Greece is on my travel list for the future, however if I can't go there right now, the next best thing is to cook a very typical dish that is eaten in Greece. This is a variation of a recipe from Epirus in Northern Greece where they grow plenty of the giant butter beans called Gigantes, which over there they cook with fresh tomatoes and all kinds of wild greens, and of course lots of olive oil. Sometimes sausages are also added which sounds like a great idea to me, the dish becomes a meal in one. Gigantes means Giants, which gives the name to this dish of giant Greek Lima Beans, and is pronounced yee-gahn-dess. So that is my first Greek word that I have learnt before we travel to Greece. Most of the Greek words I learn will probably centre around food and eating out at restaurants. Isn't that generally the way though?
This dish will feed a crowd and more, and is also a great way of using up fresh tomatoes if you have an abundance. The tinned variety can easily be substituted with fresh tomatoes and I added some fresh oregano from my garden to the tomato sauce as well. Lots of fresh Italian parsley came from the morning Farmer's Market as mine hasn't matured yet.
I would also suggest with this recipe that if you like lots of tomato sauce just double the quantity and use less chicken stock as there will be lots of beans.
½ kg dried
or butter beans, or Gigantes if you can find them
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups celery, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, cut into cubes
1 410g can of crushed tomatoes
2 onions, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
1 tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Litre chicken stock (you may not need all of this)
- Soak the beans overnight covered well in water which will plump them up. Drain the beans and rinse them again.
- Fill a large saucepan with cold water, and add the beans. Don’t add any salt to the water the beans are boiled in or it will toughen them up. Bring the beans to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes then discard the water. Rinse the beans again.
- Put the beans back into the same saucepan, and fill with cold water again. The water should be about 2 inches above the beans. Add the bay leaves, celery, capsicum, and carrot, then bring to the boil. When it is bubbling, turn down the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Whilst the beans and vegetables are cooking, cook the tomato sauce. Sauté the onion and garlic in a deep frypan. Add the chilli flakes, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes and paprika. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. Using a ladle, pour the beans into a baking dish and then add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper and sugar. Mix carefully and thoroughly. Add the chicken stock. The mixture should not be like soup but should not be dry either. Bake for 35 minutes, making sure the beans are cooked.
- Crumble feta cheese over the top.
- Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley, noting that the amount of the parsley depends on the quantity of the beans.
- Then pour a little bit of extra virgin olive oil over the top.
Do you enjoy Greek food, and if so what is your favourite dish? Do you enjoy cooking with beans?