One of the real joys of being home cook is that I don’t have to cook for a focus group.
When I cook, I don’t have to consider innovation or creation to impress, I can just potter at my own free will, experiment according to my own personal preference and learn from my own findings. This is what differentiates the home cook from the chef – the pressure free permission to cook without having the success of a recipe measured by reception.
However, y’all on my Instagram got me good last week.
I am currently eyebrow deep in a big writing project at the minute which is taking up a lot of my free time and as a result, a lot of my test and development cooking lately has been wrapped up in either my newsletter or the new project, which means I have had very little time for just walking into my kitchen and playing with reckless abandon.
But one day last week I decided to strip myself of the structure and just freestyle for the fun of it, pulling together a quick little stew, documenting my steps on Instagram just for my own interest. But low and behold, a lot of you jumped into my DM’s and asked for quantities, measurements and a proper method. No longer was it just a casual fun potter of a Friday evening – I suddenly found myself having to actually reverse engineer the recipe to give people some solid instructions.
So here it is. A super simple, deeply spiced and warm bowl of beans that seemed to tickle y’all so much. Written up and ready for you.
The beans here are butter beans, but don’t feel shackled to them. I like them because I find their interiors wonderfully creamy and I crush a lot of them, so that their starches can thicken the broth, but if you want to use cannellini or maybe even chickpeas, then there’s nothing stopping you.
I have also noted romaine lettuce in the ingredients because truth be told reader, it was all I had. I wanted to puncture the beans with something tender, fresh and grassy, so you could easily use a green of your choice but I would recommend something soft and that will wilt fairly quickly. This is not a long braise of a stew, so if you have greens with fibrous stalks, the stalks won’t soften and you’ll have a lot of crunch in the stew. Not unwelcome, but just not what I fancied. Spinach would be a great alternative, or some kale or cavolo nero leaves removed from the stalks.
For me though, the real joy comes from gochujang, which I rank up in my God tier of ingredients. It has a smoky sweetness in addition to deep heat, so I find it has the perfect balance of flavour when added to a stew like this. Get yourself a glaring red tub of it and see if you don’t add it to stir fries, soups, meat and vegetable marinades… I have to stop myself from using it on everything.
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 x can butter beans – drained and rinsed
1 litre vegetable stock
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon gochujang paste
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
1 head romaine lettuce
A handful of finely sliced spring onions – to serve
A handful of finely chopped fresh dill – to serve
1 teaspoon sesame seeds – to serve
- Slice the leek in half lengthways and then chop both slices into little half moons. Pop them into a colander and rinse them under water. Leeks can be deceptively muddy.
- In a medium-sized pot, warm the olive oil on a medium heat before adding the washed leeks with a little salt and cook for about 5 minutes until they begin to soft.
- Grate in the garlic clove using a fine grater and cook with the leeks for another 2 – 3 minutes.
- Add the butter beans to the pot and cook just a few minutes, stirring as you go. Then with the back of your spoon, start crushing some of the beans in the pot, so that they break down and release some of their starchy guts. You want a nice mixture of whole beans, some partially crushed means and some mashed beans.
- Add the stock to the pan along with the vinegar, gochujang paste and sugar, stirring so that the paste breaks up in the water, turning it a deep burgundy – a colour that will deepen brilliantly as it cooks. Bring the pot to a boil, drop it to a simmer and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring gently just every now and then.
- While it cooks, finely slice the romaine cabbage (or whatever soft greens your are using, unless it’s spinach – in which case, leave it whole)
- Remove the pan from the heat and add in your soft greens, stirring them through. No need to do this on the hob as the leaves will wilt in the residual heat from the stew. Taste for seasoning.
- Divide the stew between two bowls and top with the spring onions, dill and sesame seeds and serve.