Well, I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in jolly old London we’ve had a pretty miserable start, weather-wise, to 2008.
Day after day after day after day of the wet stuff and lots of grey cloudy skies... It’s not good for the soul, that’s for sure.
Still, there are some upsides... One, it makes me riffle through the recipe books for some cheery, comforting, spirit-lifting nosh ideas. Obviously, I really don’t like spending my time doing that. ;)
Two, after said riffling, we then get to eat some joyous, cuddle-you-from-the-inside kind of food.
Nigel Slater is probably one of the most prodigious creators of just this type of recipe – almost every dish he comes up with seems to be a culinary equivalent of a warm embrace.
This particular bean and bacon gratin from ‘our Nige’ is at the gastronomic bear-hug end of the spectrum, with a big kiss thrown in – rich, creamy, starchy, cheesy, filling, and very, very more-ish indeed. I’ve tweaked it a bit with a bit of wine to cut through the richness, and then some double cream to, er, add the richness back in again (actually, to make prevent the sauce from getting a bit dry).
Oh, and because this is a legume recipe, it’s also my entry to the appropriately named ‘My legume love affair’ challenge hosted by the lovely Well Seasoned Cook.
Here it is...
1 large onion
2 tbsp olive oil
some thyme sprigs
smoked bacon (six chopped rashers) or equivalent quantity pancetta cubes
2 x 400g cans haricot beans (cannellini, flageolet, or possibly black-eyed beans would also work)
200g crème fraîche
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
Optional extras: a glug of white wine, and a glug of double cream
1. Set the oven to 200C/gas mark 6
2. Peel onion, halve it then cut into thick slices.
3. Pour olive oil into deepish non-stick frying pan (I used a Le Creuset pot)
4. Cook onions till golden and soft, and then add leaves from the thyme sprigs and stir in
5. Put the bacon or pancetta into the pan and stir occasionally until ‘fragrant’ (it’s all lovely and fragrant by this stage, so I’m not sure that this is Nigel’s most helpful instruction ever) but not browned. (And then add in your glug of wine at this stage, if you’re using it, and bubble off the alcohol.)
6. Drain beans, and rinse in a sieve under cold tap.
7. Tip the beans into the onions and bacon, then add the crème fraîche (and double cream, if using) and stir it all till it’s bubbling gently.
8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
9. Put in a baking dish, grate cheese over the top, then bake for 30 minutes until the top browns, crisps a little, and bubbles around the edges.
This is so filling that you won’t actually need anything with it. But what’s need got to do with it? We’re talking about having hugs here, not air kisses. If you want something, I suggest a simple green leaf salad and a fresh baguette to mop up the delicious, creamy cheesey sauce.
Oh, and enjoy, obviously...