Monday, March 18, 2013
Gigantes plaki aka Greek giant baked beans
Gigantes plaki (yigandes plaki, γίγαντες πλακί) is a popular Greek taverna dish, consisting of oven-baked fasolia gigante ("giant") beans with tomato sauce. Gigantes are occasionally also called elephant beans (elephantes) - which is the name reserved for extra large giant beans :) The gigantes are native to Greece, and the ones from Kastoria are especially prized, as well as the ones from Florina and Drama regions - all three have the PGI-designation or are recognised by the EU as products of Protected Geographical Indication.
If you're in Estonia, look out for Garrido gigantes (either canned or dried, offered by Kaupmees) or Palirria (large cans, offered by HellenicTrade - these are the ones I've been using). Elsewhere, look for the jumbo beans/elephant beans/gigantes at Greek and Middle Eastern markets. Amazon.com sells Kastoria giant beans online, and there's also a canned variety available. You can use dried or canned cannellini or lima beans instead, but you'll need to adjust cooking times accordingly.
Serve as part of a mezedes spread, or spoon onto a slice of leavened white bread. I sometimes crumble some decent feta cheese on top at the end of the baking time :P
Giant baked beans, Greek style
A recipe from BBC Good Food (September 2009), slightly modified
400 g dried giant or butter beans or 3x400 g canned beans
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (Greek, of course)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp concentrated tomato paste/pureé
2x400 g cans crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp dried oregano
couple of pinches of ground cinnamon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf/Italian parsley
If using dried beans: soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. Drain, rinse, drain again. Place in a large pan covered with fresh water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, then simmer gently for 50-60 minutes, until the beans are tender but not too soft. Drain.
If using canned beans: tip the beans onto a large colander, rinse with cold water. Drain and put aside.
Heat the oven to 180C/350F.
Make the sauce: heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over moderately low heat. Add the onion and fry for about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another 2-3 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
Add the tomato puree, sauté for a minute. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the beans) and cook for 2-3 minutes. Season generously with honey, oregano, salt and pepper, then tip in the drained cooked beans.
Transfer the mixture into a large ovenproof dish - I love using my lasagne pan - and bake for approximately one hour. Don't cover and don't stir! The dish is ready when the tomato sauce has thickened and the beans are soft and flavoursome.
Remove from the oven, cool a little. Scatter the parsley on top and drizzle with some extra olive oil.
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