Greek Food · London · Recipes · Tonia Buxton

It’s All Greek To Us: Gigandes aka Giant Beans

We firmly believe that Greek pulses have an unparalleled flavour. The white sparkling elephant beans of Kastoria, a city in the region of West Macedonia, are famous and sought after by all Greeks. Production is small, run by family owned co-ops, and the beans themselves are a P.G.I. product, meaning beans with a ‘Protected Geographical Indication’. They are part of a small list of products that keeps growing, that signifies and protects the geographical origin of European agricultural products.

Together with P.D.O. products-‘Protected Designation of Origin’-PGI labelled products, are very important as they require proof of the ‘historical’ link to the areas and regions they are produced at.

It's All Greek To Us: Gigantes aka Giant Beans

The uniqueness of the ‘gigandes’ beans from Kastoria specifically, has to do with the areas’ microclimate, which is mild and semi-mountainous. Our beans are cultivated in the middle mountain region near Aliakmonas river, with its springs of exquisite water. They are thin skinned, boil easily-‘vrastera’ as we say in Greek-and flavourful.

Our producer says: “Their deep rich flavour, reminds us of that of a sweet chestnut. They are easy to digest, and they boil easily. The ground here has a very low acidity, and it’s non-alkaline. Here in the region of Kastoria, summers are cool and temperatures are in the lows. Climate is influenced by the surrounding mountains of Gramos and Vitsi, and the running waters from the springs of Aliakmonas help produce our unique gigandes. We follow good agricultural practice so everything adds up to an excellent product.”

It's All Greek To Us: Gigantes aka Giant Beans

And excellent they are, as our giant beans are the richest source of plant based protein, and high on carbohydrates, a great source of energy. They are macrobiotic, rich in kalium phosphoricum, folic acid, iron and magnesium, phosphorus and calcium, natural antioxidants, low in salt and fats.

It's All Greek To Us: Gigantes aka Giant Beans

This miraculous food had to be part of or menu of course, cooked in the most traditional of ways: ‘Gigandes Plaki’. Our dry giant beans- ‘gigantes’ literally means ‘giants’-are soaked overnight, and then boiled until tender. They are then paired with a rich, hearty and herby tomato sauce, in which they slow cook for hours.

It's All Greek To Us: Gigantes aka Giant Beans

It's All Greek To Us: Gigantes aka Giant Beans

Enjoy this heart-warming, melt in your mouth food in all of our restaurants, pair it with flatbread and feta to really eat it like a Greek, and let us know what you think!

INGREDIENTS

When people think of Greek food they do not often think of stews but we have so many, and they are always hearty & delicious.

I often make this the night before up to stage 7, then add the rest the next day and bake.

500g dried butter beans soaked overnight or canned.

250g can kidney beans

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

2 onions finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

650g peeled and chopped (or you can used tinned)

1 fennel finely chopped.

4 pastoulma saugages finely sliced.

Large bunch of spinach washed and de-stalked.

½ glass of wine

To serve

1 tub Greek yoghurt

Juice and rind of 1 lemon or lime.

Rustic bread

RECIPE

  1. Drain the beans and put then in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil.
  2. Skim off any residue, lower the heat and cook for about 11/2 hours till tender
  3. Preheat the oven to 180’C.
  4. Drain the beans keeping a cup full of the cooking liquor and put them in a large terracotta cooking dish. Drain and rinse the kidney beans and add to the butter beans
  5. Heat a pan and add the fennel seeds dry fry for a couple of minutes till they become aromatic
  6. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil then add onions and cook till golden and soft.
  7. Add garlic, fennel and pastoulma, and gently brown off.
  8. Add tomatoes and spinach
  9. Add wine and cooking liquor
  10. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, then remove cover and cook for a further 30 minutes.

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