Spicy bean casserole

Satisfaction Guaranteed With My Deliciously Spicy Bean Casserole

My deliciously spicy bean casserole will guarantee to leave your taste buds mouth-watering with satisfaction! Well … it does me!  When I was asked for this recipe, I realise I don’t actually follow a recipe. Make sure that you taste test all the way along.

This will serve 4 people


400-500g Fava or Carlin beans or a mix of the two (add more if needed)

One onion, finely chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil

Tin of tomatoes or fresh tomatoes

Chopped spinach – a couple of handfuls (wilt it in a pan and then chop it)

Harrisa paste or a mix of paprika and chilli. (I use a slightly adapted John Torode recipe, it makes lots so I freeze the spare)

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 vegetable stock cube

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

Serve the Spicy Bean Casserole with:
  • Rice or flatbreads
  • Top with creme fraiche, a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, a mix of fresh chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce.


  1. Soak the fava or carlin beans overnight or for at least 8 hours. Check the exact instructions.
  2. After soaking cook the beans for at least 45 minutes, again depending on the instructions.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of rapeseed oil in a heavy-based pan.
  4. Put your onion into the oil in the pan and fry until softened. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for a further minute or two. Don’t let it burn.
  6. Add a teaspoon of dried oregano and stir in.
  7. Pour in your tomatoes, stir and cook for about 5 minutes until gently simmering. Add in the spinach (optional)
  8. Put one to two teaspoons (or more depending on your preference) of harrisa paste, a splash of the cinnamon, and a vegetable stock cube into the tomatoes. Stir and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  9. Add the beans and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes.
  10. Keep checking the taste of the spicy bean casserole and add your own mix to the taste.

Links to Products

Website links:

John Torrode’s Harrisa Paste

My Refill Market for Fava and Carlin Beans

The Fruity Farmer for Rapeseed Oil 

If you like this recipe try out Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry


Yes, enter this Fruity Farmer competition to win a gift bag filled with 3 of their Christmassy Liqueurs.

The Fruity Farmer Wordsearch Nov 21And with Christmas around the corner, go seasonal and local with the Fruity Farmer. They are perfect for drinks with family and friends, pre or post-dinner, or as gifts ideas. Select from 13 delicious gins and liqueurs, 3 rapeseed oils including the classic and lemon-infused or their natural rapeseed oil soaps. The lucky winning entry will be able to select a gift bag of 3 items from this delicious range and it’ll be delivered to your doorstep*

Jenny, Chris and their team grow the fruit in their garden, in the farm hedgerows and at local orchards.  They also grow the rapeseed crop on the farm. The oranges and lemons they use in the Seville orange brandy, the rum, and Limoncello are the only fruits they can’t grow. Along with the in-season freshness they produce in small batches to ensure the perfect taste, colour and flavour. Rhubarb, quince, strawberry, and more take your choice.

Find out more by meeting owner Jenny at one of the four regular farmer’s markets they attend. If you can’t make it, 35 local businesses stock their produce. Alternatively, order direct and Fruity Farmer offer free delivery within 10 miles of their farm*.

The attractive, Italian glass gin and liqueur bottles cost £10 for 200/250ml or £20 for 500ml. Return your empty bottles and they’ll re-use them.

Celebrate a truly local Christmas with The Fruity Farmer.

For a Chance to Win

For a chance to win this fantastic prize simply find which word is missing from the grid and send your answer to the Fruity Farmer, including your name and address. Visit The Fruity Farmer for more information.

Fruity Farmer Competition Rules:

To enter email, post or telephone your answer to:
The Fruity Farmer, Priors Wood House, Purse Lane, Stoke Goldington, Newport Pagnell, MK16 8LW

Call: 01908 551903

State which competition you are entering and include your name, address and telephone number. The competition runs from 1 November 2021 and the closing time is 5pm, 30 November, 2021.

No purchase is required, there will be one winner and no alternative prize. Please confirm that you would like to receive details about events and special offers from The Fruity Farmer; support local and don’t miss out.

