The noble Borlotto
The noble Borlotto is King among legumes.
Grown most successfully in the Veneto and specifically in Lamon where they are famed for their production (if you are buying dried Borlotti, then it’s worth looking for the origin Lamon), borlotti beans are high in potassium and magnesium as well as giving a decent dose of iron and vitamin B6. Borlotti are extremely good for you and just the ticket as the weather turns colder.
With a beautifully nutty flavour and creamy texture very little needs to be done to them to create a fabulous side dish. Put the podded beans in to a cast-iron pan with a couple of cloves of garlic, a couple of chopped tomatoes, a few sage leaves and a generous glug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Then add water to just cover the beans. Bake in the oven (around 170C) with the lid on until they are completely soft but still holding their form. A dash of good vinegar and a swirl of decisive EVOO brings them to life once cooked. THIS is what beans on toast is all about. Served with a soft poached egg and you will be in anglo-italian brunch heaven.
If you’re looking for further inspiration, Ed Smith’s brilliant ‘On The Side’ book has a great recipe for Borlotti beans with cavolo nero that he suggests should accompany slow cooked lamb. Regal flavour combinations going on here as he also includes some hazelnut.
Borlotti are also incredible in stews and soups, which couldn’t be better for this time of the year. Rachel Roddy has a wonderful recipe for Pasta e Fagioli in her bible ‘Five Quarters’ that we sometimes also add a pepperoncino to. This is one of the most comforting dishes you could eat – it truly is soul food.
The one tip I can give you for cooking Borlotti is not to over salt early in the process, otherwise the skins can remain tough. Better to add salt when they are almost cooked, just so it integrates.