I find beans entrancing. Their splendid colours, shapes and shiny skins are jewel-like, beautiful and tactile. There are some recipes in which only dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked from scratch, will do. In rich stews, dry beans need to absorb the stock, the flavours and fats of the aromatics and ingredients to an extent that ready-cooked beans can’t match. Small batch beans have their own flavour and an intense creaminess, little else is needed to make a great dish.

A working lunch for my husband Rupert and me at home will often be a bowl of home-cooked beans, simply dressed with oil, vinegar, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, (perhaps with some fresh tomatoes and Spanish sardines on the side) served with large chunks of bread.

Monika Linton

It’s fair to say the UK and Spain do beans differently. In the UK, we love baked beans from tins, and fresh runner beans, peas and broad beans when in season, but to dry beans and peas naturally on the plant you need a dry climate that gets very hot and very cold and that is not the UK climate and therefore not our culture.

In the Mediterranean, dried beans are commonly bought loose from a trusted market stall holder, preferably local to the area. Some varieties are produced in tiny plots of land in soil that is mineral rich, blessed with lots of rainwater and natural drainage. The bean plants are tended and harvested by hand, the bean is rare and can be expensive but all high-quality dry beans double in size when they cook and are highly nutritious. Beans with guaranteed provenance and terroir are often sold in cloth bags and given as gifts to loved ones.

Many of the best recipes will require dried beans soaked in advance of cooking, which needs a little planning. While this is usually required of the best-quality beans, it’s also an essential step to ensure that the other flavours and aromatics of the dish are infused into each bean. This step also gives you control in the texture of your beans, depending on your requirement.

How to cook dried beans


First, soak the beans in cold water until they are plump and smooth – usually 12 hours is enough. Sometimes you may need a few hours more, particularly if the beans are a bit older. When you’re soaking the beans, make sure you do this in a spacious bowl (the water should cover the beans by at least 5 cm) as larger beans such as judiones, can plump up to double their size.


When the beans are soaked, rinse and put in a heavy cook pot (ideally terracotta) and cover well with fresh water. Bring the beans to a boil, reduce heat to very low and cover. Cooking times vary between 50-150 minutes depending on the age of the beans, water hardness and how gently the beans are simmered. Once you’ve cooked them a couple of times you’ll get to know them. Add salt at the end of cooking, as salting beans before this will toughen their skins. If you’re cooking beans and they are being really slow to absorb liquid; you need to ‘frighten’ or blast the beans: as they break into their first boil, throw in some cold water to halt it. This allows the bean to begin to rehydrate better.


Preparing your beans in this way doesn’t just mean you have the right amount for your recipe. I always batch-prepare my beans as they can be stored in their water for up to seven days in the fridge. After doing that, you can also freeze them to have ready to hand when you need.

Buy your beans in Brindisa's shops, or online.