A bag of butter beans on the kitchen shelf was the inspiration for this month’s Irish Foodies’ Cookalong. Soaked overnight, then thrown into the pot by themselves – or with some onions, carrots and celery – for about an hour the next morning, the beans needed little attention other than checking the water level every so often. And that’s the hard work done for this Greek Bean and Tomato Stew, which is based on a recipe by great Australian cook Jill Dupliex. The rest of the prep just involves making a simple tomato sauce, adding the beans and serving with some feta sprinkled over.
When I lived in New Zealand, cooking was my way of getting to know the (then Boyfriend, now) Husband’s family and friends. Three of his sisters lived nearby in Christchurch and they, together with a boyfriend and various cousins, were regular visitors to our house. When I look back on the recipes that I gathered in those days, they rarely were for dining à deux; instead I cooked roasting tins full of Chicken with Garlic and Lemon, made overflowing pans of Beef and Chorizo Pie and baked large dishes of Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding.
It’s been years since I ate porridge regularly for breakfast. Lumpy and overboiled, it was always a one of the foods that I hated as a child – unless it was made in the Aga at Oldcastletown by my grandfather. Put into the bottom oven the previous night, his porridge was one of the highlights if we stayed overnight.
Walnuts in New Zealand are fantastic. Not only can you buy the boutique, high-quality nuts that are widely grown in this country – there’s even a Christchurch-based grower and processor that glories in the name A Cracker of a Nut – but even the imports are of a far better quality than we normally see in Ireland.