Tin can allies: two budget recipes with a tin of butter beans, by Jess Elliott Dennison
Two meals for about £1 a head: tomato, leek and oregano beans with feta, and butter-bean mash with sausage and lemony greens
I would happily write a whole book about butter beans – they’re the tin I reach for most. Butter beans are such a cheap and versatile ingredient, and they have such a comforting quality. In our house, we always make a midweek version of tomato, leek and oregano beans (essentially posh beans on toast), which always hits the spot after a long day at work. The tin juices, meanwhile, are primarily responsible for making bean mash really creamy – just delicious with crisp sausagemeat. So, whatever you do, hold on to some of that wonderfully starchy liquid.
This is super-flexible, so feel free to swap the leek for onion or spring onion, the rosemary for sage, the white wine for red (or stock) – in short, use whatever's to hand in the cupboard.
Prep 5 minCook 30 minServes 2
3 tbsp olive oil 1 leek, sliced2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and minced or finely grated 2 sprigs rosemary, stripped and roughly chopped 1 tsp sea salt flakes 1 tsp dried oreganoA pinch of chilli flakes, plus extra to taste 2 tbsp white wine 1 x 400g tin peeled plum tomatoes2 x 400g tins butter beans, drainedA pinch of sugar 40g fetaSourdough, to serve (optional)
Heat the oil in a large, wide pan, then add the leek, garlic, rosemary, salt, oregano and chilli flakes, and fry gently on a low heat, stirring occasionally, for eight to 10 minutes, until the sliced leek is really soft and silky (take care the garlic doesn't burn, though).
Add the wine and tomatoes, then turn up the heat to high and use a wooden spoon or fork to crush the tomatoes. Add the butter beans, crushing half of them in your hand as you do so – this will help to thicken the sauce. Simmer on high for five minutes – the sauce will rapidly reduce and sweeten – then have a taste: you may want to add a pinch of sugar, extra chilli flakes or salt.
Divide between two bowls, crumble over the feta, and serve with a couple of slices of toasted sourdough rubbed with garlic and olive oil, if you like.
As much as I love traditional mashed potato, I now find I’m increasingly making mash with tinned butter beans – it's just so much quicker and easier, and just as tasty. Having a toddler in the house means that even boiling a pan of potatoes can feel like a major challenge, so there's huge appeal in only having to open a tin of beans. When frying the sausagemeat, you want to encourage colour and caramelisation in the pan, because it's the crisp bits that contrast with the creamy mash and make the dish so pleasing. I’m not here to judge if you find yourself eating them straight from the pan with a wooden spoon!
Prep 5 minCook 10 minServes 2
2 tbsp olive oil, plus a splash extra for the sausages10 sage leaves, roughly torn2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed with the side of a knife and roughly chopped1 x 400g butter beans 60g spring greens or kale, shredded Zest and juice of ½ lemon Sea salt flakes and black pepper 3 good-quality pork sausages ½ tsp fennel seeds 3 tbsp milk
In a small frying pan, heat the oil, sage and garlic on a medium heat for four to five minutes, until fragrant. Drain off most of the bean juice from the can, leaving just a few splashes, behind, then tip the beans and the remaining can juices into the pan, stir in the spring greens, lemon juice and zest, and a pinch of salt, and simmer for three minutes to wilt the greens. Take off the heat. Meanwhile, put a frying pan on a high heat. Cut a long slit along each sausage, peel off their skins, then add the meat to the hot pan with the fennel seeds and plenty of black pepper. Fry for four to five minutes, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until you’ve got crunchy nuggets of crispy sausage, then take off from the heat. (Depending on their fat content, you may need to add a splash of oil to help the sausages along.)
Splash the milk into the bean pan, then, using a potato masher or fork, crush to chunky mash. Divide the butter beans between two plates, then spoon over the crisp sausage mix, top with a little extra lemon zest, if you like, and serve.
Jess Elliott Dennison is the author of Tin Can Magic, published by Hardie Grant at £15. To order a copy for £13.65, go to guardianbookshop.com5 min 30 min 2 3 tbsp olive oil 1 leek 2 fat garlic cloves 2 sprigs rosemary 1 tsp sea salt flakes 1 tsp dried oreganoA pinch of chilli flakes 2 tbsp white wine 1 x 400g tin peeled plum tomatoes2 x 400g tins butter beans A pinch of sugar 40g fetaSourdough 5 min 10 min 2 2 tbsp olive oil 10 sage leaves 2 garlic cloves 1 x 400g butter beans 60g spring greens or kale Zest and juice of ½ lemon Sea salt flakes and black pepper 3 good-quality pork sausages ½ tsp fennel seeds 3 tbsp milk