JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bean stew

This is instant winter-warming comfort food. It will be much much nicer when it turns into slow-cooked, fresh-from-the-garden, aren't-I-clever food, but that'll have to wait until next June. In the meantime, this is fine. It doesn't have to be open-a-tin instant, of course, you could make it from dried beans, and then it would taste even better. I wouldn't bother for just the two of us, but if I was making it in any quantity, I'd start from scratch (it only means thinking ahead a little, but we don't always want to be doing that).

Sweat a chopped onion in a little olive oil, garlic too, if you feel like it. When it's soft, add a can of chopped tomatoes, a drained can each of borlotti beans and of kidney beans, perhaps some dried herbs if they're not just dust in a jar. Bring it to a simmer, then add a bag of spinach leaves, cover the pan and cook through until the spinach has wilted.

There will be days when you have all the tins but no spinach; then you could add chopped parsley, or finely chopped spring onions, as it's definitely improved when there's something green in it. And, actually, more or less any old beans will do, too.

At this dark time of the year, when the days are short and shortening, it's hard to believe we'll ever be making bean stew fresh from the garden - podded and boiled, broad beans, borlotti beans, anything in between beans, cooked until tender then mixed with tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs from the garden, dressed with olive oil. Delicious - low in fat and low in food miles; apart from the olive oil, we're talking food inches. Still, that's a long way off. Perhaps, as a pagan gardener's article of faith, I'll eat this winter bean stew on 21 December, as the year turns and the days start to lengthen. I can't wait.

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