OUR BUTTER BEAN CASSEROLE

This casserole/stew has probably been made and written about by many others so apologies to any who may recognise it as their own!

This began life 38 years ago when I was at teacher training college. Money was very scarce for all of us and I had decided to eat more vegetarian dishes. My roommate, Celia and I were wondering what the hell to do for sustenance and I believe I’m right in remembering that she loved butter beans, I personally could take them or leave them! This particular bean held memories of Christmas but not in a good way. The recollection of them dished up cold with pickled beetroot and roast ham somehow hangs up there in the air! I think we had it on Boxing Day but it obviously was not something I looked forward to.

So, what best to do with aforementioned beans, a tin of Heinz Tomato soup and some pathetic scraps of cheese, well naturally being students with more pressing things to do like going to The Black Bull, we chucked it all in one pan, heated the mix and then devoured the surprisingly wonderful result.

And so began my love affair with the humble butter bean…Celia was so right they taste delicious.

Over the years we have eaten many variations of the original mixture if such desperate cooking could honestly be construed as an actual idea! Now, I actually use tinned tomatoes and fresh vegetables, herbs and spices…..so here goes.

What follows is the actual recipe I used the other evening but further on I’ll pop in some variations on the central theme, ie give you the chance to mess about as I do frequently.

BUTTER BEAN CASSEROLE/STEW

Tin of butter beans
Tin of tomatoes
1 Onion
Garlic clove
1 Red pepper
1 Courgette
Handful of Green beans
Himalayan salt & black pepper

METHOD

1. Pour good slosh of olive oil in a pan, add finely chopped onion, fry until soft.
2. Add 2 cloves of garlic pounded up with salt. Fry over gentle heat.
3. Mix in butter beans, stir well.
4. Stir in tin of tomatoes and mix really well to break down tomato, unless you use chopped tomato mix, and pop in chopped courgette.
5. Cook over a low heat for 15-20 minutes.
6. Add green beans for the last few moments. Don’t cook too long as beans lose their nutrition and lovely bright green colour.

I served this with black rice which we really love as it’s so fragrant and full of flavour. It takes about 30 minutes to cook so needs to go on as you begin the casserole. Grated cheese sprinkled over just adds the final touch.

To zing it up you may feel a need to use more salt, so try using Himalayan salt as it has enormous health benefits…that’s for another post though.

Ok so, variations now; feel free to add any vegetable you want. The green beans were completely out of character for me, because of it being a bean dish I haven’t ever used fresh ones but there they sat talking to me in the fridge! And they looked so bright and had a great crunch..it just worked.
Sweet potatoes work wonderfully especially with the addition of smoked paprika (sweet or hot).
Aubergines and oregano lead it towards being rather like ratatouille and then I’d serve it with brown rice.
The other week I topped the mix with mashed potato and swede and toasted cheese on top! So it became a ‘cottage pie’.
Other tinned beans worked well. Have a go with chick peas and canellini beans.
A splash of red wine is very creative just don’t overdo it so as to leave a glass to slurp at whilst busy!
Try cumin, cinnamon or just wade through your jars and pop a pinch of anything in and try it.

For those of you who are not vegetarian pop in chorizo sausage with smoked paprika and oregano.

It’s endless what can happen between a tin of beans and your own inventiveness. Look how far it has evolved albeit taking 37 years but it’s now cooked with confidence and gusto!! Oh and by the way, I still occasionally throw butter beans into tomato soup…perfect comfort food.

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