Pea, leek and cauliflower butterbean bake

I love bean bakes for weeknight dinners: they are such an easy-going thing to cook.  There is no hovering over the stove, stirring and checking it isn’t burning.  You just stir together the ingredients, shove it in the oven, set the timer and get on with other things until that “beep” tells you dinner is ready.  This cauliflower sauce was inspired by a recipe for homemade vegan cheese from the Vegan Bible by Marie Laforêt which used yeast extract to give a beautiful savoury flavour, and a vegan version of spaghetti alfredo from Inspiralized by Ali Maffucci which used cauliflower to make a lovely creamy sauce.  The classic combination of cauliflower and cheese gave me the idea to combine these two into a cheesy cauliflower sauce, which I have here combined with butter beans (maybe my favourite bean) balanced with the freshness of peas and leeks for a very easy weekday supper which is simple to prepare ahead, difficult to over cook and can be easily adapted scaled to feed however many people you want.

Butter bean bake

Time: 15 minutes preparation time, 5 minutes to assemble and 20 minutes to bake

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves 4 (easily halved or scaled up)

  • 2 cans butter beans (235g drained weight per can)
  • 2 medium leeks, washed and sliced
  • 300g frozen peas, defrosted (if you really like peas, like my husband does you can increase this up to 600g)

Cauliflower sauce

  • 1 medium cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 300ml water
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp yeast extract
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (preferably smoked)
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tsp salt
  • juice of ½ lemon
  1. Put all of the cauliflower sauce ingredients, except for the salt and lemon juice, in a saucepan.
  2. Cover and bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft.
  3. Blend the cauliflower mix to a smooth sauce in a liquidiser, adding more water if needed, and season with the salt and lemon juice.
  4. Steam or microwave the leeks for 5-8 minutes until they are just starting to soften.
  5. Put the butter beans, leeks and peas into an ovenproof dish and stir in 8-12 tbsp of the cauliflower sauce (just enough to coat all the ingredients.
  6. Put the bake in the oven at 160C fan for 15-25 minutes until everything is heated through and it is just starting to get a bit crispy on top (this bake is very forgiving, so the timing doesn’t need to be too precise).

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A few tips to prep ahead:

  • The sauce can be made ahead of time and keeps well in the fridge in a sealable box for at least a week.  My husband actually thinks the flavour improves over the first few days.  You can also make double quantities and freeze half of the sauce to use another time (see below for different ways to use it).
  • The vegetables can be prepared and kept in sealable boxes or bags in the fridge.
  • If you have room in your fridge, you can assemble the whole bake in the oven proof dish, cover and keep in the fridge ready to put in the oven on the night.

Some tasty little twists…

The cauliflower sauce is very versatile – here are a few ideas for different ways to use it:

  • Vary the type of bean (e.g. swap butter beans for borlotti, cannellini, flagolet, haricot or black eyed beans) and / or the vegetables in the bake (e.g. swap the peas and leeks for a combination of 2-3 of the following: onion (sautéed until soft), spinach, halved cherry tomatoes, diced peppers, broccoli, calvo nero, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, french beans, runner beans, grated celeriac, sweetcorn, finely sliced celery or courgettes).
  • Replace the beans with macaroni or other pasta shapes and replace the peas and leeks with sliced and sautéed onions, halved cherry tomatoes or sweetcorn.  You could also add cooked and diced bacon, ham, chicken or sausage for a meat version.
  • Mix with a selection of 3-4 diced vegetables (e.g. aubergine, peppers, courgette, turnip, celeriac, sweet potato, onions, swede, fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms or potato) and bake at 160C fan for 30-40 minutes. If you like your vegetables softer then microwave the vegetables, covered for 8 minutes before baking and / or cover the vegetables for the first 20 minutes of cooking.
  • As above, but mix the vegetables with tomato sauce (e.g. see my red pepper and tomato sauce recipe) and top with the cauliflower sauce.
  • Serve with sticks of raw vegetables (e.g. carrot, celery, cucumber) as a snack.
  • Use as a sauce for spaghetti or spiralized vegetables (celeriac works well).  You can add in some softened onion or crunchy green vegetables (e.g. tender stem broccoli, sugar snap peas) for an added layer of texture.
  • Use as a sauce on the side of grilled meat or fish with chips, steamed vegetables or salad.

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