For some people walking into a clothing store full of designer dresses, shoes, and accessories is their idea of heaven. Others it's seeing their favourite band in concert. For me, nothing quite hits the spot like walking into an old-school delicatessen and seeing shelves lined with bags and bags of dried beans.
To be honest, I can't really explain why. Maybe it's the endless varieties on offer, or maybe it's just their mysterious-shrivelled shapes that I enjoy. Mostly I think it's their unlimited potential that gets me fangirling over beans, and the contentment I feel when eating a warm bowl of brothy beans, baked beans or this surprisingly deep and savoury bean stew. Because, you know, sometimes it's the simplest ingredients and dishes that really satisfy.
What's so special about this bean stew?
In my opinion, all bean stews are pretty damn tasty, but this recipe, with its dollop of creamy, slightly acidic sour cream, sprinkling of fragrant dill and slices of crunchy buttery sourdough, elevate it to a god-tier stew. Reminiscent of a Tuscan bean stew and calling for similar ingredients, however, with the omission of tomatoes, it's probably closer to a hearty Irish stew. It's understated yet complex in taste, effortless to make and extremely nourishing for the soul.
How to make bean stew?
Making a bean stew is super simple. Firstly, pick out your favourite type of bean - whether it's navy beans, kidney beans, or even chickpeas if you're feeling adventurous. Next, get your hands on some veggies and spices. Onions, garlic, and carrots make for a great base, but feel free to throw in whatever other veggies you have lying around the bottom of the fridge. And lastly, a stew without herbs is like a joke without a punchline - it's just not as satisfying. Cook up your beans and veggies, mix in your herbs, add the stock and let it all simmer together for a while. And there you have it - a hearty, delicious bean stew that will warm you up from the inside out.
This recipe uses Borlotti beans (because that's what I had on hand at the time) however, you could turn this into a white bean stew, substituting the Borlotti beans for large cannellini or lima beans. All beans are welcome to this stew party.
Do you need to rehydrate dried beans?
For me, it honestly depends on what I'm making and how much time I have. In this recipe, I add dried beans straight into the pot because I personally enjoy the starchy flavour and texture of letting the beans rehydrate in the final broth. However, if you don't want this, perhaps rehydrate your beans the day before and rinse them in water before cooking. And if you don't have time to do this, simply swap the dried beans for tinned beans.
What to serve with bean stew?
Like any slow-cooked or braised dish, bean stew can be quite rich and need something light, fresh and acidic to balance the flavours. This recipe calls for sour cream and dill to brighten the palette. However, any other fragrant herbs like tarragon, parsley, or coriander would be a welcome exchange. And, of course, with any stew, there must be a vessel to absorb the deeply flavoured saucy liquid. In this case, it's toasted sourdough with lashings of butter, although mash, cous cous or even polenta would make a great alternative.
Hearty Bean Stew (meat who?)
- 1 Large Onion peeled and finely diced
- 3 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
- 1 Large Carrot peeled and roughly diced into 1cm cubes
- ½ bunch Celery roughly diced into 1cm cube
- 1 ½ cup Borlotti beans preferably dried
- ½ cup white wine (can use ¼ cup white vinegar instead)
- 500ml Chicken stock (can use vegetable stock)
- 500ml Water
- 1 Ham hock, optional
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- Salt + Pepper
- Sour cream, dill and sourdough bread
- Place a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium
- Add olive oil and onion to the pan cooking for 3-4 minutes until translucent.
- Add garlic, celery and carrot and cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly softened.
- Add dried beans (there’s no need to rehydrate them beforehand), white wine and cook stirring for 1 minute allowing them to soak up the flavours.
- Add chicken stock and water, season with salt and pepper (add ham hock if using). Cover with a lid and cook for 1 ½ - 2 hours on low heat, or until the beans are gloriously swollen and melt-in-your-mouth tender and the liquid has reduced by half.
- Spoon the beans into a bowl and serve with a dollop of sour cream, chopped dill and buttered sourdough toast