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4 Recipes That Will Make You Go Nuts for Jarred Beans

Beans are big on flavour and easy on your budget. Here are four ways to enjoy beans day or night

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By House & Garden | July 10, 2024 | Recipes

Beans are making waves in the food world, and they're very much here to stay

There are few good food stories that start with a hangover but the brand behind the unprecedented popularity of beans – Bold Bean Co – started in exactly that way. Founder Amelia Christie-Miller woke up after a particularly heavy night during her year abroad in Spain as a student to find the only food readily available to quench her needs was a jar of butter beans. It's hardly what you dream of on an empty, angry stomach but she opened the heirloom butter beans, ate a spoonful and an epiphany ensued. The beans were creamy, they had taste and a wonderful texture. They were the complete opposite of what she was used to from a tin at home in the UK, which you would never plunge a fork into for a quick bite. One hangover and her entire perception of beans was changed.

Fast forward a few years and Amelia, back from Spain and following a stint as a private chef, knew that beans were her calling. “I decided to set up the business when my love of the bean had become too much,” she explains. At the House & Garden offices, particularly on the digital desk, our collective love of the bean has too become too much, thanks to the product she has created. At least once a week, one of us will cook ‘the beans’, as we have termed a recipe originally taken from NYT Cooking but since passed on and changed to reflect our individual personalities (you can find my version below). Our newest recruit, Evie, likely thought we were all mad when presented with this deep bean bonding and might think she joined a cult rather than a magazine.

Bold Bean Co is the culprit and it's simply down to the absolutely incredible quality of the product. Yes the branding is great, their social media presence speaks to the right audience and they have delicious recipes but at the core of it, what Amelia offers in her jars is completely brilliant. Other regular bean discussions centre around which is our favourite; Tal and I are butter bean girls (if you haven't tried a Bold Bean Co butter bean, you must. They are fat, creamy, wonderful nuggets of joy), while Commerce Editor Bella goes all in on the chickpeas and our Digital Director is a white bean girl at heart.

It seems a very odd topic to spend so much time on but once you get on board with beans, you don't get off that train. They're a healthy source of protein for anyone trying to cut out meat (which is how I got there), they're low in fat but high in goodness and they're a very sustainable food source. Amelia agrees: “I’d been working in food sustainability and learning about the many issues facing our food system – soil erosion, climate change, food security – I then realised beans were the solution to all of them.” This isn't how the brand is marketed though, “instead,” explains Amelia, “we excite and inspire people with delicious, tempting recipes and beans so radically different from the norm that you can spoon them straight from the jar. I think that's why we've had such a great response, we're making beans desirable, not ‘good’.”

What is really brilliant about beans as an ingredient is their versatility; they're an excellent foil for fatty meats like hunks of pork or as a purée with lamb but they have the texture to carry other flavours in the way you might use pasta. With the best recipes, you can chop and change ingredients based on what you have in the house – cavolo nero can switch for kale, butter beans can swap for cannellini and fennel for onions. There is, simply, no right way to cook a bean dish and the fun, for me at least, has been in the process. “I think it’s about getting people confident about cooking with them”, Amelia states as her mission to get people thinking beans, “and seeing how they can fit them into their regular meals. We see our job as inspiring people to have beans front of mind through exciting recipes and to continue selling the best tasting beans possible. I think if we continue doing that, beans will stick around!”

She has certainly made waves in the food industry; I was already a bean convert when Bold Bean Co came onto the scene and now a full preacher in their positives as a result of her product. Tinned beans are great and they're very cheap but the quality is simply not there to really enjoy beans as a meal. When you're substituting meat or fish for beans in a recipe, why would you not spend a similar amount on the main ingredient? A final love note to beans: you can have a hot, tasty, nourishing bowl of food on the table in 15 minutes when you're cooking with beans, and what's not to love about that?

Ways to cook beans

All recipes serve two and are based on using a jar of beans, rather than a tin. If you have tins to hand, use two tins for each recipe to serve two people as a main.

