Herby Butter Bean and Tomato Salad


I am, if not fanatical, then certainly evangelical when it comes to pulses.  For years I have raved and enthused about lentils, chick peas, cannellini beans and the like (please note there are recipes for all of the above on these pages).  Now it is the turn of butter beans to be my true favourite.  I say now but in fact many, many years ago in a shared house one popular communal supper was a combination of butter beans, tuna, spring onions and a lively vinaigrette.  So, whilst that particular recipe isn’t a current favourite, it seems pulses have long been popular in my life.  These days pulses are all the rage and readily available in jars which is my preferred choice.  Until recently jarred beans were the preserve of delis and Spanish shops but not only are they on the shelves of most supermarkets now but can also be delivered to your door which is how I found myself with a monthly subscription to Bold Beans.

Owing to this regular arrival of beans I have upped the pulse game Chez May and we eat a lot of them although that we doesn’t include my son who says he has been over pulsed and needs a break.  Endless winter suppers have been bolstered and padded out with these beans and now it is the turn of our summer salads to be pulsified.

The recipe that follows couldn’t be easier, in fact it is barely a recipe.  It utilises half of a batch of my fresh herb sauce (July 2013) but I recommend you still make the whole amount as you will certainly find a use for the other half*.  This is a salad with some backbone which is always useful, nothing to go particularly limp here so it can be made ahead of time and, in fact, is still good the next day so ideal for lunch boxes.  It can easily be scaled up so handy for summer lunch parties.  Above all though, it is the work of minutes and truly delicious.

Herby butter bean and tomato salad

1 700g jar butter beans, drained and rinsed (usually around 500g net)

1/2 batch fresh herb sauce (July 2013)

1 large handful of cherry tomatoes halved

Chopped chives (optional)

Mix the butter beans with the herb sauce and tomatoes.  Put into a serving bowl and scatter with the chives if you are using them.  Serves two for lunch or more people if there are other dishes alongside.


*If you have lots of tomatoes, simply slice then and serve with some of the leftover fresh herb sauce spooned over.  This makes a wonderful summery tomato salad and you can easily add some sliced mozzarella which is also delicious and looks fabulous.

Please excuse the really not very good photograph.


Spag Bol

I suspect a lot of us have our own version of this classic.  Whilst I don’t think it holds up as a true Italian sauce for pasta, it is delicious and has found a very welcome home here.  Few things beat a good spoonful of this richly flavoured and satisfying sauce atop a pile of spaghetti, or whatever pasta you have. This is certainly one of the first things I remember cooking in a shared house after leaving home and haven’t really stopped making it since although I have certainly refined the recipe since.  The older readers of these pages won’t, I suspect, need a recipe, but students and less experienced cooks may find it useful so here we go.

This is an excellent recipe to make quite a lot of and then divide up and freeze some smaller amounts – you will never regret having a pot of bolognese in the freezer for times when you can’t be bothered to cook or are short of food or funds.  This sauce is entirely untroubled by being frozen but do remember you can only re-freeze this if you have changed the state of the meat ie if you have defrosted raw mince you should not refreeze that raw.  If however you defrost raw mince then make this Bolognese, you can freeze the now cooked mince.

I am always keen to slip in a little extra veg where I can and some finely chopped carrot along with the onion are a great way of adding to your 5 a day and using up carrots should they be languishing in the fridge.  A handful of red lentils will melt away, become almost indistinguishable, pad out the sauce and up your fibre intake.  Both are a win win but neither are in any way essential, just tips if you have either hanging around or you need to stretch supper.


This is quite a large amount of sauce using 500g of minced beef.  This can easily be halved or make the whole amount, eat some this evening for supper and freeze the rest. If you haven’t got any tomato puree then a squirt of tomato ketchup will be fine but don’t go mad as it is quite sweet.  Probably the most important tip is long, slow cooking.

I tablespoon oil

2 onions, peeled and finely chopped

500g minced beef

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons tomato puree

2 tins peeled and/or chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 bay leaf (if you have one but entirely optional)

Warm the oil in a large pan that you have a lid for and cook the onion with a pinch of salt slowly until really soft, probably around 20 minutes, with the odd stir.  If you are using carrot too then put this in the pot with the onion.  Add the mince and cook gently until it has all changed from pink to brown at which point you can add the garlic and oregano. Give it a good stir and leave to cook for a few minutes before adding the tomato puree (or ketchup), the tinned tomatoes, salt and the bay leaf if you have one.  Once this has all come up to a gentle simmer put the lid on and leave to tick away for at least an hour but two would be better.  You could also put this into a low oven rather than leave it on the hob.  Give it a stir a couple of times during the cooking time to check nothing is catching on the bottom of the pan.  Serve with pasta* and grated cheese if you want.  Make sure any sauce you are freezing is absolutely cold before you put it into the freezer.  When you come to use it, defrost and then make sure it is heated properly ie, really hot, before you eat it.  This amount would serve 8 people.

*When you cook pasta always keep a mugful of the starchy water as this is ideal for thinning down any sauce, helping it emulsify well and coating the pasta effectively.