I made Gigantes Plaki a couple of weeks ago and ever since then, I’ve been increasingly drawn to butter beans.
A traditional Greek dish I recalled eating during an ill-fated trip to Crete some years ago (don’t ask), Gigantes Plaki (Greek baked beans) is the kind of dish you’d want when you feel like being healthy but at the same time, require something substantial.
Back in Crete, after a succession of long nights on Ouzo and karaoke (don’t ask), I definitely needed healthy but substantial. I could also have been doing with a liver transplant and a week-long stay at a health spa / silent retreat, but that didn’t happen.
Gigantes are basically big butter beans and so these were substituted for the making of the dish and my home version didn’t suffer one bit. I still don’t know if the dish is best hot from the oven or better the next day with a slice of sour dough bread, lemon juice and yet more olive oil; I suppose I’ll have to try it again to decide.
But it was in the wake of the ‘Plaki that I had a revelation with butter beans. I was making tuna wraps one lunch time and by way of misfortune there was only one lonely tin in the house. How am I going to bulk out a tuna mix for four with one tin? The answer: Butter beans.
The result, I can confirm was excellent and by way of baby spinach leaves, red onion slices, mayo, shredded raw carrot and hot sauce, the toasted tuna and butter bean wraps were magnificent and I repeated the feat for three subsequent lunchtimes. AND, apart from the taste, I could also console myself that having the beans therein helped pack the wraps with added protein, fibre and vitamins.
However, in the wake of the ‘Plaki and the amazing wraps I wondered how I might be able to add yet more butter beans to the diet-equation and the result was this chorizo and butter bean pasta bake. Honestly, I don’t know if this dish is already a ‘thing’ but whatever the case, it was made up on spec last Friday night when there were two cooking chorizo in the fridge which had to be et, before they turned the use-by corner. It’s a thing now though, for sures.
You could also forgo the bake idea here and use this chunky sauce as a stir through for pasta but somehow, I like the idea of bakes. I like the idea of the house slowly filling with a near-chewable aroma as the oven does its thang. And I like the idea of cracking into a bake and savouring the release of succulent scents. And I really liked the end product, as did the rest of the clan, which is why it’ll now feature as a regular on the revolving menu – it being moderately healthy, fairly cheap and very satisfying.
Come to think of it, maybe I should rename this column ‘The Revolving Menu’ as that’s pretty much what it is.
Depending on how saucy you like things (by which I mean ‘saucy’ as in liquid-y not ‘saucy’ as in oo-er, matron), you can add an extra tin of tomatoes or even, more fresh tomatoes. But these quantities, I find, result in a sufficient sauciness – oo-er!
If you can’t find any cooking chorizo just use the other ready-to-eat kind. It’ll work almost as well. If you’re after the cooking kind, the only place I know does them regularly is M&S.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
2 tbsps of olive oil
2 cooking chorizo, sliced
2/3 big cloves of garlic, sliced
tsp of dried oregano
1 tin of plum or chopped tomatoes
1 punnet of fresh plum or cherry tomatoes
dash of worchestershire sauce
tsp of honey
salt and pepper
1 tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed
350g of rigatoni
lots and lots and lots of parmesan
torn basil leaves
another dash or olive oil
THE PLAN OF ACTION
Add the tablesoons of olive oil to a large-ish sauce pan and dump in the sliced chorizo. Stir fry for about a minute or slightly longer until the sausage starts to release its oils and the edges of the slices begin to crisp. Keep an eye, because these bad boys can burn in a blink.
Next add the garlic and stir around and then remove the pan from the heat. Leave it until the sizzling stops and then return to the heat and add the oregano (quick stir around), the tin of tomatoes (quick stir) the fresh tomatoes, honey, seasoning and worcestershire (good stir).
Bring to a simmer and let it work away whilst you get the pasta on the go.
Large pan of water, bring to the boil, add a tablespoon of salt and heal in the rigatoni (although to be fair you can use whatever shape you like).
After ten or so minutes, the fresh tomatoes will be cooked through in the sauce and if you haven’t already, burst some of these against the side of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. So satisfying! Check the seasoning and then remove from the heat.
Drain the pasta when it’s cooked through (it doesn’t matter if it’s beyond al dente in a bake) and then add the pasta to the pan with the sauce. Do the same with the butter beans and then mix everything around until well-combined.
Dump the whole lot unceremoniously into a casserole dish, grate on lots and lots and lots of parmesan and then retire to the oven (180C) for ten or fifteen minutes, until the top is browning and basically, you can’t wait any longer.
Divide between bowls and top with yet more parmesan, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the torn basil leaves.
For added decadent you could also add grated mozzarella to the top bunging in the oven or even push lumps down into the body of the bake before grating on the parmesan.
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