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Bean fest

When it comes to cannellini dishes, being healthy doesn't mean compromising on taste

 

Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee

 

Cannellini beans are nutritious, hearty and delicious. As with most beans, soaking them in advance shortens the cooking time. Their neutral flavour means their creamy texture is great at absorbing the taste of whatever ingredients they're cooked with.

 

Warm cannellini beans with shrimp, squid and frisee (pictured)

 

300 grams dried cannellini beans
2 bay leaves
6 whole black peppercorns
1 thyme sprig
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 shallots, peeled
½ a medium-sized carrot, chopped into large chunks
110ml extra-virgin olive oil, divided
30ml fresh lemon juice
1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced
The finely grated zest of one lemon
Granulated sugar, if needed
12 shrimp, with bodies about 4cm long
8-12 small fresh squid
8-12 cherry tomatoes
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chervil or Italian parsley leaves
Frisee, as needed

 

Rinse the beans and drain them, then put them in a bowl with enough water to cover them by about 2cm. Add 30 grams of salt and stir to dissolve. Leave in a cool place for eight to 10 hours. Drain off the water then put the beans in a pan and add fresh water to cover them by about 2cm. Put the bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme sprig in a small cloth bag (the type used to make infusions, and which are sold in Japanese supermarkets), fold the top of the bag over to secure the ingredients, and put it in the pan. Add the garlic cloves, shallots and carrot. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer until the beans are tender but not mushy. Drain the beans thoroughly and put them in a bowl. Remove and discard the garlic, shallot, carrot and the bag containing the aromatics. While the beans are still hot, add 90ml of olive oil, the lemon juice and minced garlic, then season lightly with salt and stir gently (the beans are fragile). Leave the beans to cool slightly while preparing the other ingredients.

Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp. Cut a slit down the back of each shrimp and remove the black vein. Clean the squid by pulling off the heads and tentacles. Trim off and discard the heads. Clean out the bodies and remove the skin, then cut the bodies into 5mm rings. Rinse the tentacles and squid rings. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the shrimp and blanch until they curl and turn pink. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spatula, drain them thoroughly and put them in a bowl. Add the squid tentacles and rings to the boiling water and cook for 15 seconds. Drain them thoroughly, then put them in the bowl with the shrimp. Drizzle with 20ml of olive oil, season lightly with salt and mix. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

Put the frisee on a plate. Add black pepper and the lemon zest to the beans and mix thoroughly, then taste for seasoning. If the beans are too acidic, mix in a little sugar; if they seem dry, add more olive oil and lemon juice. Gently mix in the chervil or parsley leaves. Pile the beans on the plate, add the shrimp, squid and tomatoes, then serve.

 

Cannellini bean soup with fennel, pancetta and roasted garlic

 

400 grams dried cannellini beans
1 whole head of garlic
60ml olive oil, divided
30 grams unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and pale green part only
200 grams thickly sliced pancetta, cut into 3mm-wide pieces
1 large carrot, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 medium-sized fennel bulb, trimmed of its core and tough outer fibres, then diced
2 bay leaves
500ml unsalted chicken stock, preferably home-made
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle

 

Rinse and soak the beans as in the first recipe, but adding 40 grams of salt to the soaking water.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Trim the top from the head of garlic, cutting down just far enough to expose the cloves. Place the head of garlic on a sheet of aluminium foil, drizzle with 30ml of olive oil, then loosely wrap the foil around the garlic. Roast at 200 degrees until the garlic is very soft (about 45 minutes). When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the flesh from the skin. Mash the garlic to a smooth paste.

Drain the beans. Remove and discard the stem ends from the leeks. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, slice them into 5mm-wide pieces, put them into a colander and rinse thoroughly. Heat the butter and 30ml of olive oil in a pan, add the leek and pancetta and cook over a low flame until the leek starts to wilt. Stir in the carrot, potato and fennel, and season lightly with salt. Add the drained beans, bay leaves, roasted garlic, chicken stock and 500ml of water. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat again, then simmer until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Ladle about one quarter of the beans into a food processor or blender and purée until smooth, then stir this back into the soup. If the soup is too thick, add more water or chicken stock. Correct the seasonings then heat the soup over a medium flame until simmering, stirring often. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and serve.

 

 

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