Sun-Dried Tomato & Herb Braised Beans

We lean heavily on our pantry this time of year during the hungry gap (that time when Irish winter veg are finished and the summer harvests are still a little way away). Beans and lentils are so nourishing, cheap and filling – and they are climate friendly crops too. This is our favourite way to make a pot of white beans. We sometimes make it with dried beans when we have the time, but here is a quicker version with tinned beans for you. You can customise it as you like with greens wilted in at the last minute, top with roasted vegetables or just scoop it up with some good bread. So so delicious!

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 sweet potatoes – scrubbed & chopped into chunks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, sliced
  • 1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • a whole bulb of garlic – cloves separated, peeled & sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • a large handful of rosemary
  • 2 tins butterbeans or cannellini beans
  • a large handful of fresh thyme
  • a large glass of white wine
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • chopped spinach or kale or another leafy green you like


  1. Turn the oven to 200C and tumble your sweet potatoes into a roasting dish. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and sprinkle over the chilli flakes and chopped sage. Shake the dish to evenly coat the potatoes in the seasoning then pop it in the oven to bake while you make the beans. Depending on your oven and the size of your chunks, they should take around 20-30 minutes to cook through.
  2. Drain the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes into a pot. Then, using kitchen scissors, chop the sun-dried tomatoes up into strips. Then turn the heat under the pot to medium-high and add the sliced garlic, bay leaves and rosemary. Cook until the garlic is softening and starting to colour.
  3. Then tip in the 2 tins of beans and their liquid too. Add the white wine, thyme and chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Season with a little salt and pepper then simmer gently for 15 minutes or so until the flavours have developed. Careful not to overcook the beans as they will turn to mush. Turn the heat off and let the beans rest while you wait for the sweet potatoes to cook through.
  4. Once the sweet potatoes are cooked through and you are ready to serve, add the greens to the beans and warm them through. Serve in wide bowls topped with the roasted sweet potatoes and scoop up with bread if you like.

Earth Day & The Hungry Gap

People often ask, why do you produce your own food? Why do you grow it when it is so much cheaper to import it? It is a very easy answer, and the reasons are twofold: I love what I do, it is in my blood (we are third generation farmers) and I would not do anything else.

Secondly because it simply is the right thing to do. Having food grown locally makes sense, it cuts down on carbon emissions, it is fresher, it provides local employment, it improves biodiversity, and we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do it. We need more people to do it.

With Earth Week starting today and Earth Day falling on the 22nd, it is a good time to reflect on our habits. We have seen such a shift to supporting local food over the last 12 months and this is one of the most wonderful changes we as individuals and families can make. It’s impact on the planet cannot be overstated, understanding where and how our food is produced can help us make better decisions and lead to a cleaner healthier planet.

Today as I write this, after a day in the fields, I feel lucky to be a farmer. Days do not come much better than this, the sky is blue, the sun is shining the birds are singing and we are on schedule with our planting. In the West of Ireland days like today are to be relished and enjoyed, and there is the added bonus that our office is a 5-acre field, I like that.

If there was one small thorn in my side, it is the planting machine. It is temperamental old and cranky and every year there is a requirement to find mutual common ground between (sometimes also cranky) farmer and machine, this year that ground has been hard to find and has led to a few choice expletives.

Nevertheless, if farming has thought me anything and it teaches a lot, is that perseverance with an air of optimism generally gets you through.

It is funny to think that just this week we finished harvesting the last of our kale which was planted nine months ago and today we planted the very first kale for the new year. This kale will take at least 8 weeks to reach harvestable maturity. We have also been very busy planting cabbage, Romanesco, broccoli, lettuce, and celery.

Myself being the impatient individual that I am can sometimes expect that we should have more IRISH food at this time of the year especially when the sun shines. But nature and farming do not work like that, and right now we are slap bang in the middle of what we call the “Hungry Gap”. There is a lull in IRISH food supply, of course that does not mean it is not available, it is, and we have loads, leeks, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, salad, radish, and parsnips. But for the next few weeks it gets difficult.

Every year we get a little bit earlier and a little bit smarter with our planting and this year is the earliest yet, but even so, there are weeks starting now when supply is tight. Take tomatoes for example, we have our plants ready for transplanting, but harvest is at least 8 weeks away.

Right now, on our 40-acre organic farm there is a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes. For the last 2 months we have been busy ploughing, tilling, fertilising, planting, covering, uncovering, watering and sowing. All of this to lead to a rich harvest of local organic food in the weeks ahead, but it takes time, and it does not matter how impatient I am, nature cannot be sped up, it travels at its own pace.

So, although we are heading into the hungry gap now, be reassured that you are supporting a truly local food growing effort both here on our farm and through all the other amazing IRISH organic farms and producers across the country that we support. Remember in the famous words of Margaret Meade “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

As always, thank you for your patience and perseverance!


PS Don’t forget to do a little something for Earth Week, whether it is supporting more local food producers, or learning more about how your food is produced, driving less, turning off lights or eating less meat, what can you do? Just raising our awareness is a powerful tool in the fight for our planet.