Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tasty Italian Style Beans

It is National Vegetarian Week in the UK (23rd -29th May) and I this got me thinking about recipes that epitomise a healthy and balanced vegetarian diet. I have been vegetarian for 18 years now (wow writing that makes me feel old!) and I am healthy and thoroughly enjoy the food options I eat and very rarely feel that I am missing out. When I first became veggie I was what I would class as an unhealthy vegetarian. I ate exactly what I used to eat except that I substituted real meat with fake meat e.g quorn, fake bacon and textured vegetable protein products. Now, I am not against these products at all, they are tasty, convenient and help ease some vegetarians and vegans into their chosen dietary regimes. In fact, I have had a few mock meat meals in Singapore that have been outstanding in terms of the effort that has gone into making these dishes look like the real thing (I mean who needs their fake prawn to have the exact colouring and pattern of a real prawn!). However, for me personally, my diet improved dramatically when I stopped trying to make my meals like those that I had had as a carnivore and started  using vegetables, beans and lentils as the starting point for dishes. After all, all heavily processed foods should really only feature ocassionally in our diet and fake meats are no exception. What's more lentils and beans are generally low GI, low in fat and a good source of dietary fibre, protein and vitamins and minerals.  Pulses are, for me, an important part of any diet but particularly a vegetarian diet and deserve to be used more and loved a lot. I will be trying to convert everyone to loving lentils and beans with my next few recipes. Have I won you over yet?

If you are not convinced about beans or lentils yet, here is a very easy and tasty recipe to hopefully get you into this wonderful and very useful food group. It is basically a grown up version of baked beans. It can also be used as a canape or appetiser spread on thin toasts or blitzed in the blender to make a tasty dip to serve with veggie crudites. 

Tasty Italian Style Beans (Serves 2 as a light lunch)
Vegan, Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Gluten free

410g Can of Cannellini beans or navy beans (drained weight is approx 235g)
50g Tomatoes, deseeded and chopped finely
1tbs Extra virgin olive oil
1tsp Garlic, crushed
100ml Water
1tbs Fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1tsp Fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

  • Drain and rinse the cannellini beans. 
  • In a pan over a medium low heat add the olive oil and once hot add the tomatoes and garlic. Saute for a minute then add the beans. 
  • Stir until the oil starts to be absorbed by the beans. Add the water and cook for a further few minutes before adding to chopped fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste. You may not need salt if your beans were canned in salted water. Cook for two more minutes until water is absorbed.
  • At this point I use the back of a plastic spoon to gently squash some of the beans to make a mushier bean mixture. I tend to have a ratio of 25% squashed to 75% whole beans. This is optional and you can leave all the beans whole if preferred or alternatively you can blend the mix on pulse setting in your blender to make a dip or pate which should be cooled before serving. I served mine warm on toast with a drizzle of olive oil as an alterntive version of beans on toast.

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