Sunday 24 February 2008

HoTM #12 Prune and Bean Casserole

This month Heart of the Matter is being hosted by Michelle of The Accidental Scientist and she has asked us to cook a heart-healthy stew or casserole. Michelle kindly gives some information on the difference between a soup and stew which is very useful to me, given that I often make ‘soups’ that E tells me a spoon could stand up in. She says stews have larger pieces than soup, thicker liquid and more likely to be eaten as a main course. Sounds like my soups!

But I wanted to make a stew or casserole that was different to my usual chunky soups. Unfortunately, it is not really the season in Melbourne to want thick warming stews. I love cassoulet which has gently cooked in the oven or Scotch barley stew in winter but not in summer, even if the weather is mercifully below average temperatures. But mostly I think of meat when I think of casseroles and stews. My mum used to make lots of them when I was a child. Vegetarian meals don’t need the tenderizing that meat needs and I only have one recipe that requires 10 hours of slow cooking (I must dig it out one of these days!).

The recipe I chose is one that I put in my notebooks over 15 years ago in pre-vegetarian days. This spicy prune and bean casserole fascinated me in the days when I was less and less interested in curry chicken, beef stews and sausage casseroles. It still appeals to me as being a little different. I hope it will appeal to Michelle for its health benefits - both prunes and beans contain high levels of fibre and iron.

This casserole is dark and mysterious, sweet and spicy, rich and intense. By itself it is a bit overwhelming. But served with brown rice and some vegetables it is wonderful. I made a salad of pumpkin and sugar snap peas with a tahini salad dressing from Kathryn at Lime and Lycopene (1 tbsp tahini, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp tamari, 2 tsp mustard). The salty bitter taste of the dressing worked well with the sweetness of the salad. But next time I hope the vegetables in the fridge that need to be used are more appropriate – like pumpkin and broccoli. Nevertheless, it is nice to revisit this casserole and to feel pleased to have taken down this recipe so many years ago.

Spicy Prune and Bean Casserole
Serves 4

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp finely chopped chilli or chilli paste
½ tsp cumin
125g button mushrooms, roughly sliced
440g tin of kidney beans, drained
100g pitted prunes, halved
2 tsp tomato paste
440g tin tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (I used ½ tsp salt and pepper mixture)
⅓ cup water

Heat oil in a medium size saucepan and fry onions over low heat about 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic, chilli and cumin and fry an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and stir another 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Bring to the boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check seasoning (it gets sweetened as the prunes cook). Serve with wholemeal rice and bread and vegetables.

On the Stereo:
Strange Folk: 19 strange and beautiful tracks celebrating four decades of Twisted Folk – Various Artists


  1. This sounds and looks delicious. Definitely my kind of meal. I never used to cook with prunes, but since I started getting more creative in the kitchen, they have been featured in a few dishes I have made.

  2. This is a unique stew/casserole! I love that it has prunes in it. I'm struggling to come up with a stew for the roundup, all my recipes are boring and I hoped to do something original and creative like yours. I have a few more days to get inspired!

  3. Thanks Lisa - it is quite spicy. I really like prunes in sweet cooking but haven't really come across them much in savoury cooking - after this I would be interested to. This casserole was really good tonight after sitting for a day. We just had it with couscous and broccoli.

    Thanks LisaRene - I understand your struggle (haven't just been there myself). So many stews sound and look the same but it is in tasting them that you really take in their unique flavours - which is hard to blog! Hope you find some inspiration.

  4. This sounds absolutely amazing--I'm imagining that combination of flavors and truly salivating. I have one stew recipe I used to make with prunes (from the old Silver Palate cookbooks), but haven't tried to adapt it yet (oh, and if you have a veg recipe for cassoulet, bring it on!). This one sounds perfect.

  5. I love prunes! But...the gentlemen that I live with, well let's just say I will be trying this recipe when the others are traveling! What a combination! Never thought to pair prunes with beans but you have my attention!

  6. thanks ricki - it is an interesting one - and I hope to blog a cassoulet recipe I like when it gets colder

    thanks deb - if you love prunes you will love this - shame if you can't share the love but it means you get to eat even more of it :-)

  7. This looks really good. I would be tempted to add traditional Moroccan spices to it and go for a meatless tagine sort of thing. :-)

  8. thanks ann - that sounds like a great idea - I did almost put in pumpkin and zucchini but decided to follow the recipe! But a few vegies and some moroccan spices would make this a fantastic tangine

  9. I used this recipe last night and it is great. I modified it a bit ansd used a 500gram packet of dry red beans which I soaked in warm water for about 6 hours. Then I cooked everything in my slow cooker for 8 hours. Really delicious and very healthy and filling. I also served it on brown rice.


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