Kidney beans mature shortly before the wine harvest in France ? an invitation for grape-pickers to consume vast casseroles of ?haricots rouges vigneronne? (literally wine-grower?s red beans), often in the vineyards. A cheap, fruity local red wine lends gorgeous color to the beans. The whole piece of bacon with the rind here gives a delicious flavor ? you should be able to order it from your butcher. Alternatively, you can omit the bacon and stir a cup of oil-cured black olives into the beans at the end of cooking.

Serves 3-4 as a main course, 6-8 as a side dish

  • 450g/1lb/2½ cups dried red kidney beans
  • 1 onion, peeled and studded with 2 cloves
  • 330g/12oz piece bacon, with rind
  • bouquet garni
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • 500ml/16fl oz/2 cups robust red wine

Medium Casserole

1. Generously cover the beans with cold water and leave to soak overnight, then drain.

2. Heat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/Gas 3. Cut the bacon rind off in one piece and put it in the bottom of the casserole. Add the beans, onion, bouquet garni, garlic and some pepper and bury the meat in the beans. Pour in enough water to cover the beans generously and add the lid. Bake until the beans are very soft and a few start to burst. This can take 1-3 hours, depending on the age and type of bean and the thickness of the pot, so check occasionally to see how they are doing. If the beans begin to dry, add more water. At the end of cooking, the liquid should have evaporated so that the beans are moist but not soupy. If the liquid is too thin, take the lid off for the last half hour?s cooking, or, when the beans are done, boil the pot on top of the stove to evaporate the liquid.

3. When the beans are tender, stir in the wine and some salt and pepper. Cover and leave to cool for about an hour, so the beans absorb the wine. Remove the bacon and discard the onion and bouquet garni. Dice the bacon and stir it into the beans. The bacon rind can be discarded or diced and added to the pot.

4. Reheat the beans and, if too much liquid remains, boil to reduce it. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve.

Shortcut: For a real quickie, use three 390g/14oz cans red kidney beans. Omit the onion and bouquet garni. Dice the bacon and fry it in the casserole until brown. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in the beans and wine and simmer, stirring, until the wine is absorbed, 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Getting Ahead: Beans with red wine keep well up to 3 days in the refrigerator, and the more often you heat them, the better they will be.

On the Side: Serve Winemakers? Red Beans with roast pork or lamb, or sausages with a side dish of grilled escarole or radicchio.

Grilled Escarole, Belgian Endive, or Radicchio: Any of these members of the endive family do well on the grill, picking up an intriguing tinge of bitterness. I happily eat a whole plate as a first course.

Trim the stems and tough outer leaves from a medium head of escarole, or 3 large heads of Belgian endive, or 3 small heads of radicchio. Cut escarole in 8 wedges or Belgian endive or radicchio in quarters, including the stem to hold the pieces together. Toss them with a half cup of olive oil, 3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Leave a half hour so the leaves wilt slightly. Light the grill, brush the rack with olive oil and set it quite far (12-15cm/5-6in) from the heat. Grill the vegetables, cut side down, until the top is tender and slightly charred, 5-8 minutes. Turn and continue grilling until the leaves are wilted and tender, 5-8 minutes more. Serves 4.

From Good Food No Fuss by Anne Willan, 2003
Photo Credit: Simon Wheeler