There are three main types of haricot bean: firstly, the long, thin, shiny-ivory one that the Italians sometimes call cannellini. These are delicious in salads, stews, and Tuscan bean and pasta soup; they are also the kind used in France, cooked in the Breton way and served with mutton and lamb.
The second type of haricot is the small round one of tinned baked bean fame. I think they are inferior to, and lack the flavour of, their handsomer cousins.
A member of the same family, tiny green unripe flageolets have a wonderful flavour. Haricot beans are cheap, they help to bulk out meat and they are also very nutritious and filling. The other advantage is they are very good at absorbing the flavours of the dish. If you’re serving these, there’s no need to serve either rice or potatoes.
All you need is crusty bread to mop up the juices in this superb summery salad that has more than a hint of Italy about it.
Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike will love this really thick soup crammed with beans, rice and a host of wintry veg. All you need is some good bread and cheese to go with it…
A hearty soup drawn from the rustic traditions of French cooking: vary the vegetables according to season and whatever you have to hand. All you need to serve it is plenty of crusty bread.
Whether you're a vegetarian or not, some meals without meat will eventually become a necessity - but that does not mean they can't be just as good, as this proves.
Canned baked beans definitely have their culinary place but if you want to eat the real deal, this frugal recipe is in a totally different league - a really nutritious dish.