Traditionally, gigantes is made with a very large white bean. In the UK, we replace them with butter beans which are similar if a little smaller. A classic Greek mezze dish, gigantes is tasty and filling.
I’ve made this recipe with dried beans but you can also use tinned beans. That reduces the cooking time considerably. It makes a great main with a bit of bread – something dark and flavoursome is good, or a rustic garlic bread – or a sausage.
Serves: 2-3. Prep: 5 minutes (+12 hours). Cooking time: 1.5-2 hours.
Stores: Up to three days in the fridge, up to six months in the freezer.
- 200 grams butter beans (or two tins)
- 2 medium onions
- 2-4 cloves garlic
- 1 tin crushed tomatoes
- 2 fresh tomatoes (optional)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch cinnamon
- Handful fresh flat-leafed parsley (optional)
- Large bowl
- Chopping board
- Tablespoon measure or table spoon
- Teaspoon measurement or teaspoon
- Medium pot
The night before:
- Put the beans in the bowl and cover with cold water from the tap. Make sure the water stands an inch or two over the beans which will swell overnight.
On the day:
- Chop the onion and garlic roughly.
- Heat the oil in the pan.
- Cook the onion and garlic until soft. Take care not to burn or brown it.
- Add the beans and tinned tomatoes.
- Finely chop the fresh tomatoes and add to the pan.
- Add the spices and herbs, keeping a little parsley back for serving.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- Simmer under a lid until the sauce has reduced and is thick, and the beans are tender. If the sauce thickens too soon, add more water.
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
- Keep it seasonal: instead of oregano and parsley, use whatever green herbs are in season. Thyme works beautifully; be a little careful if using rosemary since it can overpower the beans.
- Utterly traditional baked beans: if cooking this in Greece, you’d through in a couple of tablespoons of sugar to make the sauce sweeter and stickier.
- Sweet and sour: serve with a wedge of lemon on the side for a fresh acidic hit.