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Sometimes early autumn can be just as warm and beautiful as late summer. No surprise really – it’s hard to know where one begins and the other ends. Despite the falling leaves, there’s still a place for lighter, fresher meals – although I’ve called this a stew, it is delicate, colourful and full to brimming with vibrant vegetables.
150g (51⁄2oz) Dried Flageolet or Haricot Beans; 1 x 400g (14oz) Tin, Drained And Rinsed
1 Large Squash (such as Crown Prince, Onion or Butternut), Peeled, Deseeded and cut into 3–4cm (11⁄4–11⁄2in) dice
3 Fennel Bulbs, trimmed and cut into 6–8 wedges
4 Tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, plus extra to serve
750g (1lb 10oz) Large Ripe Tomatoes
2 Onions, thinly sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced
2 tsp Fennel Seeds
1 tsp Coriander Seeds, lightly bashed
4 Celery Sticks, cut into 2cm (3⁄4in) slices
Pinch of Chilli Flakes
4 Bay Leaves
4 Thyme Sprigs
Juice and Pared Zest of 1 Lemon
250ml (9fl oz) Vegetable Stock
1 Large Glass of Red Wine
1 Handful of Flat-Leaf Parsley, leaves picked and chopped
1 Handful of Dill, chopped
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
If you’re using dried beans, soak them in a bowl of water for 6 hours or overnight. Then, drain them and transfer the beans to a pan. Cover with water and bring to the simmer. Cook for 35–40 minutes, or until they are almost tender. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/gas mark 6.
Place the squash and fennel in a roasting tin. Trickle over half the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Tumble everything together, cover loosely with baking parchment or foil and roast for 35–40 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking, until the vegetables are nice and tender.
Meanwhile, prick the tomatoes with a knife, then place them in large heatproof bowl. Pour over the boiling water to cover and leave them to stand for 3–4 minutes to loosen the skins. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes from the water and, when the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel away as much skin as you can and discard in the compost. Roughly chop the tomatoes and set aside.
When the fennel and squash are ready, heat a really big cast-iron casserole pan over a medium heat. Add the remaining olive oil and, when it’s hot, add the onions, garlic, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, celery, chilli flakes, bay, thyme, pared strips of lemon zest, and some salt and pepper. Stir the vegetables as they soften, for about 12–15 minutes, taking care that they don’t burn. When they are sweet and tender, add the chopped tomatoes and stir well.
Add the flageolet or haricot beans, the roasted fennel and squash, the
stock and the red wine. Bring to the simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring gently every so often, until you have a nice thick, rich sauce and the vegetables and beans are meltingly tender. Then, add the lemon juice and plenty of salt and pepper to taste. When you’re happy with the balance, remove the casserole from the stove and stir in the parsley and dill. Trickle over some olive oil and serve.