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A Lunch With: Bold Bean Co’s Amelia Christie-Miller

Having begun as just a seed of an idea, Bold Bean Co has radically elevated the humble legume to new culinary heights. With the company’s jars stocked in major supermarkets – and now a cookbook, from which she’s shared some recipes with us – founder Amelia Christie-Miller is full of, well… beans, her finger firmly on the pulse

Eve Delaney
Ellen Hancock
A Lunch With: Bold Bean Co’s Amelia Christie-Miller

Bold Bean Co’s punchily packaged glass jars of sumptuous, silky chickpeas are a far cry from preconceived notions of such fare. “If you look back on the history of food, people have always survived on beans and pulses,” explains founder Amelia Christie-Miller. “Every civilisation has relied on a bean: the lima and haricot in America, the fava in Europe, the black-eyed pea in Africa, the soya bean in Asia.” It’s clear why these veg have historically been so popular: “They’re a great source of protein, affordable, readily available and they’re brilliant for soil, as they’re able to self-fertilise and require very little water,” she rhapsodises. They’re so planet-friendly that the UN is leading a campaign – ‘Beans is How’ – aiming to encourage a global move towards increased consumption.

Why did we turn against the lowly legume then? Namely, it was down to the introduction of industrial meat production, which changed the hierarchy of food by placing animal products at the centre of dinner plates. But now Amelia is on a mission to encourage a “less binary approach to food, where plant-based cooking won’t feel like a compromise.”

Inspired by British chefs and restaurants putting local, fresh and sustainable produce at the heart of their menus, Amelia’s goal is to “showcase beans and legumes as beautiful ingredients that can hold their own among other premium items”. It’s a principle shared by Meera Sodha, who in her widely adored book East describes the Indian resistance to creating hierarchies on the dinner table, where no side dish plays second fiddle to a meaty main. Rather, all things are shared and enjoyed as equals. Bold Bean Co’s products makes this culinary democratisation very easy to get behind; the beans are cooked slowly, and gently seasoned to guarantee delicate flavours that are lightyears away from their dry and tasteless cousins in cans.

Not satisfied with the limited availability of great, bean-centric recipes (“people already know how to add beans to a chilli con carne!”), Bold Bean Co has recently produced a cookbook chock-full of luxurious recipes that come courtesy of culinary legends, including Anna Jones and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – each one with beans at its heart. From broths to bowl food, all illustrate the delicious and nutritious potential of beans and chickpeas – and are sure to challenge even the biggest sceptic. Need some more pointers? Here, Amelia shares her beanspirational tips – as well two recipes from the new book.

Don’t be(an) shy

“Serving beans – or any vegetable for that matter – as the star of your dinner party shouldn’t be a reason to apologise. Don’t say sorry for not having a big old chicken. Celebrate it! A great example of a shockingly simple and delicious centrepiece is this recipe from La Buvette in Paris: drain butter beans and cover them in olive oil, black pepper and lemon zest. Serve with bread or crisp breads. It’s rustic but delicious fare and should create a laidback atmosphere, because it’s not fussy and can be made ahead of time. Plus, it means you, as the host, can relax.

“Dinner parties can require you to cater for a lot of dietary requirements. Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan or dairy-free options are all easy when beans are the focus. We have a lot of recipes in the book that would work for all of those profiles. And because you’re able to suit everyone with one simple dish, you’ll save money, time and avoid food waste.”

New to beans?

“If you’re cooking for a resistant guest, our recipe for white-bean cacio e pepe is a winner. You can lure them in with the cheese. It’s indulgent and nutritious – and doesn’t compromise on flavour.”

Pantry heroes

“As well the faithful bean, there are a few other key items that will save you in a pinch. Store-cupboard items last ages and can dress anything up, so they should save you money in the long run too. A good harissa is a must, plus a jar of capers, extra-virgin olive oil and White Mausu’s chilli oil. There’s also a new company called Jux Food, which makes freeze-dried herbs that are packed full of flavour.”

Remember: beans are the gift that keeps on giving

“You don’t need to spend a fortune to have an aesthetically pleasing dinner party. You can use empty Bold Bean jars as vases, fill them with flowers or greenery and run them along the length of the table. In the past I’ve also used them as martini shakers and to serve bloody marys.

Amelia’s recipe for black bean, watermelon and feta salad

Serves 2

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
Juice of 2 large lemons (use the zest in the pangrattato below)
350g black beans, or half a 700g Bold Bean Co jar, drained
2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1.5kg sweet, ripe watermelon (roughly 1 small watermelon), rind and pips removed, flesh chopped into walnut-sized pieces
200g feta, chopped into 2cm cubes
Small bunch of mint (about 15g), leaves picked
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pangrattato
2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
100g coarse breadcrumbs of your choice (dried or fresh are fine)
1 garlic clove, crushed
100g Kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
Zest of 2 large lemons
1tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the red onion with the lemon juice and leave to soak; this gets rid of the onion’s pungency while retaining its bite.

To make the pangrattato, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and stir for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Add the garlic and stir to combine, then remove from the heat. Stir in the olives, lemon zest and chilli flakes (if using), then season to taste.

Spread the beans out on a large serving plate or in a large shallow bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, then give the beans a stir. Top with the watermelon and feta, then sprinkle over the mint. Scatter the onions over the salad, then drizzle over their juices. Finish with the pangrattato and serve immediately.

Amelia’s recipe for a marvellous marinated salad

“For this recipe, use a lettuce that’s soft but still able to hold its shape; if butter lettuce is hard to come by, go for a mix of Little Gem and rocket. If the olive oil from the jar of artichokes is high quality, use that in place of the olive oil in the recipe to avoid waste.”

Serves two

700g jar butter beans, drained
1 garlic clove, crushed
Zest and juice of 1½ lemons, or to taste
150g jarred artichokes in oil, drained and chopped into smaller pieces if they look too chunky
3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (see tip below)
250g mozzarella, torn into bitesize pieces
4-5 slices of mortadella ham (about 80-90g) or any good quality cold cut of ham, each slice torn into four (optional)
Large bunch of basil (about 30g), roughly chopped
50g hazelnuts or pine nuts, lightly toasted and chopped
2 butter lettuces, torn into bite-sized pieces
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tip the beans into a large, shallow bowl. Add the garlic, lemon zest and juice, artichokes and olive oil. Give it all a good stir and season with plenty of black pepper.

Scatter the mozzarella on top and stir everything lightly again so that the cheese merges with the garlicky oil. Taste at this point and adjust the seasoning; it may need a pinch of salt, or an extra squeeze of lemon.

Next, sprinkle over the mortadella, if using, along with the basil and toasted nuts. You can add the lettuce at this point, tossing the salad to combine, but if you’re serving this at a dinner party, we suggest you plate up the lettuce first and spoon this heavenly mixture on top to keep things pretty.

Further reading

Bold Bean Co

Bold Bean Co on Instagram

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