It’s finally turned to winter here in London, so I thought it was about time I shared a super comforting, delicious and hearty dinner recipe. This Greek Butter Bean Pie will warm you up and have you dreaming of bright sunshine and bleached skies before it’s even out of the oven and onto your plate.
One of my absolute favourite Greek mezes is Gigantes Plaki, or baked giant beans. It’s an earthy, filling, butter bean dish cooked in a light tomato sauce; seasoned with a few simple vegetables and fresh herbs.
I’ve always enjoyed Gigantes cold, with Hummus and Baba Ghanoush (or, to be Greek, Melitzanosalata), toasted pita bread and olives; but I wondered if it could be turned into the main event.
Happily, it can – and wonderfully so! With a few tweaks to the recipe this turned out to be just as delicious as I’d hoped. This dish is:
- wholesome; and
- really, really easy to make!
If you love the flavours of Greece – tomatoes, lemon, dill and oregano – you’re going to fall head over heels for this recipe. The layer of wilted spinach adds a delicious, nutrient-rich element, and soaks up the rich flavours of the sauce. But! Sprinkling on extra dried oregano and a little extra olive oil before baking the pie really takes it from humble to special. So simple, yet so, so good.
I’ve called this a pie because the baking really thickens up the sauce and creates something almost sliceable in thickness, but you could cook it for less time and enjoy it as a stew. Some other variations include:
- leaving it to cool (if you can hold yourself back) for a week’s worth of meze, salad toppings or sandwich fillings;
- spooning it onto toast for a tasty variation on baked beans;
- scooping it into jacket potatoes with some hummus; or
- simmering it in a big pot with some extra water or stock for the base of a wondrous sausage casserole.
You really can do a lot with a simple bean recipe! I used dried butter beans, soaked overnight, because I think they’re much nicer in taste and texture. But feel free to use tinned beans if you’re in a hurry (or indeed, if you want to go home right now and make this for dinner).
Keep an eye out for next week’s recipe – I’ll be sharing something really tasty that’s just perfect sprinkled on top of this pie.
- 200g dried butter beans, soaked overnight (or 3 tins of pre-cooked butter beans)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 white onion
- 1 carrot
- 2 celery stalks
- 4-6 garlic cloves
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp + 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 30g fresh dill
- 200g fresh spinach
- If you haven't already pre-cooked the butter beans, put them on to boil in a large pan of water. Leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes - about the same time it takes to prepare the sauce.
- While the beans are cooking, make the sauce. Chop the onion, carrot and celery small, all to a similar size.
- Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a large frying pan and add these to the pan.
- Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Slice the garlic and add this to the pan, giving it all a good stir.
- Now stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, lemon juice, 1 tbsp of oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Chop the dill (discarding any thick or tough stalks) and stir this in too.
- Leave the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes.
- While this is cooking, wilt the spinach in a separate pan until there is no water remaining from the leaves.
- Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
- You can now assemble the pie. Line the bottom of an oven dish or pie tin with the spinach. Drain the butter beans and stir these into the tomato sauce. Gently pour this over the spinach and level it out. Sprinkle on the rest of the oregano and olive oil.
- Cook on a middle shelf for 30 minutes.