Posted by Debbie Dexter

We love growing Borlotti Beans, the red pods look exotic & gorgeous in the garden & we mix them with some climbing Sweet Peas, this year we used White Ensign. Borlotti Beans are not heavy croppers like other beans but the fact they are virtually impossible to buy fresh makes them all the more worthwhile growing. Any we do not use are dried and used through winter in casseroles (although I admit we tend to eat them all fresh.)

This Summer has been particularly good for the Borlottis – the red blotched pods have formed well and the white/red speckled beans are plump & full of meaty texture. We grow a dwarf variety ‘Supremo Nano’ in pots and allow the climbing variety ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ to climb up a wooden teepee. They love lots of moisture so we incorporate loads of compost at the beginning to help with water retention.

We like to use a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe as it is so full of flavour & brings out the Borlotti Beans meaty texture which more than makes up for the loss of their colourful speckles during cooking.


  • Fresh borlotti beans with onion and garlic
  • These are good hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves three to four.
  • 400g fresh borlotti beans (shelled weight)
  • 1 bouquet garni, comprising 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig thyme, 3 parsley stalks
  • 30g butter
  • 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, halved and thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled but bashed to break the skin
  • 6 small, fresh bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • ¼-½ tsp chilli flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 12 sage leaves finely chopped
  • A small bunch of parsley, tough stalks removed and finely chopped
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Put the beans in a saucepan with the bouquet garni and enough water to cover by about 5cm. Bring to a simmer and then cook until tender when pressed with a fork – how long this will take depends on how fresh the beans are. Allow 25-40 minutes.

While the beans are cooking, melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat and sauté the onions and leek with the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, chilli flakes and salt and pepper until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelise. This should take about 25 minutes.
Drain the beans and add them to the onion mix. Cook, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes. Add the sage and parsley, season and give everything a good stir. Squeeze over the lemon juice and trickle on the olive oil.

Serve it with thin crusty toasted slices of bread for a light lunch treat or serve with tinned tuna for what we think is a tastier version of Italian Insalata di Tonno e flagioli.