Charred tomato beans

Put a pan over a high heat with no oil and let it get hot.

Add in about 15 cherry tomatoes and let them char in the pan.

Once they are charred (but not burnt) and have softened a bit, take them off the heat, add olive oil to the pan (let it cool for a minute or two first or it will splutter) and then squash the tomatoes to let the juices out and break up the flesh.

Next, add a large clove of chopped garlic (or two smaller ones), season with salt and pepper and add some chilli flakes.

Let this cook down on a low heat for a few minutes.

Add a drained jar of beans of your choice and about 300ml of stock of your choice and let it bubble and cook down until you can drag a spoon through the pan and see a line but it is still soupy.

Take it off the heat, add some parmesan, more salt and pepper and chopped parsley. If you want to, add more parmesan to serve.

White beans and greens

This is an interpretation of a recipe which originally appeared on NYT Cooking

Heat a pan over a low-medium heat with a good, generous glug of olive oil.

Thinly slice half an onion and add to the pan, along with two sliced (or diced, it's all your choice) large cloves of garlic.

Let those cook for about 5 minutes until the onion has softened but not browned. If the garlic starts to catch and brown, take the pan off the heat and let it cool before putting it back on the heat. While this cooks, prepare greens of your choice (kale or cavolo nero are great, but spring greens work well if that's all you can get) by removing any thick stalks and shredding the leaves to ribbons or cutting into small pieces, as you prefer.

Add a pinch of chilli flakes (Aleppo chilli flakes are my choice) and stir, then add in a drained jar of white or cannellini beans. Stir it all together and add about 300ml stock (chicken is a good choice but vegetable works just as well).

If you want a soupier bean or less liquid, adjust accordingly. Next, add your greens on top and a pinch of salt, then put a lid on and let that steam without stirring for a few minutes.

Once the greens have wilted a decent amount, stir them in, season, turn the heat to low and let it simmer until it reaches the consistency you want.

For a thicker dish, squash some of the beans with the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat, add a squeeze of lemon juice, generous amount of parmesan and mix. Then serve in bowls with more parmesan and hunks of crusty bread.

Charred pepper borlotti beans

Finely slice three banana shallots and add to a pan with a generous glug of olive oil and pinch of salt.

While they soften and go jammy on a low heat, char a red pepper over an open flame – you can use a burner on a gas stove for this and turn it every minute or so until the skin is blackened. (Cheats can use jarred peppers but charring your own tastes better).

Put the red pepper into a plastic bag or cling film and seal it so the skin steams off then, once cooled enough to handle, remove the charred skin and seeds from the pepper and cut into strips.

Add two sliced cloves of garlic, a large handful of whole cherry tomatoes and the pepper into your pan and stir, then leave for a few minutes to allow that all to soften.

Squash the cherry tomatoes to release the juices into the pan, add a jar of Bold Bean Co queen borlotti beans and their stock into the pan and stir it all together.

Taste and season then let it simmer for ten minutes, adding water or stock if you want to loosen it up.

Take it off the heat, add chopped parsley and serve with Italian sausages.

Chickpeas and spring greens

This is the easiest, cheapest, most delicious meal that we have in very regular rotation in my house.

Add a very generous (think Jamie Oliver) amount of olive oil to a large, shallow frying pan on a low heat then add in two or three finely chopped cloves of garlic and a sprinkle of chilli flakes and let the garlic soften without browning.

Next, add in a drained jar of chickpeas and put a lid on the pan while you destem and slice your spring greens.

Add handfuls of greens on top of the chickpeas as you go, without stirring and putting the lid back on in between handfuls.

When they're all in – the amount depends on you, I like at least one head of greens in this – zest a lemon on top of the greens and add a pinch of salt.

Do not stir yet, but add the lid back on to let the greens steam for five more minutes, then stir and leave for another five minutes.

Lastly, squeeze the juice of the lemon all over, add more salt, pepper and chilli flakes to taste and then stir, serve and enjoy.

The chickpeas should be swimming in a pool of chilli and lemon oil.

This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK