Borlotti beans with garlic

This season has been a disaster for beans!

The drought really put a stopper on fertilisation of flowers and so I had very few pods develop.

That applied to all sorts of beans including my absolute favourite – borlottis.

I’ve just harvested what few I did have and I’ve taken down the bean poles to be stored away until next year.

I’ve written a little about growing and storing them before.

But here is another recipe that is brilliant – real comfort food.

The beans are cooked for a long time on a low heat and turn a beautiful pinkish brown.

Serve with polenta and “sausages” and some greens.

Or mash them slightly and thin down with some more stock or water to make a pasta sauce with finely shopped rosemary or sage.

Borlotti Beans with Garlic and Parsley

Real Italian comfort food. The beans are rich, creamy and almost velvety.

Author: Cath
  • 375 gr fresh borlottis or 125g dried and soaked beans
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • 4 or 5 decent sprigs parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 400 ml water
  • 1 heaped tsp marigold bouillon powder or half a veg stock cube
  1. Rinse beans and cover with water in a medium sized pan with a lid.

  2. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the roughly crushed and chopped 3 cloves of garlic (I use the heel of my hand on the flat of my knife on the unpeeled clove to crush then remove loosened skin and chop - see image in main article)

  3. Cover with lid and bring to the boil add bouillon or stock cube then simmer on a very low heat for an hour or until beans are well done. Stir occasionally. 

  4. Some of the liquid will have been absorbed by the beans and some will have evaporated during cooking.

  5. There should be a thickish sauce in the bottom of the pan - you can mash a few of the beans and stir in to create this if it hasn't happened naturally.

  6. Stir and add salt and lots and lots of finely chopped parsley. You could also top with crisp fried sage leaves.







How to Dress a Salad

I was visiting one of my oldest friends, Kate, recently and we were in the kitchen.

I was trying hard not to interfere.

She was making pizza – an airy yet crisp crust slathered with a rich tomato sauce – and she asked me to dress the green salad.

I automatically did what I always do – gently massaged a little salt into the leaves, sprinkled and turned a judicious amount of red wine vinegar through them and then did the same with some olive oil.

All with clean hands of course.

When we sat down to eat she was amazed at how good it was.

“Why didn’t I know this before?”

“Please tell me how to do it!”

I couldn’t remember when I’d started to do this as a matter of course  – it kind of snuck up on me and I think I was inspired by various Italian cookbooks.

Looking at Marcella Hazan’s “The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” – I think I’ve taken her way of dressing simple potato salad and applied it to other vegetables including fresh leafy greens.

The proportions remain about the same as a vinaigrette -about 1 part vinegar or lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil, and a couple of shakes of a salt cellar or turns of a grinder.

I don’t put much on at all – maybe a one or two teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice and a tablespoon or a tablespoon and a half of oil.

This is for a green salad in a fairly large bowl – say six large handfuls of leaves.

Any vinegar will do but I prefer red wine or cider vinegar as they are more mellow than white.

You must eat a green salad dressed like this straight away.

Other more robust vegetables will stand this method for longer!

This lettuce is just beginning to yield leaves. I pick the outer ones and leave the plant growing

I’m writing this because I’ve just picked the first leaves off my late sowing of lettuce which I will be covering with fleece in the next week or two as it gets colder.

The fresh crisp leaves are a delicate green flushed at the edges with a champagne pink and burgundy.

I’ll be eating this for lunch with the remainder of my black cherry tomatoes and some chopped cucumber  – I found what must be the last two of the outdoor ones hiding under the parent plant’s leaves.

I may add a little finely sliced red onion and some fennel tops – my late sowings of that vegetable are starting to look a bit stronger now even though I planted them in the shade of a cob nut tree that badly needs coppicing.



The edible garden – cauliflower and millet soup

The perennial nine star cauliflower yielded what I think will be its last florets until next spring.

I wasn’t expecting anymore but when I was walking past the veiled hoops that I put up a couple of weeks ago to protect them – I saw one of the two plants had put on a last flush of growth.

Anyway, I remembered I had about a third of a pristine, shop-bought cauli in the fridge that I didn’t know what to do with.

I thought of adding the two together to make Creamed Cauliflower and Millet soup from a brilliant book I bought in an a secondhand shop recently.

This excellent book is by Emanuela Stucchi
This has saved me the trouble of writing out the recipe! I used vegetable stock instead of water
I sauteed the chopped cauliflower first, then added the well rinsed millet
About a litre of vegetable stock is added and the soup is simmered for about half an hour
The soup is blitzed with a magic wand and finely chopped flat leaf parsley is added

It’s a very simple yet delicious recipe using a highly nutritious grain and fresh cauliflower and parsley.

Try it!

You can get millet from a wholefoood shop.

In other news

My old school friend Jenny and her daughters Mara and Freya came and stayed for three days.

