Prep time: 20 minutes
About this recipe
The story behind ‘I love you’ … ‘I know’ inspired this.
The roots of this recipe are in a dish from a galaxy far, far away: Yoda’s rootleaf stew. But there’s no (science) fiction here – this is real, hearty food. This vegetarian stew is the kind of cooking that is elemental to Greek-Cypriot kitchens, both past and present. It is, if you will, an incarnation of stone soup, using only those essentials and constants found in the pantry, the garden or the allotment. Traditionally, cooking in this way meant that the whole family could eat heartily and cheaply, whilst preserving their security, both economically, and more importantly, emotionally. And it is still the same today. This is sharing, bowl food. The kind of food that makes you feel rooted at the table – and knowingly loved.
The common element in my dish, my client’s playful make-believe concoction and the original film version, is the relationship behind the stew – that is the staple ingredient. My own childhood dinner table had a little something in common with the world of science fiction, in that I had to suspend my disbelief a fair amount when my mum would tell me that these were the Greek version of Heinz baked beans. I trusted her. And she was right, insofar that these beans are very good on toast. And because my own belief is that a stew is a work of fiction unless it contains dumplings, the ones here are tahini-flavoured, and also cumin-spiced – the warm earthiness always goes so well with root vegetables. Ancient Greeks used cumin as a table seasoning, so its use here is also a nod to the roots of my own olden dinner table.
- 1 medium onion
- 4 carrots
- 4 celery sticks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 15g flat-leaf parsley, tougher stalks removed then finely chopped
- 500g frozen fresh cannellini beans or 2 x 400g cans cannellini beans
- 1 small tin chopped tomatoes (the standard 227g)
- 750ml vegetable stock
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 400g new potatoes (peeled and halved)
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley and celery leaves to garnish
For the tahini dumplings:
- 1.5 tablespoons tahini
- 6 tablespoons water
- 100g self-raising flour
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 50g suet (vegetarian if necessary)
The tenderness you get from frozen fresh beans makes them worth hunting down – you’ll find them Mediterranean and Middle Eastern grocery shops.
- Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel the carrots too, and chop both the carrot and celery sticks into slices around 1cm thick.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, carrots and celery and sweat for around 5 minutes over a medium-high heat. Keep stirring the veg all the while – they will not colour much but after that time they’ll be warmly sealed and nicely coated with the oil.
- Stir in the chopped parsley and the beans and cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and the stock. Swill out the tomato tin with warm water and add that in too – a little extra water won’t hurt, as the potatoes and dumplings will absorb a lot of it later.
- Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer – not too gentle though, you want a steady stream of bubbles. Put the lid on the saucepan and let it bubble away for around 15 minutes (canned beans will require no longer than 10 minutes), which gives you an opportune time to make the dumplings.
- To start the dumplings, mix the tahini with the water – the easiest way to do this is to shake it up in a jar.
- In a separate bowl, briefly stir together the flour, cumin, salt and suet, so that they are combined. Continue to stir as you add the tahini water. Bring the mixture together to form a soft dough. Divide and roll the dough into 8 balls – you might need to flour your hands a little if the dough is sticky.
- Now turn your attention back to the stew. Stir in the salt and pepper to season. Add the potatoes. Now if the temperature dips slightly, bring back to a simmer before placing the dumplings on top of the stew. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes, after which the dumplings will be perfectly puffy. Serve hot, and garnish with a little chopped parsley and a few celery leaves. And maybe save a spoonful or two of beans to have on toast the next day.