The white giant beans called “gigantes or elephantes” have been cultivated in Northern Greece (Kastoria, Florina, and Drama etc.,) for centuries and are recognized by the European Union as products of Protected Geographic Indication (PGI). These black giant beans are a new Greek variety and are not widely known in Greek cooking yet.
They are rich in antioxidants and as you can see from the package they are rich in proteins and carbohydrates with lots of healthy properies, perfect especially for the period of fasting.
On the package there was a recipe, probably Mexican, using corn, not that the recipe wasn’t good but I wanted to cook something really Greek, so I decided to improvise and make my own recipe.
I really enjoy creating new recipes as this is the best part of cooking which I love the most. Old traditional dishes like Gigantes Plaki are fine but we just can’t stick to the old recipes and keep recycling the same things over and over again.
A few days before I had made a spanakopita in which I used some aromatic herbs. Among them I used kafkalithres (small hartwort) and myronia (shepherd’s needles)” and still had some of these herbs which I wanted to use and had some frozen spinach as well, so I decided to combine them in the recipe. Even if you don’t add these aromatic herbs, the dish will still be delicious as these giant beans had a lovely sweet taste, like chestnuts and while cooking them the smell reminded me of butter. In a lot of Greek recipes with tomato sauces we add pasta in the end to absorb the juices, so at the end I decided to add the pasta as well and it made a fantastic dish.
Gigantes me spanaki kai Makaronaki (Black giant beans with spinach and pasta), Recipe by Ivy
Preparation time:30 minutes
Cooking time:2 hours
Serves:4 – 5
- 250 grams giant black beans from Kastoria
- 200 grams piccolini (mini pipe rigate) pasta
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 300 grams, fresh or frozen spinach
- ½ cup kafkalithres
- ½ cup myronia
- ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
- 3 – 4 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 5 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 1 can whole tomatoes (500 grams) with juice blended with 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 ½ tablespoons salt
- Freshly grated black pepper
- 700 ml water plus 1 more cup
- Soak beans in plenty of water, overnight.
- Drain and add fresh water and bring to a boil and remove any froth with a slotted ladle.Cook for about 1 hour, drain them again and set aside.
- Preheat oven at 200oC / 400oF.
- Heat olive oil in a saucepan and sauté onions and garlic until translucent.
- Add spinach and sauté for a few minutes, then add chopped celery, carrots, parsley, kaflalithres, myronia and beans and mix.
- Add, tomato and tomato paste, salt and pepper and water and mix.
- Place in a casserole with lid and cook covered for an hour.
- Add pasta and cook covered for five minutes. Remove the lid and if all the sauce has been absorbed, add 1 cup of water and turn off the heat.Mix it a few times until the water has been absorbed.
Tomorrow is the Announciation of the Virgin as well as Greek Independence day, which is a public holiday. It is also my daughter’s name day, so I will be busy cooking for family to celebrate this special day.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi kai Chronia Pollai!!