There is a lot you can do with this dish. It’s packed with flavour and works well with good bread and spreads, so think picnic, lunch or easy light meal.
1 cup dried white beans (haricot or navy)
1 tsp red wine or sherry vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Tbsp drained capers
75 (5 Tbsp) ml olive oil
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Flaky sea salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large red pepper (bell pepper/capsicum), halved, cored, deseeded and chopped
½ cup black olives, halved and stoned
12 basil leaves
1 tsp tomato concentrate mixed with 1 Tbsp water
¼ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Soak the beans overnight in cold water to cover. Drain and tip into a saucepan. Pour on 6 cups of water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, remove any scum from the surface, then partially cover with a lid. Cook at a gentle bubble for about 40 minutes, or until just tender (scoop out a few beans every so often and have a check). Be careful not to overcook. Read all about uses here Pulses
2 Make the dressing while the beans are cooking. Pat capers dry with paper towels and chop finely. Put vinegar, 1 clove of garlic and capers in a bowl large enough to toss with the beans. Whisk in the extra virgin oil and parmesan cheese. When the beans are ready, drain and tip into the bowl with the dressing and toss well. Taste, and add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt if you like (I do!).
3 Put the olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan, add the onion and red pepper. Start off on a medium-high heat, then once the cooking momentum is under way, lower heat and cook gently, stirring often until nearly tender and just starting to brown. Mix tomato concentrate and water, crushed garlic and salt and stir through vegetables. Cook gently for a further 5 minutes by which time everything should smell aromatic, and the vegetables should be tender. Add olives and basil. Spoon over the dressed beans, scraping in all the juices. Mix very gently together (just 2-3 stirs) then leave at room temperature to cool. Either serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate until required. The beans will keep for a good 3 days.
If the lid keeps falling in, prop it up with the handle of a wooden spoon. If the beans are covered with a lid they will build up froth and bubble over.
If you want to make this dish using canned beans, it’s easy. Drain canned beans – stick to white beans (cannellini beans are too soft and fudgy and can mush when mixed in a salad like this one). Put the dressing ingredients except the parmesan cheese in a medium frying pan (skillet) set over a very low heat pan and add the drained beans. Warm through very gently – just shake the pan occasionally rather than stirring to avoid squashing the beans. The idea is to warm the beans enough to open them up so they can take in the flavour of the dressing. Do not get the pan too hot or you risk them frying.
Other ideas for serving Niçoise beans
Sometimes beans, salad and nuts are enough. Though you could add soft-cooked eggs sprinkled with dukkah, or canned drained tuna, eggs and dukkah.
And it is also choice with a bunch of sausages cooked nice and slow until caramelised if that is what your family love.