We enjoyed cooking curry one night. Mara is an accomplished cook already.

They also helped sow seeds including purple amaranth and peppermint!

Sowing on the terrace in the early summer heat

I have almost finished excavating the finished compost – sieving it so it’s fine means I can use it for potting on kale, red cabbage and cauliflower plants.

I’ve also weeded the asparagus bed and interplanted it with small lettuce seedlings – green oak and brun d’hiver.

A couple of crystal lemon cucumber plants have gone in.

The vegetable garden at dusk

I’m also about to plant very small, miserable looking chicory called grumolo verde.

I’m hoping they will feel much better about life and the universe once they’re in their final planting positions.

And finally – yesterday we had torrential downpours (parts of Norwich were flash flooded) so I added another water butt to decant/siphon off the overflow from the original one outside the glasshouse.

I also cleaned the gutters and removed some of the moss on the roof – although I think we need someone professional to come and clean the bits higher up!

Other garden jobs I must do!

  • plant out marigold seedlings
  • turn new compost heaps and consolidate both adding QR activator
  • plant out Blue Hungarian and Candy Roaster Squash
  • sow red Treviso chicory and Florence fennel
  • sow carrots (it’s going to be cooler this next couple of days)
  • sow Red Perilla (Shiso leaves) from old seed – fingers crossed
  • erect bean tepees and plant out various varieties
  • get some more big cardboard boxes (bike shops have them) to continue creating new mulched beds – the fruit bushes are nearly done
  • make elderflower cordial (with pink flowers!)

As well as the perennial cauliflower we’ve been harvesting loads of cut and come again lettuce, chard, asparagus and the first delicate green garlic bulbs which have within them pearl like cloves that really are unmatched in flavour…

The Carouby de Mausanne peas are just coming into flower – the most gorgeous burgundy and violet blooms that will soon be tender pea pods.











Italian Borlotti Bean Soup

I love borlotti beans

They’re good in an Italian soup with or without pasta.

You can also cook them in stock, garlic and olive oil – reducing the liquid until it becomes an unctuous sauce – then finish it off with loads of chopped fresh parsley.

And Marcella Hazan – one of the doyennes of Italian food writers – uses them to make a fantastic pasta sauce flavoured with rosemary (she calls them cranberry beans).

Fiery red pods

They’re a great thing to grow as they can be cooked straight after being shelled from the fiery red pod – the Italians call them lingua di fuoco or tongue of fire. The fresh beans are a delicate pale green laced with pink markings (the pods are discarded and composted).

They also store well – if you pick them right at the end of the season as the pods are turning crisp and papery on the climbing vine – revealing pink and burgundy beans that look like miniature exotic birds eggs.

Beans drying on a tray
I lay them out on a tray to dry and then store in dry jars to use throughout the winter

When you want to use them you soak them overnight and cook like any other dried bean or pulse. They are a welcome and hearty staple throughout the winter.

Dried and soaked beans
These homegrown dried beans double in size once they’ve been soaked

Save and sow

And as I make this soup with the last of my collected, dried and stored beans I’m saving about to sow thirty or forty of them to sow for this year’s crop. 

They will take a couple of weeks to germinate – I sow in compost in 1 1/2 inch square modules and wait until the last frosts before planting out along a row of bamboo cane supports for them to scramble up.

Like other beans they are a good nitrogen fixer improving your soil for the crop that follows them.

Borlotti Bean Soup

Author: Cath
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 125 g diced onion
  • 125 g diced carrot
  • 125 g diced celery
  • 170 g tomatoes chopped
  • 180 g dried borlotti beans, soaked and cooked until soft or 450 g tinned drained beans
  • 750 ml vegetable stock or more if needed
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  1. Saute onion, carrot and celery with a little salt on a gentle heat for about ten minutes in a large saucepan.  Sometimes I add a little crushed garlic or if I have no celery I will use leeks. Stir occasionally.

  2. Add tomatoes (you can use fresh skinned tomatoes or tinned ones with their juice) and cook for a further ten minutes stirring occasionally.

  3. Add cooked borlotti beans and bean cooking liquid topped up with stock (I use Marigold Bouillon powder with water).  I usually make sure there's at least two inches of liquid above the beans and vegetables in the pan.

    You can add fresh uncooked borlotti beans instead at this point if you have them (about 1kg in weight in their pods - then shell and discard pods and compost them). Or add some tinned beans like red kidneys.

  4. Simmer for half an hour with the lid on.

  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary - you can also take out a few of the beans (a couple of tablespoons and mash them and add back into the pan)

  6. At this point you can add a couple or three handfuls of dried small pasta shapes like orzo or macaroni and cook for a further 10 or 15 minutes making sure there's enough liquid to absorb the extra ingredients. 

    I usually don't bother.

  7. I chop lots of fresh parsley - a couple of tablespoons and add five minutes before I serve.