When filming A Cook’s Tour of Spain in 2008, I fell in love with the food of the country’s north. The beans were a highlight, whether cooked simply as a side, in tapas, with seafood or enriched with chorizo. Companies such as Brindisa, Bold Bean Co and Hodmedod’s are among those flying the flag for beans; theirs are so soft and succulent as to convert any skeptic. Try them in this comfort blanket of a stew: smoky clams and silky beans with the crunch of olive-oil toast, a savory lick of sherry and a burst of citrus. Yes, please.
Smoky clams and butter beans with parsley gremolata and fried bread
Prep 15 mins
cooking 30 mins
7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 red onionspeeled and finely chopped
2 fennel bulbstrimmed and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 x big jar butter beansor 2 x 400g tins (about 480g beans), drained and rinsed
250ml dry sherry
4 rooms day-old bread
For the gremolata
1 small garlic clovepeeled
2 big handfuls parsley leaves
Zest of ½ lemon
First, make the gremolata: chop the garlic, then add the parsley and chop it all together until the parsley is roughly shredded and the garlic in tiny pieces. Grate over the lemon zest, season lightly and put to one side.
Now for the beans. Warm four tablespoons of the oil in a large, deep pan over a medium heat, add the onions and fennel, and cook for 10-15 minutes, until translucent and smelling sweet. Add the garlic and paprika, cook for another few minutes, then stir in the beans and half the sherry. Heat through, cover and keep over a low, gentle heat.
While the onions cook, warm two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan and fry the bread on both sides until golden. Keep warm while you cook the clams.
Warm the remaining sherry in a small pan. Heat the last tablespoon of oil in a large pan on a high heat and, when it’s smoking hot, add the clams and cover the pan. Cook for a few minutes, then pour in the warm sherry. Keep cooking on high, shaking the pan a little, for a few more minutes, until the clams have opened (discard any that don’t). Spoon the clams into the beans, fine-strain their cooking liquid to get rid of any grit, then add that, too. Quickly bring the beans up to heat, then divide between four warmed bowls, sprinkle over the gremolata and serve immediately with the fried bread.
The simple flex
These beans are also delicious without the clams: sprinkle them with garlicky, cheesy breadcrumbs, bake and serve with a side of greens.