Niki Segnit’s burnt aubergine and borlotti bean stew

Aubergine and Borlotti Bean Stew, Lateral Cooking, Niki Segnit. Photography © Louise Hagger, Emily Kydd and Jennifer Kay

Burnt Aubergine and Borlotti Bean Stew

I told my mother I had made a burnt-aubergine stew. ‘Never mind,’ she said. ‘You can always have cheese on toast.’ ‘No, Mum, you don’t understand,’ I said, just as I would have done thirty years earlier, when she looked askance at the latest LP by Einstürzende Neubauten. ‘Burnt is fashionable.’ Silence at the other end of the line. ‘How,’ she asked, ‘do you tell if it’s fashionable or just burned?’ ‘Context,’ I said, but I knew I’d lost her. Aubergine gives a meaty quality to stock, all the more so if you’ve roasted it good and hard. It lends as much substance to this meat-free dish as a special advisor to a blustering politician. The broth is made with a little soy sauce and mirin – enough to put the beans in a deep, dark, salty mood, but not so much that they’ll taste noticeably Asian. Dried borlotti beans are worth seeking out for this dish; alternatively, drain 2 x 400g tins of beans and add them at point 4, simmering for just 15 minutes.

For 3- 4 servings

250g dried borlotti beans
2 aubergines
Groundnut oil
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A pinch of fennel seeds
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp smoked paprika
A squeeze of lemon juice

1 Soak the beans in plenty of water for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

2 Chop the aubergines into 3cm chunks and roast in a little groundnut oil, together with the cherry tomatoes, for 30 minutes at 200°C.

3 While you’re waiting, dice the onion and soften it in oil, adding the chopped garlic and fennel seeds for the last few minutes.

4 Squeeze in the tomato purée and cook for 1 minute. Add 250g soaked and drained borlotti beans, 1 litre boiling water, and the soy sauce, mirin and smoked paprika. Simmer slowly for 30–40 minutes or until the beans are good and soft, adding extra boiling water if necessary.

5 Mix the aubergines and tomatoes into the beans, then season and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with a baguette.

Niki Segnit, author of The Flavour Thesaurus and Lateral Cooking hosts an intimate supper club at Second Home on the 21st Feb. Buy tickets here.

Recipe adapted from LATERAL COOKING by Niki Segnit (Bloomsbury £35), available now in Libreria.

Lateral Cooking, Niki Segnit