How I cook by Skye Gyngell is a really nice book, but like Nigella Lawson's Kitchen there's a bit too much of a focus on meat for it to become a collection of recipes that I'll turn to again and again. One dish, however, that grabbed my attention on the first flick through was a white bean gratin in which the beans are cooked with creme fraiche and garlic. I thought it sounded delicious and resolved to give it a try on the basis that autumn's arrival warrants something a bit more ribsticking than a side order of mange tout.
For the beans
250g dried flageolet beans
Big sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
A whole fresh red chili, pierced all over
For the gratin
300ml of double cream
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated
Sprig of thyme, leaves stripped from the stalk and finely chopped
50g freshly grated parmesan
50g white breadcrumbs
20g unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
On the day before you want to cook the gratin soak the flageolet beans in plenty of cold water. Leave overnight.
The following day, drain and rinse the beans. Put in a heavy based pan. Tie up the rosemary and bay leaves in a piece of muslin and add to the pan with the garlic cloves and the chilli. Cover the beans with cold water and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum that appears. Turn down the heat and cook for two hours, or until the beans are tender. You will need to add more water during the cooking time so keep an eye on the beans. Drain once they are cooked.
When you are ready to cook the gratin pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
Mix together the cream, grated garlic cloves, and thyme. Season very well with salt - when you taste the cream mixture it should seem over-salted, but remember that the beans have not been salted during their cooking time (to prevent the skins from becoming tough). Add the beans to the cream mixture, and then pour into an ovenproof dish. Cover the top with parmesan and breadcrumbs, and dot with butter. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until golden on top.
I served this just with some steamed broccoli on the side, but I think it would be good with ham or gammon for the carnivores amongst you.