Monday, 17 December 2012

Mustard Beans

That food you saw lurking in the background of last week's Roast Dill Chicken recipe was this ever so exciting (ok, not really) Mustard Bean dish.  Needing a side, and with plenty of beans in the cupboard, I figured we might as well cook those.  This Apician recipe calls for Baian beans, and rather unfortunately, nobody knows what type of beans these were.  I have opted for a nice broad butter bean, which has plenty of surface area for the mustard sauce to cling on to.  The original recipe is as follows:

Cook some beans and season them with mustard, honey, pine-nuts, rue, cumin, and a splash of vinegar. - Apicius, 5.6.3

Seems simple enough!  The only issue we (or at least I) have is that 'rue' sitting right in the middle of the recipe.  Rue is still hard to come by (in semi-rural Northern Ireland during winter at least), so it is going to be left out for now.  Everything else is good to go, so let's make a start.

Mustard Beans


  • 1 Can Butter Beans
  • 75g Pine Nuts
  • 2 tbsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1 tbsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp Mustard
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • 2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Dessert Wine


  • Boil the butter beans for a few minutes in a saucepan.  Drain when finished.  Meanwhile:
  • Toast the peppercorns and cumin seeds in a frying pan, then grind up in a mortar and pestle.
  • Add the pine nuts to the mortar and pestle, and bash them until they make a nice paste.
  • Add the mustard, honey, vinegar, and wine to the mortar, and mix everything together.  It should look like so:

  • Pour the finished sauce over the drained butter beans, and toss it all together.
  • A sprinkle of pepper is the perfect finishing touch.


The pine nut paste which forms the base of this sauce means that it clings very well to the butter beans.  These beans are certainly a very flavoursome accompaniment to a meal, but the vinegar, wine, and mustard create quite a sharp, rich taste, so perhaps it is best not too eat too many at once.  An ideal way to serve them, in my opinion, is with a big hunk of bread - the sharpness of the sauce will counter the heaviness of Roman spelt bread.  Certainly worth a try.

1 comment:

  1. New World beans, but I guess the only authentic ones would be favas. I've had canned favas and they weren't as different as I'd expected. (Strangely, fresh beans of the Lima or butter bean type used to be a major crop in the northern Florida peninsula; now fresh ones are rare and fresh favas are, at least seasonally in Florida, much more available. I've had fresh favas here but not fresh limas -- invariably canned or frozen.