It is August and Sydney’s short winter is almost over and, because we’ve had a particularly mild winter this year, I feel like I haven’t really got into my stride with winter food. With the thought of no more cauliflower and winter greens, I felt a slight sense of panic from the rapidly approaching heat of summer. On the weekend, I had some a friends over for dinner and I had a bit of a bake-a-thon to celebrate what is remaining of the winter cold.
I baked these Greek beans but also roasted baby carrots to have with dips for appetizers; slow baked some rhubarb for desert; roasted potato wedges and baked a silverbeet and leek gratin. I was going to bake some cauliflower but then thought ‘enough baked stuff’. So I made these cauliflower fritters from Taste of Beruit, which is one of the best blogs round on Lebanese and Arabic food.
You can use lima beans for this dish but it is worth tracking down some proper giant Greek white beans, because they tend not to break up when baked. A little while back, I went and stocked up on these beans from Lamia Super Deli, which is a brilliant, old-style Greek deli in Marrickville. It’s super cheap and you can get any obscure Greek ingredient you could possibly need. The best thing is the women who work there: they all look like they could make a mean spanokopita and galaktoboureko from scratch (including the pastry).
There are a myriad of Greek-baked bean recipes out there but, for me, they aren’t worth anything unless they are baked in a large shallow baking dish and get the maximum of baked crunchy beans on top. This recipe from Magda at My Little Expat Kitchen, which is one of my favorite regional food blogs. These baked beans are slightly spicy but you can adjust the heat to taste. I usually put carrot in my Greek baked beans but I really liked the addition of the strips of red pepper that baked down into the beans. Because I had made so much food, there were plenty of leftovers for Sunday night dinner. So, I heated these beans up in the oven, covered them with foil, then sprinkled a little olive oil on top, baked them for ten minutes to re-crunch the top… and they were delicious! I served these beans with tzatzki but next time, I might even bake some strips of feta on top for that final ten minutes. I think these twice baked beans were actually better the next day.
Vegetarian Greek baked beans
Adapted from My Little Expat Kitchen
Serves 4–6 as a main meal
- 500 grams of giant Greek white beans or lima beans
- 2½ cups of bean cooking liquid
- ⅓ cup of olive oil
- 2 medium size onions, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves sliced
- 400 grams fresh tomatoes, skinned, seeded and cubed or 1 can of tomatoes finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2 large red bell peppers, cut into thick strips
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- ½ teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 2 fresh red hot chillies (optional)
- 3 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley including stalks (chopped) plus extra finely chopped leaves to serve.
- Soak beans overnight or for 12 to 16 hours. Drain beans and rinse well. Place in a large pot, cover with water and bring to boil, simmer gently for about one hour until beans are just tender. (This will depend on the age and type of bean you use). Drain and reserve bean water. (I always misjudge my bean cooking time, and ever so slightly overcook my beans when I’m baking them but once they are coated in the sauce and baked, this doesn’t seem to matter, they don’t seem to fall apart any more).
- While the beans are cooking, heat olive oil in large pan and saute onion until translucent. Add garlic, parsley, and saute for another five minutes.
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- Add tomatoes saute until they are beginning to break down, then add tomato paste, sugar, ⅔ cup of water, sugar, salt, black pepper, chilli flakes and fresh chillies, if using. Simmer sauce gently for 20 minutes. About five minutes before the sauce is ready, add red peppers and stir through sauce.
- Place beans in ceramic or enamel cast iron baking dish. (I use a dish about 25cm x 36cm: it needs to be quite large and shallow, so you have a large surface area for the sauce to evaporate and for the beans to get crunchy on top.) Pour sauce over and gently stir through to coat beans then add bean water and stir through. The bean water should just cover the beans.
- Bake in a 200°C oven for 45–60 minutes until sauce has cooked down and beans are crunchy on top and meltingly soft underneath. Let sit at least ½ hour before serving.