Baked giant beans are one of the most common, traditional Greek recipes, made with white giant beans, tomato sauce, onions, celery, parsley and sometimes garlic and carrots. The method is simple and always works, as soon as you use fresh, good quality ingredients, especially beans. The beans are soaked overnight, the next day they are boiled until tender and they are drained and then mixed with the rest of the ingredients in a baking dish. The vegetables and aromatics should be sautéed first, to make a thick vegetable-tomato sauce. Then the beans are baked for 45-60 minutes until the sauce thickens and all the tastes and aromas are developed. This tasty dish is served as a starter or as “meze” in the taverns but in the Greek household it is usually serves as a main.
However, when I prepare giant beans, I like to add some taste and color by using vegetables such as butternut squash, red peppers, leaks and spinach. The subtle sweet taste of the squash and the leaks balances the sourness of the tomatoes and all the aromas and textures are combined perfectly creating a mouthwatering, hearty dish.
Ingredients (5-6 persons)
400 g giant beans dried, soaked in plenty of water for at least 12 hours
2 leeks, washed and sliced
500 g fresh spinach washed and coarsely chopped
1 cup celery chopped
½ cup parsley chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
400 g butternut squash peeled and cut into cubes of 1 cm thick
750 g ripe tomatoes chopped
1 big red pepper diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili flakes
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground pepper
Drain the beans and boil them in pure water until tender for 45-60 minutes. This time I cooked them in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes to save time. Season with salt just before cooking is complete.
Wash, clean and dice the vegetables. In a big saucepan pour the olive oil and sauté the leeks and the garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add all the remaining ingredients together with 2 cups of broth (from beans), salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
In a baking pan add the giant beans drained together with the cooked vegetables and the sauce and mix.
Bake in the oven at 200 οC for one hour until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
One of the most amazing things one will discover following a plant-rich diet is that it surely doesn’t limit the range of recipes and dining experiences one may have, as soon as there is a great variety of plant-based dishes that are as tasty and memorable as the animal-based. Besides the creation of composite recipes, the use of spices and the art of cooking are not privileges of those who consume animal products, but have their roots back in the human history and the desire to turn a vital need –food- into a delight.
So trying to find a gourmet stuffing for our sandwiches, a topping for our pizzas or our pasta, I occasionally experiment with several recipes for vegan cold cuts. Here I wanted to make something easy, delicious and nutritious without gluten or hard-to-find ingredients and so I ended on this vegan pepperoni. Usually I make it with dry fava-beans –a pulse that is very common in Greece, as I believe that their taste is engaged nicely with the spices, giving a delicious result. But if one cannot eat fava-beans or do not like them, he/she can simply use the same amount of other kinds of beans. Giant beans, especially black giant-beans, or any kind of red beans are good choices.
I prefer soaking and cooking the beans by myself, but if you like you can use canned beans as well.
1 ½ cups fava beans or other kind of beans, cooked and drained
3 tbsp chickpea flour
3 tbsp rice flour or corn flour
3 tablespoons tomato paste
6-7 sun-dried tomatoes in olive-oil, chopped
4-5 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 spring onion, chopped
3 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small chili pepper chopped
½ tsp ground pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground dry chili
8-10 green Kalamata olives pitted, cut into large pieces
Place the beans in the food processor and process for a few minutes until mashed. Alternatively mash with a fork or the puree machine.
Add the remaining ingredients except olives, and process for 1-2 more minutes until they incorporate.
Finally add the olives and process lightly.
Put the mixture on a large shit of baking paper and form into log, twisting the ends of the paper to seal into a tight sausage shape.
Steam for 1 hour. If you don’t have a steamer, you can place it in a metal sieve that sits atop a large stockpot of boiling water, and cover it with the pot lid.
Mung beans, do not belong to the beans that are traditionally used in the Greek cuisine. Actually the first time I even saw them was several years ago at a local farmer’s market and I was somehow seduced by their shiny green color, their small size -compared to the traditional beans- and even that light speckle in the middle of each bean. As I’ve always liked to try new tastes, I bought a small quantity and I experimented with this “rare” but tempting legume. Since then, mung beans have gained some popularity also in Greece and it’s much easier to find them not only in organic grocery stores but also in the super markets and some local farmer’s markets, as they can comprise a basic ingredient for a hearty and nutritious dish, such as this warming, mildly sweet and spicy soup.
250g green mung beans
750-1000 ml water or vegetable broth
1 medium red sweet potato or 1 ½ cups red sweet pumpkin cut into cubes
1 medium fennel bulb (fennel) chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1-2 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh lemon juice to serve
1. Soak the mung beans for 7-8 hours or overnight in plenty of water and drain.
2. Peel the sweet potato or pumpkin and cut into small (1 cm) cubes. Wash the fennel (the bulb, the stalks and the tiny leaves), cut the tip with a sharp knife, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into thick slices.
3. In a large saucepan put the olive oil, the sweet potato or pumpkin and the fennel. Saute lightly for 3-4 minutes over medium heat, add the mung beans and the spices and last add the water or broth. Cook over low heat for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender (if you choose not to soak the mung beans, cook for ten more minutes). Serve hot, drizzled with lemon juice. Note: Instead of the fennel bublb you can add one more cup chopped pumpkin or sweet potato, or even celery root. To enhance flavor, you can add a pinch of dried sage, fresh thyme and cumin.