by Niamh Burke Neff
We seem to have pretty much gone from four seasons to two here in the Alps of late. Rather than refer to the seasons as the ‘snow and no snow’ seasons, this year we’ve taken to referring to the ‘no snow’ season as the wet and cold season. We have experienced the wettest, coldest summer the West Austrian Alps has seen in the past 50 years, so it is no wonder that we’re starting back into cold weather comfort food already.
For some reason tomatoes were one of the few crops that thrived in the garden this year, and having been traveling for the past for fortnight, there was yet another crop of perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes ready for harvest when I returned. So I made what must be one of my favourite miserable weather dishes.
SLOW ROAST GARLIC BUTTER BEANS IN SMOKED TOMATO AND DILL SAUCE (serves 4)
- 4 tbsp organic olive oil
- 2 large onions
- 4-5 medium sized heads of garlic
- 1 box (500g) dried butter beans (or two 400g tins of cooked butter beans)
- 500g approx of fresh cherry tomatoes (or two 400g tins of tomatoes)
- 2 tsp of freshly chopped thyme (or 1 teasp dried)
- 2 tsp of freshly chopped oregano (or 1 teasp dried)
- 4 tbsp of freshly chopped dill (or 2 tbsp dried)*
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika powder
- 1 tblsp of runny honey
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (optional – regular Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies)
- Sea salt and pepper to taste (lemon pepper works very well with this dish)
- You will also need a little (fresh or dried) thyme and rosemary to roast the garlic heads, and three dried bay leaves to cook with the dried beans (if using dried instead of tinned).
*I prefer to use more dill (usually up to half a bunch or a good handful. I find the taste exceptionally good with the below flavours)
- Soak one box of dried butter beans overnight, drain, and boil them in lightly salted water for an hour with 3 bay leaves. Two 400g tins of butter beans will do the quick job (although not the same nutritionally).
- Place the whole heads of garlic in a small oven dish with a bit of olive oil, thyme and rosemary, and roast in a moderate oven for 45 mins to an hour. When done, remove the garlic from the tin, cool, and mash each of the garlic head with a potato masher (it will remove the roast yummy garlic flesh from the skins easily). Discard the skins.
- Place the fresh cherry tomatoes in a roasting tin with some olive oil, sea salt and pepper, and roast in a moderate oven for 45 mins – 1 hour (or until you see the skins starting to brown). When done, remove from the oven and cool. Most people like to remove the skins from their tomatoes, but I prefer to keep them in this dish, as the tomatoes, when cool, should then be pureed briefly in a high speed blender (I use a Vitamix).
- Put the oil and herbs you used for roasting the garlic into a large wide pan, heat, and add the roast garlic and the 2 roughly chopped onions. Fry until the onion is soft (4-5 mins). Add the cooked butter beans (or drained butter bean from the tin) to the onion mixture and mix around a bit for another 3-4 mins. Add the thyme, oregano,dill, honey, balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar), Worcestershire Sauce, and smoked paprika powder. Mix well. Add your roast cherry tomato puree (or 2 tins of tomatoes and a tbsp of tomato puree) and. Mix well, and add sea salt and pepper to taste. Leave to cook gently over a low heat (with cover on) for 40 mins or so (basically until the sauce is all thick and the beans have the consistency you want – if using dried beans, it takes longer, if tinned, its shorter, so you need to play this by ear really).
This dish is wonderful served with flatbread (or even fresh crusty bread or pita breads), so, while the beans are cooking, if you’d like to have a go at making your own flatbreads rather than purchasing bread, here is how you do it:
SPELT FLATBREADS (makes four medium – large sized flatbreads)
- 8 oz or thereabouts of wholegrain spelt flour
- 1 tsp of baking soda (you can also use yeast instead of you wish)
- 3-4 minced cloves of garlic
- half a level tsp of salt
- margarine (or ghee, or butter) to smear onto the top of each flatbread when cooked
- sesame salt and freshly chopped coriander (or parsley) to season
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Add just enough lukewarm water to bring the mixture together into a ball with your hand.
- Turn out on a floured board and roll out into whatever shape and size you want.
- To cook, heat a dry (no oil) frying pan to HOT, dust off any excess flour from the bread, take one piece at a time (if they were large like mine) and leave for about one minute to cook – the dough will start getting bubbles on the top side, which is a sign that you need to check if the underside is cooked. If it is, turn it over. When cooked on both sides, I smeared some margarine over each one, threw some chopped coriander over it (you can use parsley also), chopped each bread into 4, seasoned with sesame salt.
- Repeat until all are cooked. Serve hot, with Herby Dip.
- 1 tub of natural soy yogurt (normal natural yogurt is fine too)
- half a bunch of fresh parsley
- half a bunch of fresh chives (I also used some of the chive flowers)
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 10-15 capers
- 4 small gherkins (the ones that are only 1-2 inches long is what I used)
- about 1×1 inch of vegan parmesan (or normal parmesan) – this is optional
- dash of olive oil
Put all ingredients into a high speed blender and mix. DONE! And very yummy…whatever is left over can be used as a dip with raw veggies for instance and will keep in the fridge for up to three days.
Place the beans, flatbread and a little bowl of the herby dip on a plate, sprinkle with fresh dill, and serve. Bon Appetit!