A few years ago I had the extreme luck to nab a few days of work experience with the Jamie Oliver Food Team. On one of the days we were cooking and styling some recipes that had been commissioned by Delicious Holland magazine. We roasted huge shoulders of lamb with whole onions, shredded slow cooked pork and stirred paella all day.
It wasn’t until lunch time, when we all finally took a break to eat, that I discovered the slow-cooked cannellini beans that had also been on the recipe list. They were so creamy with a lovely starchy bite, richness from butter and a punch of flavour from garlic and bay leaves. I think about those beans a lot. Especially because I didn’t even see them being made so I have NO IDEA what the recipe was.
Serendipitously a few weeks ago, not long after I’d tried my first spoonful of bagna cauda, I spotted this recipe while looking through Rosie Birkett’s new book, A Lot on Her Plate*. As I read down the ingredients list I spotted the large amount of garlic coupled with cannellini beans and butter. Immediately the memories of the slow-cooked beans came back to me. Obviously there was no more page-turning needed. This dip is a somewhat lighter take on bagna cauda – it lessens the dependence on olive oil for creaminess by blending in cooked cannellini beans. You wouldn’t notice though as it’s completely buttery-smooth and rich!
– Adapted slightly from A Lot on Her Plate by Rosie Birkett*
– Rosie’s original recipe uses 15 anchovies. I didn’t want the dip to have such a strong, fishy flavour (I’m an anchovy wimp!) so I cut it down to 6 anchovies.
– I added thyme to the dip too which I think gives it a lovely freshness
– I used creme fraiche instead of double cream as it’s what I had to hand. Sour cream or cream cheese would work well too, I’m sure.
Rosie Birkett’s Bagna Cauda (with cannellini beans!)
- 10 cloves of garlic , peeled
- 300 ml (1 1/4 cups) milk
- 6 good-quality anchovies , jarred in oil, chopped
- 25 g (1 oz/ 2 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 1/2 a (400g / 14 oz) can of cannellini beans, drained
- 2 tbsp creme fraiche or double cream
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme , leaves picked
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- black pepper
- crudites (e.g. endive, carrots, celery, radishes, bell pepper, gem lettuce leaves)
Place the garlic cloves in a saucepan and cover with 100ml (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) of the milk. Leave to soak for 1 hour, drain and discard the milk. Place the garlic back in the saucepan with the rest of the milk and 1 tbsp of water. Gently cook, partly covered with a lid, over a low heat for 20 minutes until the garlic is super tender.
Add the chopped anchovies to the pan and cook, stirring until they have broken down. Add the butter and stir until melted. Pour this into a blender along with the drained beans, creme fraiche/cream, vinegar, olive oil and thyme leaves. Blitz until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add lemon juice and black pepper, to taste.
Serve warm or at room temperature with the prepared crudites. The dip will keep for a couple of days covered in the fridge. You can warm it back up for dipping or use it to dress pasta.