Meera Sodhas vegan recipe for leeks, saffron and haricot beans

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The new vegan A slow-cooked vegetable hotpot with herby French onion tones

Margot Henderson is a food hero of mine. When I moved flats in London, I wanted to be sure of two things: that I had a patch of grass to call my own and that I lived within a short radius of her( and Melanie Arnold’s) Rochelle Canteen. While this dish isn’t on their menu, it was inspired by a similar slow-cooked courgette dish that is. Feeing it reminded me always to let the flavours do the talking and to keep things simple with my own cooking.

Leeks, saffron and haricot beans

Prep 12 min
Cook 35 min
Serves 4

1 lemon
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil , plus extra to finish
1 red onion , peeled and finely sliced
11/2 tsp salt
2 bay foliages
2 sprigs thyme , leaves picked
4 garlic cloves , peeled and finely sliced
4 medium leeks ( about 600 g ), peeled, cleaned and cut into 1cm rounds
2 x 400 g tins haricot beans , drained
125 ml white wine
1 good pinch saffron , about 25 stems
8 slicings sourdough bread , to serve
4 sprigs fresh mint , leaves picked and chopped( about 20 foliages)

Saffron’s flavour is complex and transformative: bittersweet, floral and grassy. When buying it, look for long, unbroken, red stamens and a stench that opposes to get out of the packet. Although it’s grown in Iran, Kashmir and Spain, we also grow it here-, for example, cultivates it in Essex and Devon.

Peel three strips of skin from the lemon using a vegetable peeler and set aside.

Over a medium flame, heat the petroleum in a medium pan for which you have a eyelid. When hot, add the onions, salt, bay foliages, lemon peel and thyme, and stir to coat in the oil. Cook for eight to 10 minutes, until soft and starting to caramelise.

Add the garlic and cook for two minutes more, until it’s starting to turn golden at the edges, then add the leeks, stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. By this time, the leeks should be softening but still fully formed; they should be bright green , not marshy and stewed.

Add the beans to the pan , turn up the heat to high, add the wine and cook for two minutes to burn off the alcohol.

Add the saffron and 125 ml water, bring to a simmer, then turn away the hot to low and set the eyelid back on the pan. Simmer for eight minutes, until the broth is reduced and beginning to thicken; it should have turned golden with the saffron. Take the pan off the heat and add one tablespoon of lemon juice from the remaining lemon.

Grill or toast the bread and set two slice in four shallow bowl. Heap a few serving spoonfuls of beans on top, scatter with the mint and drizzle with extra oil to finish.

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