Warm mashed beans with lemon and thyme

One of the many wonderful things about eating a whole-food plant-based diet is that it’s a constant voyage of discovery. Wherever I am, there are always new ingredients to try out, or local recipes to adapt. Some experiments are a success, others not so much. It’s definitely not dull, that’s for sure.

Some of the tastiest ideas come from necessity rather than choice. Todays recipe is the perfect example; we needed lunch but there was only a random mix of bits and bobs left in the fridge. Fortunately, one of those things was a tub of fresh borlotti beans bought at the market the previous weekend, cooked and waiting for inspiration.

I’m over in our new house in Portugal at the moment. One of the many things I love about this area is the local fruit and vegetable market held in the local town square every morning. It’s everything you could want from a farmers market – small, local producers selling fresh seasonal products direct to the buyer. There’s colour fruit and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds as well as fresh bread and the odd jam or chutney. This photo is of me waiting patiently at my favourite tomato stall. The elderly lady you can see is the mother of the chap who grows this amazing crop at his farm just down the road to my house. It really is local produce!

Some stalls sell freshly podded beans. And I mean fresh – you can watch them do it, nimble fingers with many years experience popping out beans at quite a speed. This fresh means they are packed with many more nutrients than anything that’s tinned or dried.  I bought a huge bag for just €3 which made four different meals – cost effective as well as super healthy.

This mashed bean recipe has been floating round my head for a while. It’s super simple but amazingly tasty, although it’s not the prettiest one to look at! But ugly ducklings can bloom into something wonderful, so don’t be put off by its appearance. With the thyme, garlic and lemon juice, it’s like a Mediterranean version of recooked beans, super tasty and rather moreish.

Lunchtime can be a bit of challenge at times when eating plant-based. I’m often asked for lunchbox ideas, anything that’s not hummus. Not that there’s anything wrong with hummus! It’s just good to have a change. Although this recipe is served warm here, it can be enjoyed just as much cold as a sandwich or wrap filling with some crunchy vegetables and an extra pinch of salt.

If you don’t have access to fresh borlotti beans, don’t worry, tinned will work. Rinse them well first then pop them in the pan with everything else. If you are using fresh, pre-cook them in a little vegetable stock before mashing together will the herbs and lemon to make sure they are soft and creamy. If you can’t find borlotti beans, use cannelloni or even flageolet instead.

I served these crushed beans with a spinach and tomato salad and a couple of slices of homemade sourdough bread. Fresh, simple and delicious. If you make these, let me know how it goes, and how you ate it too. Enjoy!

Warm mashed beans with lemon and thyme (serves 3-4)
400g fresh or tinned borlotti beans
2 fat cloves garlic finely chopped
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
juice 1 lemon
salt and pepper
flaxseed or extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped chives or parsley to garnish

Place the beans and the garlic in a small pan along with 4 tablespoons of water. Heat gently stirring regularly to stop the garlic from burning. Add the thyme. When the garlic releases its aroma, carefully mash the beans until they are all broken down but with some texture. Turn off the heat, pour in the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and pour in a good glug of flaxseed or extra virgin olive oil. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Finally garnish with the chives and serve.

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