3 November 2020

The Best Beans

Posted by the Cake Shop

Lots of people have reconnected with legumes and beans over the past months. Beans are a wondrous thing, an ancient form of nutrition that remains a contemporary cupboard staple, whether straight from tin to toast, or dried, soaked, and cooked on the stove. Dress them up in a fatty barbecue sauce for a comforting meal at home, or slim them down into humus. We’re firmly of the opinion that all beans are beautiful.

That said…

A few months ago Walter, our trusty cheeseman, brought us a brown paper bag of what have become know around the shop as The Best Beans Terry Has Ever Eaten: pale pink pinto beans, from the steep slopes of the Cõa valley in north-east Portugal, where Emilia Reigado and her husband have farmed for over 20 years. The summers are dry and hot; wild lavender, animals and insects flourish amongst olive groves and almond trees, which the Reigado family intercrop with a wide variety of pulses. In addition to our beloved pintos, they grow chick peas, black-eyed beans, caterini and lupini beans, which are naturally dried and brought to the UK by Sail Cargo Co via emissions-free sail ship.

We’re smitten – and it’s yet another reminder that, as an island nation, our food culture is immeasurably enriched by the products and people that arrive to our shores from other places. We stopped by the London Docklands museum last week to give our awareness of this a little boost. The museum is a testimony to the vibrance of life on the docks, and a rich history of travel and trade that’s very much ongoing. We also plan to go down to Sittingbourne one day to visit Raybel Charters, Sail Cargo’s ‘port ally’ in London and the Thames estuary: this community group are dedicated to restoring a heritage sail barge, and putting her back into operation as an example of how wind power can provide an alternative to carbon-intensive shipping.

We don’t know exactly when we’ll have a chance to do that; for now, we’re focusing on polishing our pinto recipe into something worthy of the Best Beans. Curiously, we find they work particularly well with briny ocean flavours. We’re sharing our recipe here for you to try out at home – fit for vegans, featuring dulse, the veggie bacon of the sea – or if you're able to, you can drop into the shop in person to pick up a portion. We‘ll be open for takeaway during lockdown, serving up homemade provisions, Christmas cakes and cookies, as well as coffee, cakes and lunches. Email or phone us to order.

Serves 4–6

Medium onion, chopped roughly
2 tablespoons neutral oil
A few sprigs Suffolk sage
1 bay leaf
Burnt herbs or oregano
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1.3 litres seaweed stock
400g drained cooked pinto beans
30g dried mushrooms
Handful of quick pickled shredded carrot (or sautée some carrots)
Handful of barley
1 tin deliciously good Italian tomatoes
2–3 roasted long sweet red peppers, sliced
A good slosh of port
1 tsp Celtic sea salt

Sweat the onion in 1 tablespoon oil on a medium-low heat, add sage, bay and oregano. Squish the garlic into a paste, throw it in, stir for a minute. Add the paprika and onion powder, stir gently for a minute.

Add the stock, beans, dried mushroom, carrot, barley, tinned tomatoes, sliced peppers, port and salt, gently simmer until reduced and the barley is tender, a little thicker – 60 mins – remove bay leaf.

Top with a little seaweed relish (make this in quantities of your choice):

Dulse hydrated in a little water
Lemon juice
A slug of good olive oil and black pepper

Blitz with a stick blender.