Tuscan Beans

My favorite bean dish, using our large white “Aztec” beans, or borlottis.

This is my very favorite bean dish.  It works especially well with the large white “Aztec” beans that some of us grow on our plots, dried or fresh. It might be even more delicious with borlotti beans, it that is possible. It serves 2 or 3 people.

  • A cup of dried beans, or about 2 cups of fresh ones.
  • Half a cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Six fresh sage leaves, or a sprig of sage blossoms
  • A small dried chili pepper, crumbled
  • Four good cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Salt and black pepper
  • A 400g tin of tomatoes or about four fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped.

If you are using dried beans, soak them overnight and drain. Boil the beans until they are nice and tender. Drain them.

Get about half the oil hot and simmer the sage, chili, and garlic in it for a minute or two, then add the beans and fry them all together for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and simmer it all for about 30 minutes.  Top up with water if it gets too thick.

Season to taste, then pour the rest of the olive oil over the top and serve. Do not be tempted to skimp on the olive oil!

I like it with steamed brown rice, but my wife prefers it with mashed potatoes.  If you manage to have any left the next day, try Tuscan Beans on toast.  Sublime!

I found the original version of this recipe in a wonderful little book called The Goodness of Beans, Peas and Lentils by John Midgley. It is full of great things to do with beans.  Any of the recipes that use cannellini or haricot beans are even better with Aztec beans.

from Joe Foster

Golden Apple Mincemeat

Joan Croft’s delicious filling for tartlets, flans, sponge cake or topping to ice cream…

Makes about 6 lb.

  • 3 lb eating apples
  • 1/2 oz butter
  • 2 lb sultanas
  • 1 pint water
  • 1 level teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 level teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 1/2 lb sugar
  • 4 oz chopped candied peal
  • juice of 1 lemon

Peel, core and slice the apples.  Butter the bottom of a saucepan and put the apples, sultanas and water in it and cook gently for 20 minutes.  Add the spices, sugar, candied peel and lemon juice.  Heat to dissolve the sugar, then boil, stirring until it reaches a thick consistency, about 20 minutes.  Pour into clean, warmed jars. Cover and label them.

Use it as a filling for tartlets, flans, sponge cake or as a topping to ice cream.

From Joan Croft

Apple Butter

Another good way of using up surplus or damaged apples …

Apple butter has always been associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch in America who have made it for several centuries. It is another good way of using up surplus or damaged apples, and you can try mixing in some crab apples.

  • 3 kg apples cleaned and quartered
  • 2.5 litres of water or apple juice
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • sugar

Simmer the fruit and liquid until it is very tender. Rub it through a sieve and weigh the pulp you get. Weigh out and set aside 750 grams of sugar for every kilogram of pulp. Simmer the pulp until most of the water has evaporated, then add the sugar and spices and boil, stirring frequently, until the mix is creamy. Pour into hot jars and seal.

From Joe Foster

Apple Juice

What do you do with all those windfall apples? Make apple juice …

What do you do with all those windfall apples? We only recently discovered how easy it was to make apple juice if you have some form of mechanical juicer. Surprisingly, the apples from our old Bramley tree, normally too sour to eat, make the most delicious juice with just the right balance of sweetness, acid and tannin – like a fine wine. All we do is wash them in plain water, cut off the damaged bits and chop them small enough to go into our juicer. With our machine you get a lot of froth at the top of the juice which seems to hold most of the original tartness. Let it sit for a while, then scrape most of it off, and carefully decant the juice into a fresh bottle, taking care to fill it right to the top. Try putting a small wedge of lime through the machine for every litre or so of juice for an extra lift to the flavour.

From Joe Foster