If I had a signature dish at university, this was most definitely it. Everyone in my 3rd year house had their go-to dinner; Sam had beef stew, Checky had lasagne (with her secret sauce – DOLMIO) and Amy used to rustle us up her epic jambalaya, which I may have to steal the recipe for and put up here.
This is a recipe adapted from the amazing cookbook ‘Leon‘ by Allegra McEvedy, who founded the healthy fast food chain of the same name, which you will find dotted all over London. Their homemade Lemonade, fish finger wraps and brownies are outrageously delicious. But I digress…
The original recipe is called ‘Lee’s Hippy Farm Beans’, but I’ve cooked this so many times I’ve reworked to suit my own taste, and somewhere along the way the name changed to hippy bean stew! It’s a serious crowd pleaser and is great for a non schmancy dinner party. The recipe is meat free, but even my carnivore of a boyfriend gobbles it down happily. (We once put pancetta in it to ‘meat it up’ and it tasted awful.) It’s also super healthy.
To feed four hungry people (and hopefully have some leftovers to take to work for lunch)
1 large aubergine
2 big peppers (preferably yellow/orange)
big punnet of cherry tomatoes or similar
3 red chillies (this makes it medium, you can add fresh ones into your wraps to taste – I like it HOT!)
a couple of onions of any variety
3 cloves of garlic
a couple of tins or cartons of chopped tomatoes (Sainsburys basics do me fine)
2 or 3 tins of beans – You really can mix it up here. Kidney beans, black beans, haricot beans, butter beans, mixed beans or chickpeas all work fantastically.
a bag of baby spinach
a pinch of salt
a smattering of cumin
The key ingredient: Lingham’s chilli sauce. (Available in Waitrose, big Tesco, and very occasionally Sainsburys. From time to time I’ve had to substitute with sweet chilli or hot sauces and it just isn’t the same so get it if you can).
Optional extras: Butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, basically any vegetable that will melt deliciously into the hunky stew goodness.
lime wedges/avocado if you’re feeling fancy
A corona always goes well too….
How to achieve hippy bean goodness
First up, grab a frying pan, or if you hate washing up, use your casserole dish for the whole shebang (preferably cast iron, you can get them pretty darn cheap these days). Glug some oil in and get it heating up.
Roughly chop your aubergine into 1-2cm chunks, and do the same with your peppers. Plonk them in the pan/casserole dish and get them frying until their golden (normally about 10 mins.)
Take them off the heat and season them with your pinch of salt and smattering of cumin.
Roughly chop your onions and chillies, and shmush* your garlic. Get your onions frying to get them that nice golden colour. Whack in your shmushed garlic and chillies. Don’t itch your eye at this point.
Once these are all fried up nicely, get all your golden goodies together in the casserole dish. Aubergine, peppers, chillies, garlic shmush and onions should be as one. Plop in your cherry tomatoes too, and keep it on a medium heat on the hob for a few minutes.
Crack open your chopped tomatoes and pour them in. Give it a stir. If there isn’t enough liquid (I’d say you need the liquid level to the top of the mixture), I’d half fill your empty chopped tomato tins, give them a swill to get the dregs, and pour the water in. You’re going to be reducing it later and you don’t want it to burn.
Pop in your beans and mostly importantly, a big glug of the Lingham’s. Give it all a stir and pop the lid on.
It needs cooking, on the hob at a medium to low heat, lid on for about half an hour, and then lid off for about an hour. You need to keep an eye on it and stir it from time to time.
When the stew has reduced, you’ll be left with something like this:
Hey, I never said it was pretty. You’re not going to win prizes for presentation here.
Take it off the heat, stir in about half the packet of spinach (it wilts pretty rapidly) and dump down wherever you are eating with the sour cream, wraps and whatever else you like.
* Definition of shmush: whack it with one side of your big knife until it’s pastey.