BORLOTTI BEANS, Vegetarian
The Real Greek at Home
by Theodore Kyriakou & Charles Campion
Although the word "vegetarian" doesn't exist in our vocabulary. Lent has a powerful influence, and during the summer months Greeks become vegetarian by default. When the earthy smell of simmering borlotti beans drifted through our holiday house, we all knew that the next smell was going to be from the grilled fish but without the chips! The exact quantities of green herbs used are a matter of taste: a handful of each if they come from the garden, or one of those supermarket packs of 'each will do fine.
Serves 4 as an accompaniment
• 500g (18 oz) fresh borlotti beans (you can substitute tinned beans providing you drain and rinse them)
• 100ml (3½ fl oz) olive oil
• 1kg (2¼ lb) leeks, white part only, finely chopped
• 1 fennel bulb, including the feathery leaves, finely diced
• 2 celery sticks, finely diced
• 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1kg (2¼ lb) tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped
• a generous amount of herbs, including oregano, celery tops, parsley, and chervil, finely chopped
• salt and pepper to taste
1. Pod the borlotti beans if you are using fresh.
2. Heat the olive oil in a shallow casserole or a deep frying pan, then add the leeks, fennel, celery, garlic, and tomatoes and sweat with the lid on over a low heat.
3. Add the oregano and fresh beans if you are using them, season, and stir well. Add 1.5 litres (2¾ pints) warm water and simmer uncovered for an hour. If you are using tinned beans, cut back the water to 750ml (26 fl oz) and the cooking time to 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
5. Add the remaining herbs, stir well, and adjust the seasoning. Spread the beans out in a roasting dish and bake for about 1¼ hours, until a light crust forms on top but the borlotti beans are still tender and juicy.
6. Remove from the oven and place the dish on a rack to cool. The beans taste best when eaten at room temperature.