Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for spinach and butter bean stew with toasted pine nuts

With a lot of vegetables, the philosophy is the fresher, the better. While that can certainly be the case, especially in summer, cooking some vegetables for longer brings out a different characteristic. I used to religiously cook spinach until just wilted, so that the leaves were still bright and there was a crunch to the stem. But that isn’t the spinach I grew up with – or the one I’ve resurrected in today’s recipe. When it’s cooked for longer, spinach takes on a dark emerald colour, and becomes soft, sweet and as comforting as the butter beans with which it shares this pot.

Spinach and butter bean stew with toasted pine nuts
It’s worth toasting the pine nuts because it intensifies their nutty flavour and makes them crunchier.

Prep 10 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4

6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
30g (3 tbsp) pine nuts
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1½ tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 x 400g tins butter beans, drained
500ml vegetable stock, suitable for vegans
400g baby leaf spinach
¾ tsp fine sea salt
1–1½ tbsp lemon juice (ie, from ½ lemon)
Steamed or boiled rice, to serve

In a large casserole or saucepan, heat a tablespoon of the oil over a medium heat and, once hot, add the pine nuts. Stir for about three minutes, until golden brown, then scoop out on to a plate using a slotted spoon. Add another two tablespoons of oil to the pan and, when hot, add the onion and cook for 10 minutes, until soft and browned. Add the garlic, allspice and ground coriander, cook for another five minutes (turn down the heat, if need be, so the mixture doesn’t catch), then add the butter beans and stock and bring to a boil.

Handful by handful, add the spinach to the pan – at first, it will look as if it will never all fit in, but it will eventually wilt down. Once the spinach has wilted, add the salt, stir and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes, until the beans are super-soft and the spinach is rich, soft and dark green in colour.

Stir through the lemon juice, finish with a big glug of extra-virgin olive oil (about three tablespoons), sprinkle over the pine nuts and serve with steamed or boiled rice.