Monday, January 25, 2021

Cook this: Giant beans with celery and smoked pork belly from Aegean

Cook this: Giant beans with celery and smoked pork belly from Aegean

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Here, she seasons the pot with smoked pork belly but you can just as easily leave it out for a warming vegetarian dish. With or without the pork, giant beans are a meal in and of themselves.

“Adding pork belly just makes the dish more luxurious, but I definitely don’t think it’s necessary to add meat to beautiful bean stews, chickpea stews or lentil stews. You can get an amazing result without the meat,” says Leivaditaki.

“Butter beans are just like chestnuts in my eyes. They have this beautiful nuttiness that comes through that other beans don’t — and incredible texture.”

London-based chef Marianna Leivaditaki draws on her Cretan upbringing in Aegean, a collection of recipes from the sea, land and mountains. Photo by Interlink Books


2 cups (350 g) dried giant beans (also known as gigantes, butter beans or elephant beans)
Scant 1/2 cup (100 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp (15 mL)
2 garlic cloves, peeled but kept whole
2 medium white onions, diced
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) leafy celery, chopped
4 carrots, diced
4 bay leaves
3 rosemary sprigs, leaves finely chopped
300 g (10 1/2 oz) smoked pork belly, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Generous 3/4 cup (200 mL) white wine
1 handful of parsley, chopped
1 handful of dill, chopped
Juice of 3 lemons

Step 1

Soak the beans overnight in lots of water.

Step 2

The following day, drain and place them in a large pot with enough fresh water to cover them by about 2 in (5 cm) and add the 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of olive oil. Bring to a boil and add the garlic, onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves and rosemary to the pot. Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Add the pork belly to the pot, along with the wine, and continue cooking for another 1 hour. The beans should begin to soften and some of them will break up, making the dish quite creamy. The pork belly should also be tender, but if you need to, cook gently for longer to achieve this — the time can vary a lot, depending on the quality of the beans you are using.

Step 3

When you are happy with the textures, add the remaining olive oil, parsley, dill and lemon juice to the pot, give it a stir and turn the heat off. Let the beans sit for a while before serving.

Step 4

This dish will only get better with time, so any leftovers will be perfect for the next couple of days.

Serves: 4–6 as a sharing plate

Recipe and image excerpted from Aegean by Marianna Leivaditaki. Published in 2020 by Interlink Books. Used with permission from the publisher.

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