Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for butter beans with salsa verde

Hannah, my recipe tester, has a good poker face. Her job involves bullet-proofing them by inserting comments such as “250g net prepared weight”, which would leave no cook in doubt. Rarely does she break from this and use exclamation marks and excitable phrases – with the exception of this recipe, which came back to me with the note: “The whole family is obsessed!!!”

Salsa verde, if you’ve not encountered it before, is one of Italy’s finest sauces, usually made with sweet herbs and olive oil, which are given a smack around the chops with garlic, lemon and pickled capers. It is in our (Hannah’s family’s and my) opinion, a good match for the sleepy, creamy butter bean.

Butter beans in salsa verde

There are a couple of options when it comes to making the salsa verde. For a bit of texture, and stress relief, finely chop it with your best knife, or else use a food processor or blender. Serve with toasted ciabatta.

Prep 15 min
Cook 22 min
Serves 4

5¼ tbsp (20g) picked flat-leaf parsley
3¾ tbsp (20g) picked basil leaves
3¾ tbsp (20g) picked mint leaves (ie, from around 10 sprigs)
3 tbsp capers, drained
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
75ml olive oil (5 tbsp), plus 2 tbsp extra for cooking the beans
2 x 400g tins butterbeans, not drained
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli (optional)
¾ tsp fine sea salt (or to taste)

Put all the herbs on a large chopping board and finely chop with the capers and one of the garlic cloves, then transfer to a bowl, stir in the vinegar and the olive oil, and put to one side (alternatively, put all of these ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped and mixed, but not pureed).

Drain away about three tablespoons of the liquid from one of the tins of butter beans, but leave the other one as it is.

Put two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and, once hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for eight minutes, until really soft and starting to turn golden. Add the second garlic clove and the chilli, cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, then tip in the butter beans and all their remaining liquid. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the beans are soft and the stock has reduced a little, then stir in the salsa verde and salt to taste. Take off the heat and serve at once with toasted ciabatta to mop up the juices.