• Black eyed beans & sausage

    Blackeyed beans & sausage

    Black eyed beans are great little folk of the pulse family. They have real character – an attractive earthy yet savoury flavour – and because they’re quite small they respond quickly to a short soak in lukewarm water followed by a relatively short cooking time.

    Buy the beans from a busy supplier who moves stock quickly. ‘Fresh’ rather than stale beans will cook far more quickly. Mine were done in barely 45 minutes after an hour’s soak which is pretty good compared with cannellini beans that can take much longer.

    Find a tasty cured sausage, Italian or otherwise, as this will be the robust flavour note in the dish. Spicy chorizo is good, the chilli lift complementing the beans and tomato most agreeably. Chilli is not uncommon in Italy, particularly in southern or eastern parts. The Abruzzi region (on Italy’s eastern coast) favours quite a bit of chilli in various dishes, as do the Romans and others further south who have come under Spanish and Moorish influences. Those plain eaters the Tuscans would approve of the rustic beans but be more inclined to use a much milder sausage. The choice is up to you.

    The slightly medicinal, bitter tang of sage combines nicely with the hearty beans, sausage and tomato. Here it is used in two guises – a sprig of fresh leaves cooked with the beans and extra leaves fried off until crispy as a last minute addition. Try with a juicy Italian red like Il Nero di Casanova />

    The Recipe

    Black eyed beans with sausage and tomato (serves 3-4)
    200g dried black eyed beans soaked in plenty of lukewarm water for at least half an hour
    large sprig sage leaves
    1 tbsp olive oil
    Drain the beans of their soaking water and then place in a large pot with the fresh sage, olive oil and enough water to cover well. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender – start checking at the 40 minute mark. Drain, reserving a cup of cooking liquid for later use. Discard the sage. You can store the beans in the fridge at this point if that is convenient.

    2 tbsp olive oil
    2-3 fat chorizo or other sausages, cut into thick oblique slices
    1 large onion
    2 cloves garlic
    400g tin Italian chopped tomatoes and their juice
    salt and pepper
    cooked black eyed beans (as above)
    reserved bean cooking liquid
    12 whole sage leaves, fried in olive oil until crispy and drained on paper towel

    Heat the olive oil in a large fry pan and fry the sausage slices for a few moments until lightly coloured. Remove. There will be some tasty scrapings in the pan so cook the onion and garlic gently in the remaining oil (without cleaning the pan) for about 8 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and juice and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or two. Add the beans and sausage and stir around well. Add about half a cup (to start with) of the bean cooking water and simmer for a minute for all the flavours to meld. Add more liquid if necessary. Lastly stir in the sage leaves. Serve immediately. This bean stew keeps well in the fridge.