Tag Archives: beans

A brief and unfortunate bean-based interlude

I’m having a rather busy couple of months (leading up to my wedding at the end of June), so my cookery adventures are currently rather few and far between. I’ve had limited time to do very much of my own research, so this is a condensed blog, shorter than the previous two, and it’s a bit different. I’ve been reading, or rather devouring, a wonderful book recently called Beans: A History, by food historian Ken Albala. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beans-History-Ken-Albala/dp/1845204301/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1306348568&sr=8-1

I highly recommend this to anyone with a remote interest in the history of food – it really is fascinating. He also has a rather wonderful blog that is worth checking out http://kenalbala.blogspot.com/

Anyway, I was inspired by this book to try out a very simple recipe for fried beans that I found on one of my sojourns into the world of Early Modern cookery books. I will tell you now though – I did not have a lot of success.

However, I vowed to document all of my adventures, even the miserable failures, disappointing though it may be that my first failure is only three recipes in.

Beans. According to Thomas Elyot’s Castle of Health, “they make wynde, howe so euer they be ordered”. I imagine we have all had some unpleasant and possibly embarrassing experience with this. Despite this, they are an ever present and popular food – I usually have several canned, dried and frozen varieties in my house, sometimes even fresh. I’m tempted to do a “Top 5 Beans” countdown, but that would be self-indulgent, even for a blog.

So, on to the very simple recipe, which I still somehow managed to ruin:


To fry Beanes

Take your beans and boyle them, & put them into a frying pan with a dish of butter, & one or two oynions, and so let them frye till they be browne al together, then cast a little salt upon them and them serve them forth

I started with some dried butter beans, one of my favourite varieties (they’d be in the top 5 I’m sure). Having soaked them for the requisite 10 hours, I boiled them, as instructed in the recipe. The packet told me to boil them hard for 10 minutes, and then gently for another 40. Unfortunately, by this time, the beans had all but reduced to mush.

Next I added them to a hot pan with a chopped onion and a “dish” of butter. I took this to mean about 3 tablespoons of butter, which was definitely far too much. Especially given that I was out of butter and had to use a “buttery spread” (oh the shame!), which will usually do in a pinch, but not in such large quantities.

The butter beans, already being quite mushy, did not need much cooking, but the onions really would have needed a long slow cooking to make them palatable. I ended up with a stodgy, bitter (from the undercooked onions) bean paste. If I were to make these again I’d probably start with some firmer beans, perhaps fresh broad beans, and I would deviate from the recipe by browning the onions in 1tbsp of butter before adding the beans. Perhaps using actual butter would have also been a good plan.

Suffice it to say they were not welcome alongside the equally beany, much more modern and definitely more appealing lentil loaf I had made.

The wedding stress must be getting to me! Next time I’ll be back on track hopefully.

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