My latest New Statesman column concerns dried beans. I gave a recipe for one such bean stew here.
I cook these stews often, with variations. The following, unlike the one mentioned in the column, does not include chicken stock; to add interest to the sauce, I added tomato paste. For 4.
250 g dried haricot beans, soaked for five hours or longer
4 cloves garlic, three whole and one chopped
2 onions, peeled but left whole
4 slices cooked roast pork, cut into fork-sized pieces
Handful smoked lardons
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 tbsp olive oil
Drain the beans. In a casserole, cover them with water with a few cms to spare. Bring to the boil, skim off the scum, and throw in the onions and garlic. Cover, and simmer on a low heat until tender. (Cooking times of dried beans are not predictable; it may take from one hour to three or more.) Keep checking the level of the liquid. As the beans approach softness, take the lid off the pan to allow evaporation, until you have beans in a thickened, sludgy sauce. Discard the onions; squeeze the soft garlic from the hulls, and return it to the pan.
In a small frying pan, soften the chopped garlic in the olive oil over a gentle heat. Pour it into the casserole. Stir in the pork, lardons, and tomato paste; add the salt you want. Cover the stew with breadcrumbs, and bake at gas mark 6/200 C for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the stew is bubbling.