, celery, rosemary and extra sprig of sage.
As a main meal you could serve this with a large leafy salad (or lightly steamed broccoli florets drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil) and if you don’t want to lose weight, 100% rye bread (contains gluten) or Biona Millet bread or cooked millet grains drizzled with paprika and a little olive oil.
Feeds 4 as an accompaniment, 2 as a main course:
225g dried cannellini or butter beans, soaked in boiling water for at least 2 hours
1 sprig rosemary (about the length of your hand) if you have it
2-2 sprigs sage (around the length of your hand also)
1 medium onion
2 celery stalks
3 large garlic cloves
5 tbsp virgin olive oil
3 fresh or tinned tomatoes, chopped (if you are a perfectionist you can skin them and remove the seeds too – I never bother)
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of Himalayan salt or Atlantic sea salt, not “table salt”
Cook the beans in plenty of water with a sprig each of rosemary and sage, the onion, celery and 1 clove of garlic until tender. Reserving the cooking water, drain the beans and discard the other vegetables.
Into a large heavy bottomed saucepan or frying pan put your 1-2 remaining sprigs of sage, the 2 cloves of garlic and bash them about with a wooden spoon for a minute so they get a bit squashed. This releases the aromas. Heat the pan, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, cover with a lid (or a large plate) and gently cook a couple of minutes or so until the garlic has started to sizzle. Add the tomatoes if using, and the beans and a further 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Turn everything in the oil, then pour over enough of the bean stock to cover the base of the pan. Cook until most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated. If you are feeling fancy you could transfer this to an earthenware dish to cool slightly. I usually just leave them in the frying pan. Pour another tablespoon or two of oil over them just before serving.
Virgin olive oil, especially raw, is a great source of vitamin E which is great for skin, controlling allergies and is anti-inflammatory. Beans are a great high protein alternative to meat, fish, eggs or dairy products. They contain magnesium which has a calming effect, as well as helping keep the skin clear by enhancing liver function. Herbs like sage and rosemary are antioxidant, anti-ageing and naturally anti-inflammatory.