A bowl of warm white beans screams comfort for me. I start by gently poaching garlic in extra virgin olive oil until it smells fragrant, then add the beans and whatever flavors I fancy — chili, herbs, or something spicy, like capers. What I eat with my beans depends on my mood: slow cooked rabbit, spatchcocked chicken, a whole roasted fish or grilled vegetables. The salsa here makes a spicy, fiery dressing with grilled leeks.
Creamy white beans with grilled leek and a salsa of capers and mint
Preparation 15 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
4 big (or 6 medium) leekscleaned and cut in half in the middle
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oilplus a little extra for brushing
4 cloves of garlicpeeled and sliced
2 x 400g cans butter beansdrained and rinsed
1 red pepper
Salt and pepper
For the salsa
½ red onionminced meat
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bunch of mint
1 heaping tablespoon of capers
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Bring a deep pot of salted water to a boil and simmer the leek halves for three to four minutes, until tender (use a sharp knife to check), but still holding their shape so they are able to grill later. Remove and let cool.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over the lowest heat, add the garlic and cook gently, stirring often, for five to six minutes, until just starting to brown around the edges. Add the beans, a splash of water and season to taste, then cook for five minutes, to warm through, press a few beans lightly against the side of the pan to melt them all together.
Start the sauce by placing the onion in a medium bowl and stirring in the vinegar. Set aside to give the onion time to relax in the vinegar.
Heat a griddle pan over high heat and, when it is piping hot, place the chili pepper in a corner. Brush the cooked leeks with a little oil and grill them next to the chilli, turning after two to three minutes, once nicely marked with charred lines. When the leek is cooked and sufficiently charred, transfer to a plate and keep warm. Don’t worry if some fall apart – they will still be delicious. Continue with the chili until lightly charred and tender throughout.
Cut the stem of the chili pepper and then roughly chop the flesh. Tear the mint leaves from the stems, place them on the plate with the chilli and capers and chop vigorously until the mint is in small pieces. Scrape into the onion bowl, season and stir in the oil. Taste the relish and season with salt and more vinegar if necessary. It should be crisp, sharp and clear with a little heat. (If you have an extra lemon or orange in the fruit bowl, you can add the zest.)
Heat the beans through and divide among preheated plates. Use tongs to arrange the leeks on top, spoon the salsa over and serve.
The simple flex
These beans are a midweek meal on their own, but they would also be delicious as a side dish to a free-range pork or lamb chop.