In my efforts to break away from the crutch of carbs these white beans have become my blue jeans. They’re my ballet slippers. The big grey jumper. They’re my stretchy black sun dress, or for The Hungry One, the football jersey that he should really let go of.  In essence, they’re what I reach for from the cupboard, far, far too often.

But staples are staples for a reason.

I don’t want to get too cocky about this, but pureed white beans might just change how you cook, and possibly how you feel.

Let me proselytize for a second. Here you’ve got the comforting squish of mashed potato. You’ve got the pliable base on a plate you’ve come to expect from rice or pasta. And you’ve got a blank canvas; except this one is as quick as anything. You don’t have to ponder which potatoes are best for mashing, you don’t have to wait for the water to boil- and hopefully these won’t make your jeans harder to pull on.

I use them a base for any slow braise, whether coq au vin, chicken casseroles with an obscene amount of garlic,  roast lamb, beef or shellfish stews.  In fact they get along very well with all sorts of Mediterranean meals. I’ve been known to use them to top shepherd’s pies. And sometimes I just have them on their own like this, with blistered tomatoes and a little bit of wafting fennel for cool contrast.

As with any pulses, yes, of course they’ll taste better if you soak them and then boil them. If you’re the sort of person who can remember to do that at 9pm on a Tuesday night or first thing in the morning, then you have all my respect. If not, buy some nice organic beans in a can. Drain them all the gloop they’ve been squatting with in the dark. Give them a rinse. Then brainstorm who else you’re going to invite out play.

While the white beans themselves are fine, they’re even nicer if you can quickly infuse some flavour, even if it’s just into the milk you’ll blitz them with.

Currently on high rotation; thyme and roasted garlic.

Lop the top off a garlic clove. Drizzle it with olive oil and put it in a 180 C/ 350 F oven for 40 minutes. Then when it’s cooled for a minute squeeze out the softened and sweet garlic cloves and add them to the beans before blending. Then steep some thyme in milk for 10 minutes over a gentle heat.

At a pinch just throw in a garlic clove to steep in the milk while it warms and fish it out ten minutes later. A bay leaf too if you’ve got it busting about.

When it comes to blending it all together drained marinated artichoke hearts are  nice. As are herbs like parsley, basil or mint. Or lemon zest. Or a terrifying amount of black pepper. Or chilli. Or wilted spinach.

Essentially, while this white bean puree may not sound like much, it’s a blank canvas for you to use to your heart (and possibly waist’s) content.

I hope it brings you as much joy as it does me.

White bean puree (with roast garlic and thyme)

Serves 1 person as main topped with roasted tomatoes, or 2 people as a base for protein or roasted vegetables. Doubles or triples easily for a crowd

Equipment
1 stick blender. 1 roasting tray. 1 pair of tongs. 1 saucepan. 1 speed peeler. 

Shopping/foraging

1 400 gram tin of butter/white or cannellini beans, rinsed
1 bulb of garlic with the top lopped off
2 sprigs of thyme
40 ml milk
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 handful of cherry tomatoes
Half a handful of shaved fennel

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat oven to 180C/350 F.

2) Place the garlic clove in a baking tray. Drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil and roast for 40 minutes, until the garlic is soft. (Nb, if you want to top the white bean puree with roasted tomatoes, add the tomatoes to the same tray and share the olive oil over them too).

3) Place the milk and thyme sprigs in a saucepan over a very low heat for 10 minutes to infuse.

4) Remove the thyme and add the rinsed white beans to the milk. Use a pair of tongs, or put on a pair of rubber gloves to squeeze the roasted garlic out of its cases and into the beans.

5) Use a stick blender to puree the beans, milk and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

6) Warm the bean mixture in the pan where the milk was.

7) Top the warm beans with the roasted tomatoes and some shaved fennel. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil

You could also add parmesan shavings, goat’s cheese or feta to the top. You could also add some coins of chorizo for extra flavour.

Lovely on its own, or with a piece of grilled fish, lamb, chicken or steak on the side.

Other pulse high, carb low dinner options

Black bean, pumpkin and coconut bowl

Chickpeas, broccolini, garlic, chilli and lemon
 



Mexican kidney bean salad