Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mixed beans with many spices

August 5, 2012

Cindy's already summed up our afternoon Ottolenghi-inspired cook-off, so you know the kind of kitchen environment that this meal was prepared in. Most of the recipes in Plenty are complicated, multi-potted rigmaroles that would only have resulted in tears and frustration in a kitchen stuffed with four other people hard at work. Luckily this relatively simple bean recipe is tucked away towards the back, providing a straightforward but interesting dish to add to the afternoon's festivities.

Of course, even with this dish Ottolenghi doesn't make things simple - we hit up the Preston Market in an attempt to round up the necessary ingredients (and also as an excuse to visit La Panella), but still had to swap snow peas for sugar snaps, borlotti beans for broad beans (completely out of season) and coriander for lovage (because what even is that?).

The borlotti beans in particular were kind of a treat - they come in beautiful purple and white pods and are pretty attractive themselves (at least until you simmer away their swirly purple markings).

I don't think any of these were hugely problematic substitutions, although the borlotti beans were probably a bit tougher than broad beans would have been. The whole dish had a relatively mild flavour, with the earthy spices adding depth and warmth to beans and tomatoes. Given the array of other fancy dishes we had lined up this worked pretty well, but I wouldn't recommend making it the centrepiece of a meal - it's much better suited as a solid and veggie-filled side dish.

Mixed beans with many spices
(adapted from a recipe in Ottolenghi's Plenty)

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 - 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, turmeric and coriander
1 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
100g snow peas, trimmed and halved
300g green beans, trimmed and halved
250g of shelled borlotti beans
3 tablespoons chopped coriander
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frypan and saute the onion for about 5 minutes, until it starts to soften. Add in the garlic and fry, stirring frequently, for another couple of minutes.

Spoon in the tomato paste, spices, salt and pepper and stir everything together, cooking for another minute or two. 

Pour in the can of tomatoes and stir through all the beans, along with the sugar. Stir together and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and keep the simmer going until you're happy with the texture of the borlotti beans - I reckon we had it going for half an hour or so, but another 10 minutes may not have hurt.

Add salt and pepper if necessary and stir through the coriander just as you're taking it off the heat.

Serve with rice. And a whole bunch of other amazing dishes.


  1. Lovage is like sorrel here, pretty sure you have to grow your own. I haven't even found it at farmers markets. I made that dish last spring with broad beans, it's really delicious

  2. So I definitely need a plateful of this amidst the bean-bereft land of Utah!! (To be fair, there probably are vegetables somewhere, but I'm living with boys who seem to exist on whiskey and frozen pizza at present.)