Bad Beans

So, after returning to work with what could be construed as an incident, shall we say, with some under-soaked Cannelini Beans and an otherwise delicious soup. Here’s the story: I found a recipe in an old issue of Gourmet magazine (well, by old I mean one or two years old) for a Kale, Smoked Sausage and White Bean soup. The premise is very similar to a Tuscan Bean Soup, which I have prepared before, using white cabbage instead of Kale. The beans (unsoaked) were to be brought up to a boil and then turned off and left to stand in their own starchy water for 50 minutes. That’s 50 minutes. Not one hour, or 45 minutes, but 50 minutes. Anyway, I strictly adhered to these instructions, as I always do with ingredients that I’m not entirely familiar with. After the soaking, I sweated off the onions, garlic, celery, stock, add the beans, add the smoked sausage, add the Kale etc. I even used a fresh bay leaf (a friend of my husband, Ben, kindly gave us a small Bay tree and I was surprised at the difference in aroma between dried and fresh. Kind of like night and day). After some minor taste adjustments (lots of black pepper and salt), the soup tasted positively delicious, although the beans were a touch hard. Not to worry I thought, a thorough reheating tomorrow night (as recommended by the recipe) should soften the beans up a treat, not to mention the all night soaking in it’s savoury sauce.
Next day and the soup is reheating. The beans still have a slightly too-dry texture. I’m wondering if this is to do with salting the beans too early. I tuck into a bowl, served with Ciabatta bread and unsalted butter. It is a wonderful, wholesome soup that tastes green.
However, at some point the beans must have had a detonating effect on my stomach. Not pleasant. However, it hasn’t put me off making this soup again. I would simply soak the beans for longer during the day (at least five hours I should suggest!).

After having so unwillingly purged my stomach of it’s entire contents and then some, I am itching to get back into the kitchen. For now I will make mention of the dishes cooked at the weekend though.
Chocolate Brownies. From Tamasin Day-Lewis’s book, Simply The Best, these really are the best! They are rich, dark and not too sweet. I am tempted though to try some Fruit and Nut Brownies, after our current favourite bar of chocolate. I am considering using a lower cocoa content chocolate for a creamier taste, with some whole almonds and raisins thrown in for good measure. I’ll let you know.

Pan Fried Potatoes. I had planned on using up some old potatoes that were beginning to look very sorry for themselves on a River Cottage recipe that involved using some cream and remnants of cheese. Kind of a potato gratin but with bacon. Instead, after following the first two or three steps (lightly fry a couple of thinly sliced onions, add some diced Pancetta or bacon, then add the sliced par-boiled potatoes), I decided to resort to a Nigel Slater recipe instead, which involved far less effort. So, after adding the potatoes to the pan, with a large knob of butter, add some fresh thyme leaves and cover on a medium-low heat for at least half an hour. After this time, the potatoes should be soft, easily pierced with the tip of a knife all the way through. Add some slices of melting cheese, I used Gruyere as that’s all we had left over, tuck it in between the slices of potatoes, turn up the heat slightly, replace the lid and leave for another five minutes until cheese has melted. I turned the heat up because I like the bottom of the potatoes to go all browned and crisp. Serve with ketchup, baked beans or just nothing at all! It is fun to eat it straight from the pan, on a tray, on your lap, in front of the telly, with your husband (at least, that’s how I did it).

For a too-much scotch drinking the night before Saturday morning breakfast, I decided to make an all in one recipe which I found in an old magazine. Line deep, greased muffin tins (I used the tins that have 12 per sheet, these turned out to be too small) with Black Forest Ham (although this is an extravagance, Parma ham would be good, Prosciutto probably too thin). In the meantime, sauté a finely chopped shallot in a little olive oil, add some finely chopped mushrooms and I added some Thyme, although the recipe called for Tarragon. As previously mentioned, I can’t really stomach the flavour of Anise. Mix the mushroom/shallot mixture with some creme fraiche, season WELL with freshly ground black pepper and add salt to taste. Divide this mixture into the ham cups. Break a fresh egg on top of this. Put in a hot oven (about 180c) and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on how well done you like your eggs. Serve with freshly buttered bread. The eggs tended to overspill the smaller muffin cases so they didn’t look as cute as the picture. I found the mushroom mixture incredibly rich but would experiment with leeks and cheese, or perhaps a quiche type filling would be good.

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