Thursday, May 05, 2005

Bacon and beans

Green beans, pinto beans, blackeyed peas, haricot beans, broad beans, soya beans, fava beans, French beans, jumping beans, runner beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, , mung beans, the list goes on and on and where can you get that big plump and pregnant queen of beans, the butter bean. Nowhere.

In the past I have scorned beans thinking of them in the immortal words of Bart Simpson, "Beans beans the musical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot", but then came the magical day in a tapas bar in Madrid. We were in there to sample some sherry. Just extremely small glasses, but lots of them and with every glass of sherry we bought the owners felt abliged to bring us some more tapas. Sizzling prawns in a garlic sauce (dribble dribble), cold cut of tuna with french mustard (smacks lips), olives stuffed with pimento (savours the acidity), whole white-bait dressed in breadcrumbs (crunches them bones and all from head to tail).

Then came the beans, big and buttery, shaped like a small kidney, coated in olive oil, with their fine skin dusted down with aromatic herbs, and black pepper. It may have been the sherries that went beforehand but somehow the butter beans, which I had held in such low esteem were suddenly elevated to something most noble, and ever since then I have wanted that taste again.

But not having any sherry I got side tracked and I did some spiced beans with bacon. Here is the recipe.

Soak a cup of butter beans in water over night. Add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt. This is the magic part since it helps the beans to absorb water and expand. You won't loose the skins when you boil them either. Drain the beans and add new water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer until tender. Low heat is esential since you don't want them to disintigrate and turn to mush. Drain the water off and add the following spices. Ground black pepper, Rock salt, fresh basil torn, fresh parsley torn, garlic pepper, and then drizzle on some olive oil and mix. Transfer the spiced beans to a dish and on top place some roughly cut strips of bacon. Place in and oven at 250 C and cook for 20 minutes. This is to give a crunchiness to the beans and the bacon is cooked to perfection. Juices from the bacon are absorbed by the beans, giving them a delicious moistness.

Now for the most important part of the operation when you have removed the dish from the oven and let it cool, you should eat the beans with your fingers. No forks or knives allowed. It is a great pleasure to pick up the beans in your fingers, and to sift around the dish for the best bits. While eating your fingers will become flavoured by the spiced juices in the dish, and you will be afforded the opportinity to lick your own fingers, or even suck them to get them clean. Don't wash them or use wipes. That would spoil everything.

Enjoy... I know I did

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