A dish born in Siberia, raised in Bethnal Green
A spicy, creamy stew full of punchy flavours and textures that works well as a side dish or stands quite confidently as a main dish on its own.
This dish travelled a long way. My mum back in Siberia would often make a simple yet delicious bean salad/side dish with fried onion, walnuts and fresh herbs. Craving something warm and comforting one late autumn evening in my Bethnal Green kitchen, I decided to remake the family dish by turning it into a stew, adding tomato paste and my all time favourite ingredient: feta cheese. Once the cheese melted and turned into a creamy sauce, I knew I had a winning dish on my hands and I continue to cook it on regular basis for myself and my partner.
2 tbsp unrefined sunflower oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced into half moons
4 cloves garlic, grated
A pinch of smoked sea salt
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground black pepper
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tins of red kidney beans
1 large bunch of coriander, leaves and stalks chopped
300g walnuts, roughly chopped
250g feta cheese, roughly chopped
Heat the oil in a heavy based pan or a medium pot and fry off the onion and garlic for 5-7 mins with a pinch of smoked salt and all the spices. Add the tomato paste and a splash of water to turn it into a sauce.
Taste the sauce at this point and adjust the seasoning as needed, also adding 1 tsp brown sugar to off-set the acidity of the tomato sauce. Cook for 5 mins.
In the meantime, drain and rinse the beans and add them to the pot. Mix through so they are evenly coated in the sauce and cook for another 5-8 mins. Reserve approx 2 tbsp chopped coriander for garnishing, and stir the rest through the beans with the walnuts and feta, keeping a little of each of these ingredients back for garnish too. Take it off the heat and let it infuse for 5 mins with a lid on.
To serve, divide the stew into four bowls and sprinkle with the reserved chopped coriander, walnuts and feta. Add a generous crack of black pepper and serve with a slice of warm sourdough to mop up the sauce.
Recipe: Alissa Timoshkina