The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

bean and vegetable casserole with pistou

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I do hope I can tempt you to try my new recipe, a wonderfully tasty vegan comfort food dish – bean and vegetable casserole with pistou.

On the subject of succumbing to temptation, I believe it was Oscar Wilde who first said, “I can resist anything apart from temptation”. A recently published study suggests that this is a human failing we all share. Our inability to resist temptation is also a susceptibility that supermarkets place at the heart of their marketing strategy.

The study looked at the way in which placement of confectionary “treats” in checkout aisles influenced the behaviour of supermarket shoppers. It used data from 30,000 households and nine UK supermarkets in its research. The research found that customers who shopped at supermarkets that had removed sweets and crisps from near the checkouts bought far less unhealthy products compared to those who shopped at supermarkets which placed sweets at or near the checkout.

In total, the research found that when sweets and crisps were removed from checkout areas, impulse buys of sweets and crisps fell by 76%.

Two supermarkets – Tesco and Sainsburys – deserve mention as having voluntarily removed sweets and crisps from their check outs. However, they did not reach this decision through a newly discovered sense of altruism but in response to prolonged campaigning by parents and health pressure groups.

The survey reveals how how susceptible we are to subtle persuasion, even when it encourages us to buy food we know is bad for us, and bad for our children. Coupled with other recent surveys showing the alarming scale of the preventable twin tragedies of childhood obesity and tooth decay, it is clear that relying upon voluntary changes by supermarkets is not enough.

This may seem like a small issue but when they are added together such small issues add up to a big whole.

The UK is the most obese nation in Europe, and the problem is getting worse. The government’s obesity strategy relies too much on voluntary changes and is simply not making enough headway to make the big differences needed. In the meantime, our health services creak at the seams trying to cope.

Time and again, supermarkets have demonstrated that they will act in the interests of their profits over the health of their customers. They need to be forced through legislation to behave more responsibly.

I came up with this vegan casserole very recently, on an evening when a friend called round unexpectedly and stayed for dinner. It was hearty, full of flavour and delicious. I served it with mashed potatoes and a generous spoonful of pistou.

Pistou is a sauce originating in the south of France, a close, vegan, relative of the more feted Italian pesto sauce but equally delicious and it works really well against the other flavours here.

bean and vegetable casserole with pistou

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, sliced
75 g carrots, sliced
250 g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1 x 400 g can organic butter beans
1 x 400 g can borlotti beans
1 x 400 g can organic tomatoes
2 bay leaves
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
250 ml red wine
250 ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp plain organic flour
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

for the pistou
1 medium tomato, peeled, de-seeded and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
35 g fresh basil leaves
Pinch sea salt
50 ml extra virgin olive oil


1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C (325°F, gas mark 3). Pour the olive oil into a large casserole dish that has a lid and place over a medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, mushrooms and celery and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes, continuing to stir. Stir in the canned tomatoes, bay leaves, smoked paprika, oregano, thyme, sea salt and vegetables stock. Stir to combine.

3. Bring the casserole to a simmer then add the butter beans and the borlotti beans. Stir to combine. Place the lid over the casserole dish and cook in the pre-heated oven. Cook for 1 hour.

4. Once the casserole is in the oven, make the pistou sauce. Place the chopped tomato, garlic, basil leaves, sea salt and olive oil in a food processor and blend into a puree. Set to one side.

5. To serve, fill bowls with a generous helping of the butter bean casserole and top with a tablespoon of the pistou sauce.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

Tags: ,

12 replies

  1. The recipe looks divine. Pity parents and health groups have to badger corporations to do the right thing.

  2. I’m confused, the list of ingredients and the cooking instructions don’t match up! Mushrooms, kale & borlotti beans”

    • Hi Christine. My apologies, and thank you so much for spotting and flagging up this error. I originally intended to include kale but in the end I left it out. The mushrooms should go in with the celery and carrots. I will amend the recipe accordingly.
      One positive point emerging from the confusion is that it shows that you can vary the ingredients according to your tastes and what is available! Steve 🙂

  3. Hi Steve, this looks delicious and I am indeed tempted to try it. I am on dry January though, will leaving the red wine out work?

    • Hi Jackie. Yes, you can substitute more stock for the red wine, although the wine is really only added for flavour, the alcohol will cook out. Steve x

  4. That sounds delicious and comforting for a cozy winter supper. Full disclosure, Steve… If I lived near you, you might see me showing up unexpectedly and staying for dinner on a regular basis! 🙂

  5. Well, there is one way to overcome any shopping temptations – shop -online: you save time, buy on special and avoid any temptations in you 🙂 ! Have done so for over a decade – what a bliss ! Making pistou for lunch today and yours is a luvverly recipe . . .

  6. Great recipe, and I have run out of tomato as of last night. What fantastic news, that impulse buying at checkouts of sweets and crisps is on the decline, as stores are being more compassionate with their impulse shelf stocking! I am so happy

    • Thank you for your kind comment on the recipe. Impulse buying of poor food choices in only on the decline in those few stores that have voluntary stopped placing confectionary next to check outs, so there is still a big problem that needs to be addressed.

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