Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Cannellini Beans with Cinnamon & Tomatoes

So the last week or so seems to have been filled with quite indulgent (though in some cases still relatively healthy) meals. I tend to vaguely plan a week ahead, a list of ten or so dishes from which I’ll choose from. And I tend to go in cycles. The current rota therefore seems to be much more veg, fish and pulse orientated and this recipe is the first of the current cycle.

Dried pulses do of course have the added ­benefit of being cheap and generally speaking have a slightly better flavour and texture than tinned. But saying that, they also require a lot more work what with all the pre-soaking and then boiling and whatnot. This though I wanted for a lunchtime meal and as it happens is a Nigel Slater recipe who says to use tinned, so good job all round. 

I have, when I am in my permanent abode, dozens and dozens of cook books as well as hundreds of pages of recipes clipped from magazines, free recipe cards and the like. In my temporary South East London kitchen I brought just the nine books with me, the rest being stored in a friend’s basement - this saddens me. But I do also have a virtual stack of bookmarked recipes and food blogs including tonnes of “clipped” Guardian website ones, where of course I came across a clipping (from two years ago) of a great selection of Nigel Slater pulses recipes (another of which to come soon) including the one here.

The aroma from the onions being slowly softened with the cinnamon (or in my case cassia, as my remaining cinnamon stick disintegrated into a million shards when I tried to break it in two) is absolutely heavenly and the final dish is warming, fragrant and satisfying. This would serve more as part of a mezze platter but I greedily wanted a bowl to myself with a warmed pitta, dollop of yoghurt and sprinkling of grated mature cheddar.

Cannellini beans with cinnamon and tomatoes
Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled, halved and very finely sliced
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
weak chicken stock (about 200ml)
½ tsp chilli flakes
small (200g) tinned chopped tomatoes
¼ tsp sugar
40g black olives, stoned and roughly chopped
juice of ½ lemon
1 small handful parsley, tough stalks ­removed, coarsely chopped
1 small handful coriander, tough stalks removed, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Yoghurt & grated cheese, to serve

Over a medium-low heat, warm the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the onions, cinnamon and bay leaf, and cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft. Add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes more.

Add the beans and then just enough stock to barely cover the beans. Simmer for 10 ­minutes, then add the chilli flakes, tomatoes, sugar and olives, and continue to simmer uncovered for 15 ­minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have thickened into a rich sauce.

Add the lemon juice then remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly before stirring in the parsley and coriander. Season to taste.

Serve with a little yoghurt dolloped over the top and perhaps a sprinkling of grated with warm pitta breads on the side.

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