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Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Borlotti beans are staples in Italian cuisine and are consumed in quantities in Greece, Turkey and Portugal. The best type is considered to be those grown in the Veneto region of Italy, with Lamon being particularly renowned for its production of borlotti beans. They are related to the green bean and kidney beans but are easily distinguished by their pods which are beige with pink, red or magenta streaks. In the Mediterranean where they are grown it is usual to buy them in their pods, but they can be found canned or bottled in supermarkets around the world. They are most frequently found dried, and as they also have pinky streaks on them they are easy to spot. Unfortunately they lose their colour when they are cooked and become a rather more boring brown. In the US they are called cranberry beans, presumably because the streaks on the pods and beans are the colour of cranberries.
   They originated in Colombia in the South American continent and were one of the crops that found their way into Europe with the Spanish and Portuguese explorers. (They are the cargamento bean.) The Italians, who were the first Europeans to embrace the tomato wholeheartedly, took to the borlotti bean too and now you can eat them in Italy in stews with polenta and in salads as well in appetizers along with prosciutto and lots of flat-leaved parsley and olive oil.
  These are very versatile beans with a nutty flavour reminiscent of chestnuts and with a meaty texture. They make very good beans on toast as a substitute for the more commonly used haricot beans.
  Borlotti beans are potassium rich so are good for the muscles and for the proper functioning of the kidneys. They contain other minerals which include sodium, zinc, selenium, copper, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron and phosphorous as well as Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. As for vitamins, they contain vitamin A and several of the B-complex vitamins including B1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. Borlotti beans also contain 18 amino acids along with dietary fibre and protein.
  They are good combined with other beans in a cold salad, and make a hearty addition to stews and casseroles. They are on of the essential ingredients in an Italian minestrone soup. You can add them to a Greek salad to make it more substantial.
  If you aren’t lucky enough to be able to buy fresh borlotti beans, then you will need to soak the dried ones in plenty of water overnight, and should cook them without adding salt to the water.

200 gr dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight and drained
3 or 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small bunch of fresh sage
2 tbsps olive oil

Put the drained beans in a large pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the other ingredients and stir to mix.
Add water so that the beans are just covered and put the lid on the pan.
This can be baked in a moderate oven or cooked over a low heat on top of the stove.
When the beans are soft but still retain their shape they are cooked.
Leave to cool if you are using them in a salad.
These have Taste and are a Treat.

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