Beans Simmered in a Chianti Flask
Beans were traditionally cooked this way in Tuscany when Chianti flasks
were plentiful and blown from one piece of glass. The flask was
embedded in the glowing ashes of the hearth to cook for as long as
possible. You can use a casserole dish in the oven - it's just not as
400 g small dried cannellini beans
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
6-8 fresh sage leaves
10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,
plus extra for sprinkling
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
an ovenproof casserole dish or beanpot,
or a hand-blown Chianti flask and a roasting tin
a circle of greaseproof paper (see
method), plus extra greaseproof paper or muslin
Put the beans in an ovenproof casserole,
beanpot or hand-blown Chianti flask - don't use a modern moulded flask
with a seam, because it may crack. Add the whole unpeeled garlic
cloves, sage, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour in enough warm water to
fill the flask three-quarters full - or, if using a casserole dish or
beanpot, pour in 3 times the volume of the other ingredients.
Plug the neck of the flask with scrunched
up greaseproof paper or with rolled and folded muslin - this lets the
contents 'breathe' and stops the flask exploding. If using a casserole
or beanpot, make sure it has a tight-fitting lid.
Put the flask on its side in a roasting
tin half-filled with hot water and cook in a preheated oven at 160C
(325F) Gas 3 for 3 hours, turning every now and then. If using a
casserole dish or beanpot, cover with a lid and put it in the oven at
the same temperature and cook for 2 hours, then put a circle of
greaseproof paper directly on top of the beans to keep in the moisture.
Cover and return to the oven for another hour. The beans must be very
tender and absorb most of the water and oil.
When cooked, transfer the beans to a
heated serving dish and dress liberally with olive oil. Taste and
season with salt and pepper. This dish is best served hot, with Italian
sausages or roast pork, or as a simple first course with bread.