Simple salad for all those well-intentioned beans

Most cupboard clear-outs yield packs of pulses that somehow never got used

Cannellini bean salad

It’s that time of year to take stock of what’s in the cupboards and do a big clear out – before we start buying ingredients for Christmas cakes. It’s very satisfying to collect up all of the half-empty bags of wholegrain fusilli and tip the lot into a single jar, or into the compost, depending on their best-before date.

I discovered, like I always do, that I haven’t really been using all of the dried pulses I had great intentions of cooking. Of course, during the summer months, the last thing you want to do is watch a big pot of kidney beans simmering for an hour.

Summer cooking is all about quick fixes. Shavings of raw vegetables, wedges of melon, dips and salad leaves have all been on the menu. So I’m making an effort to think ahead – to soak the beans and cook them when it suits me. You can always freeze the cooked beans or store them in the cooking water for a few days in the fridge. It’s always worth cooking more than you need.

For me cannellini beans are the most versatile. Add a handful to a stew, curry or salad for body, protein and carbohydrates. They also make a delicious creamy dip when mixed with roast garlic. I like to use them as a potato alternative, mashing the very soft beans with a little crushed garlic that has been slowly sautéed in olive oil and rosemary. The flavours are amazing and it’s really good with a steak or roast beef.


As predicted, my mint plants have truly taken over the garden. There’s nothing I like more than an abundance of something, and I just love seeing how it’s miraculously thriving without me needing to do very much. It also means that I’m using mint more, even if it is just picking a bunch and leaving it in a jar in the kitchen for its gorgeous fragrance.

I also had a huge patch of borage that grew incredibly tall and spread like wildfire, so I cut it all back once it went to seed and now there are borage seedlings absolutely everywhere, intent on carpeting the entire flowerbed with its prickly leaves and pretty blue flowers before winter comes. They are a real treat for the bees.

I’ve used beetroot in this salad but cubes of roast butternut squash and wedges of roast red onion with basil leaves would be another lovely option. The beans make a fantastic base that soak up any flavour you add. It’s perfect for a packed lunch too, just make sure you only add the feta to the top of the salad and pack the pumpkin seeds separately.

Toasting the seeds makes a huge difference, it brings so much flavour and texture. It’s worth having jars of toasted seeds and flaked almonds on hand for scattering over salads and breakfasts. Cook them in batches and enjoy them for weeks.


Serves 4-6


500g cannellini beans, cooked (200g dried)
2 tbsp olive oil
60ml white wine vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper
2 tbsp mint leaves
200g beetroot, cooked and cubed
1 handful of pumpkin seeds, toasted
50g feta cheese


1. Soak the dried beans overnight if using instead of a tin, and then drain and place in a pot of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour before draining.

2. Meanwhile whisk the olive oil in a large bowl with the vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the warm beans or the drained tinned beans. Mix gently.

3. Add the beetroot and mint leaves and stir to combine. Before serving place the salad in a bowl or platter and scatter the crumbled feta and pumpkin seeds on top.