Mark Hix recipes: Our chef creates delicious dishes from top-quality dried beans

It’s a good idea to stock your larder with a selection of top-quality dried beans – that way, you've always got the basis for a wide variety of great recipes

A selection of dried beans in your larder is always wise planning. You can have a lot of fun with all sorts of dried beans – either used on their own or with meat stews and soups. Always try to buy the best-quality beans for successful results, as you may well find the cheap ones take for ever to reconstitute and soak. I'll let you into a little secret – when you cook your dried beans, add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda or baking powder to the water, as this helps to soften them during cooking.

Baked butter beans with smoked ham hock

Serves 4-6

As I said earlier, buy the best-quality butter beans you can for this .If you can't find smoked ham hock, an unsmoked one will do.

1 smoked ham hock weighing about a kilo, soaked in cold water overnight
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp plain flour
1 x can of chopped tomatoes
100g dried butter beans, soaked for 24 hours in plenty of cold water, then cooked
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
3tbsp chopped parsley

Rinse the ham hock off in cold water, then place in a saucepan with the bay leaf and peppercorns, cover with plenty of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 1½ hours, or until the meat is tender and falling away from the bone.

Remove the hock from the pan and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onions and garlic for 2-3 minutes until soft, stir in the flour, then gradually add about a litre of the ham stock, whisking every so often to avoid lumps forming. Add the chopped tomatoes, bring to the boil, season and simmer gently for about an hour. Give the sauce the occasional whisk to break down the tomatoes.

Remove the rind from the ham hock and cut it into rough 1cm dice. Line a grill tray with foil and cook the rind for about 10-15 minutes, turning the pieces as they are cooking, until they go crisp, but not burnt. Mix with the breadcrumbs and parsley, season and put to one side.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Remove the meat from the ham hock and cut into rough 2cm chunks; add to the sauce with the cooked butter beans and season. The sauce should be just coating the beans and hock – if it's too thick, add a little more stock. Simmer gently for another 8-10 minutes, then transfer to an ovenproof dish. Spoon over the breadcrumb mixture and bake for about 20-30 minutes until golden.

Mixed bean salad

Serves 4-6

This is a great salad to serve on its own, as a meat or fish garnish or as part of a buffet or even picnic. You can pick and choose which beans or pulses you want to use – it's a good dish to use up odds and ends in your larder before you re-stock.

Mixed bean salad accompanying a fish dish (Jason Lowe) Mixed bean salad accompanying a fish dish (Jason Lowe)
A selection of dried beans, soaked and cooked separately (chick peas, flageolet beans, black eye beans, green peas, lentils, etc)
4-5 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 medium red chilli, trimmed and finely chopped
2-3tbsp chopped parsley
4-5tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the beans, preferably while they are still warm, with the rest of the ingredients and season to taste.

The salad will be at its best after leaving it at room temperature for a couple of hours, giving it the occasional stir.

Minced pork, bamboo shoot and black bean broth

Serves 4-6

I had a soup similar to this in Hunan in London's Pimlico, a fantastic Chinese restaurant with no menu where the small plates of delicious, home-style Chinese food just keep coming.

Chef Peng is about to publish a book, Hunan: A Lifetime of Secrets From Mr Peng's Chinese Kitchen. I'm eagerly awaiting my copy.

Minced pork, bamboo shoot and black bean broth (Jason Lowe) Minced pork, bamboo shoot and black bean broth (Jason Lowe)
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
1 large onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
40g root ginger, peeled and finely grated
150g minced pork
2tbsp light soy sauce
1tbsp black Shaoxing vinegar
2ltrs chicken or beef stock
Salt and ground white pepper
40g Chinese salted black beans, soaked for an hour and rinsed
60g canned or vacuum-packed bamboo shoots, rinsed and finely chopped
3tbsp chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onions, ginger and garlic for a couple of minutes without colouring.

Add the pork and cook on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, breaking the pork up as it's cooking so it doesn't stay in big lumps. Add the soy, vinegar and stock, season, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour, skimming every so often.

Add the bamboo shoots and black beans and simmer for another 15 minutes, then stir in the coriander, simmer for another minute, and serve.

Moroccan lentil soup

Serves 4-6

This is an easily-made, delicious soup for when the weather gets a bit nippy. You can use any lentils for this, but traditionally the brown variety are used.

Moroccan lentil soup is an easily-made, delicious soup (Jason Lowe) Moroccan lentil soup is an easily-made, delicious soup (Jason Lowe)
150g brown or puy lentils, soaked for 1 hour
3tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
3tsp ground cumin
2tsp paprika
20g root ginger, peeled and grated
1 can (approx 200g) of chopped tomatoes
1½ltrs vegetable stock
3tbsp chopped coriander to serve

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onions, garlic, cumin, paprika and ginger for 2-3 minutes, without colouring, until they soften.

Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and lentils, bring to the boil, season, and simmer very gently for about 45 minutes, until the lentils are just starting to fall apart and the soup has thickened.

Season to taste, stir in the coriander and serve.

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