Now that it’s officially spring I am turning to the brighter, more vibrant dishes I prefer. This one is inspired by a visit to a very old tapas bar I stumbled upon amongst the sprawling tobacco fields that surround the architectural wonder that is the grand old city of Granada in the south. The heat that day was soaring and the aroma of tobacco leaves and the spicy earth was absolutely intoxicating. Lured by the prospect of a cold beer and a warm smile, I was greeted by Maria who unceremoniously placed a small plate of smokey white beans in front of me alongside a wooden bowl of rustic bread and gnarled lemons. This recipe is inspired by that and is an absolutely delightful dish served alongside a salad of crisp romaine leaves adoringly dressed with a zesty lemon vinaigrette. If you can’t get hold of Manchego, use finely grated cheddar instead.
1 red onion, finely chopped
A splash of extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1-2 tsp of sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
400ml of passata
x2 400g of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (you can also use butter beans)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
15g parsley, finely chopped
4 slices of slightly stale artisan breadcrumbs (you can also use panko crumbs)
100g of Manchego cheese, finely grated
For the dressing:
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tsp of unrefined golden caster sugar
Half tsp of Dijon mustard
4 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to your taste
How I make it
Heat an oven to 180C.
Heat a large frying pan and then add a generous splash of olive oil. Add the onion, turn down the heat and fry until soft. Add the chopped garlic and the spices. Stir for a minute until they are cooked through.
Add the passata and leave to simmer for 10 minutes before adding the beans. Continue to simmer for five minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the breadcrumbs with the cheese and lemon zest. Set aside.
Take the bean mixture off the heat, add half the lemon juice (or all of it if that suits your taste buds) and a splash of water to loosen it slightly, stir through the parsley and season well. Transfer the beans to an oven proof dish, sprinkle the breadcrumb mix over the top, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling around the edges.
Remove from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes before serving.
Make the dressing by gently combining all the ingredients with a hand whisk and seasoning to your taste. Spoon over your salad leaves and garnish with pul biber. Any remaining dressing will keep in a lidded jar in the fridge for two days.