Beans became a part of my life when I started exploring the many ways of cooking them. They entered my kitchen never to exit it again. By the time ‘Beans and Friends’ was published in 2015, We had tested over 80 recipes, we had cooked over 60 kilos of beans and I had developed a lasting love for gigantes beans, the big fat butter beans which are pillowy and soft when cooked.
Cultivated in Greece for centuries, gigantes or ‘giant’ are mostly grown using traditional farming methods, which means they are tasty, yes, but also not widely available outside of Greece. I always suggest buying more then is needed, cooking them and dividing them into freezable portions.
It is important not to soak beans for too long, or they’ll begin to germinate and will take for ever to cook. Soak them for 6 to 8 hours, drain them, and then cook them until soft but retaining some bite. This is when you let them cool and freeze part of them, cooking the rest for longer until tender. The Greeks slow-cook gigantes in the oven, and this is an excellent way to combine flavours.
Over the week end, my husband and I decided to go on a vegetarian diet for a few weeks. This morning I took out the bag of frozen beans, placed them in a little water and cooked them until tender but firm. I then drained them and immediately seasoned them with dressing. With a re-visited recipe from the book, I combined them with blood orange segments and rind, chopped spring onions, a couple of mint leaves and in no time our delicious vegetarian meal was ready.
Gigantes are just as delicious plain and they pair well with meat and seafood.
- 600 g / 9 cups pre-cooked Gigantes beans or Lima beans
- 2 spring onions, chopped (scallions)
- 2 blood oranges
- The grated rind of one orange
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 10 fresh mint leaves
- The juice of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- Re-heat the butter beans until they are just warm and place them in a mixing bowl.
- Combine the orange and lemon juice with the rind, paprika, cardamom, pepper, honey and 5 tablespoons olive oil. Stir well or shake in inside a glass jar.
- Pour half the dressing over the warm beans and leave the rest for later.
- Using a sharp knife, peel the orange and remove both the skin and white pith. Slice the peeled oranges in thin rounds and then cut into segments.
- Chop the onions.
- Finely chop the mint the leaves.
- Add the orange segments, the mint leaves and chopped onions to the beans.
- Drizzle with the remaining dressing, give it a quick stir and transfer to a serving dish.