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Borlotti beans

Look at the beautiful beans I found in Selfridges. I think I’m the only person who bought any because the next week they were still there, drier, sadder, the pods leathery. I’ve seen them in Borough Market before, and in foreign markets, too. The podded beans are cool and smooth to touch, quite firm, too. I’ve never come across fresh chick peas or fresh lentils. I’d love to try both. Maybe they’re only grown to be dried.

We eat so many beans in England; broad and french and green, kidney and butter. Let’s not forget baked. But fresh borlotti are a rarity. I think they’re called scritti in Italy because it looks like someone has marked them with a quill dipped in red ink. The marks disappear when they’re cooked and the beans darken to a two-day tan.

You can cook them in water with some aromatics – a carrot, celery, a tomato and a bay leaf or two. Simmer for forty minutes or until soft. I’ve seen advice not to season until after they’re cooked or they’ll toughen but I didn’t find that. Maybe that only applies to dried beans. They’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. You can add them to other dishes at whim.

Last week I added the raw beans to some chicken pieces braising in Marsala with fennel, black garlic, thyme and a peeled and chopped tomato. I let it bubble away gently until the meat was done. The beans were soft, lovely to eat. It all worked out well.

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