Saffron and garlic beans with wine-braised leeks


It’s finally raining today. The weather has been mostly gorgeous for the past 2 weeks, but even I wished for some rain after reading that the farmers were suffering from a drought. I invited a friend for lunch today and made this dish for the starter. The bright golden, garlicky beans really bring a contrast to the grey and wet weather. The baby leeks I found at the farmer’s market yesterday were braised in wine and butter until the leeks were left with thick and silky sauce, then they were broiled under the grill for a bit because I like the taste of slightly browned leeks. You can leave the step out if you like but I recommend it.




Ps. My watercress and lentil salad made it to the Guardian Cook section. 🙂 Yay!

Saffron and garlic beans with braised baby leeks

Recipe Note: Go easy on the salt, as Parmasan rind gives enough saltiness to the beans. For vegans, leave out the cheese rind and substitute with 2 tsp of tomato paste instead for the umami flavour. Also, replace butter with olive oil when braising leeks.

Serves 3-4 as a starter or 2 as a main course

For the beans

150g dried white cannellini beans

1/2 medium onion, very finely chopped

1/2 celery, very finely chopped

4 large cloves garlic, very finely chopped

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 sprig rosemary (about 10 cm), leaves finely chopped

1/2 tsp loosely packed tsp saffron strands

20g rind of Parmagiano reggiano (leave out if you are vegan)

1/4 tsp salt

700ml water

2 tsp lemon juice

A few grinds of pepper

For the leeks,

8 baby leeks or very thin leeks, white and light green part only

60ml dry vermouth or white wine

100ml water

20g butter

4 small sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

3/4 tsp salt


To serve,

20g hazelnuts, toasted, skin peeled, and chopped *

Fruity olive oil

1. Soak the beans in plenty of water for at least 8 hours. Rinse and drain.

2. Add the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat. Add the finely chopped onion, celery, and garlic with a pinch of salt. Sautee for 15 minutes until very soft Do not be tempted to increase the heat.

3. Add the saffron and rosemary. Sautee for 3 minutes.

4. Add the beans, water, and the rind of parmagiano reggiano. Bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and  simmer, with the lid slightly ajar, for 45-90mins or until tender but not falling apart. The cooking time depends on the freshness of your beans, so check after 45 mins.

5. When the beans are almost done, take the lid off and increase the heat to medium-high. Evaporate most of the liquid until there is a thick broth left in the pan.

6. Take the Parmasan rind out. Add the lemon juice to heighten the flavour. Add more salt if needed.

7. For the leeks, Add all the ingredient in a medium sized frying pan. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 10 mins. At this point, preheat the grill in the oven.

8. Take the lid off and boil off almost all the liquid. Transfer the frying pan under the grill and grill for 10 mins, or until the leeks start to turn golden. Do not burn the leeks.

9. To serve, place some beans on a plate and leeks on top. Sprinkle the hazelnuts and drizzle with olive oil.

*To toast the hazelnuts; place the nuts in a frying pan over medium heat. Toast for 10 mins or so, occasionally shaking the pan. Immediately remove from heat and place them in a clean dishtowel. Enclose them and rub them vigorously against each other until the skins come off.



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