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Tomato and Courgette Risotto

This is a great way of using your glut of courgettes and tomatoes. Its Mediterranean ingredients will help to ensure summer lingers for a little longer! The mascarpone adds a creamier consistency to the tomato and courgette. If you like your food slightly spicier, chop in a little fresh chilli while cooking the onion.  Enjoy!

Serves 2

Prep Time 20 mins cooking time 25-30 mins


2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1⁄2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
200g risotto rice
500ml vegetable stock
200g carton passata
12 cherry tomatoes, halved or a chopped large tomato
2 courgettes, halved and sliced
2 tbsp mascarpone
parmesan (or veggie alternative), grated, to serve


  1. Cook the onion until soft in 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan. Stir in the garlic and coriander seeds.
  2. Stir in the risotto rice, coat with the onion.
  3. Ladle in 300ml of the vegetable stock, allow each ladle to absorb before adding the next.
  4. Pour in the passata, cover, simmer and stir occasionally for 10-15 mins, add more stock as needed.
  5. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Separately roast the cherry tomatoes and courgettes, until tender, in 1 tbsp olive oil and season.
  6. Stir in the mascarpone, cook until the risotto is creamy. Combine the courgettes with the rice, top with the roasted tomatoes and grated Parmesan.
Need a Local Supplier?

For locally grown veg, order a vegetable box from the Moorgate Farm vegetable box scheme.

Website: Moorgate Farm

For other ingredients:

Oil: The Fruity Farmer

Dry goods: My Refill Market

Three real reasons for eating in-season produce

By Jenny Letts

The Fruity Farmer

Many years ago eating in-season produce was the norm. Families would often grow their own veg, mostly to cut down on cost, and ate what they grew throughout the year. But widespread availability of fruit & vegetables from across the world almost the entire year long has seen a change in eating patterns. However now, there’s a gradual swing back towards customers wanting to try eating in-season produce.

There’s all sorts of reasons why it makes sense to eat seasonally.

One – It’s cheaper to eat in season

Firstly, it’s almost always cheaper to eat what is currently in season, as there’s often a good steady supply of it. If you visit your local greengrocer or farm shop you’ll always find fruit & veg that’s in season. They may often be grown fairly locally too. In this area, Molly’s Pantry in Bletchley is a wonderful example of that. Give them a visit and talk to Molly about all the produce they source. It mostly comes from within two or three counties which is in season at the time of your visit.

Of course, locally grown, fresh produce will pretty much always taste better than the same product frozen. It’s also usually is packed with more nutrients when you are eating in-season.

Two – Adding variety to your diet

Eating seasonally adds variety to your diet. When you haven’t eaten a British strawberry since last summer, that first punnet in late April/May time is manna from heaven isn’t it? During colder winter months you’ll naturally enjoy the root vegetables such as parsnips and swedes in warming roasts and casseroles. In the spring you’ll look forward to asparagus (oh they joy of that first bite of English asparagus!). The summer the glut of beautifully fresh berries is a real treat. In autumn you’ll enjoy nature’s bounty of blackberries, sloes, crab apples for example.

Three – Supporting local business and farms

By eating seasonally you’ll also support local businesses and farmers. You’ll know what you are eating and where it’s from. You’ll become less reliant on unseasonal food which requires inordinate amounts of energy to grow and transport across the world. Food produced locally needs much less time to be transported than food sourced from the other side of the globe.

Fruity Farmer stays seasonal

Here at The Fruity Farmer we make all our drinks seasonally. As they are fruit gins & liqueurs, they all keep well. They have a shelf life of a year (but would happily keep longer than that too). We start making rhubarb gin with our early garden-grown rhubarb in April, through to July. We pick strawberries from our strawberry bed in June for strawberry gin. Foraging sloes from our farm hedgerows takes place in November for our sloe gin. Seasonality dictates what we make throughout the year.

Here’s a guide to fruit & veg you can enjoy in the UK each month of year. It’s not exhaustive and there are many more. Just ask your local greengrocer or farm shop for advice.


  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Cucumber
  • Savoy Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Spring Onions
  • Water Cress
  • Rhubarb
  • Early Gooseberries


  • Beetroot
  • Broad beans
  • Courgette
  • Fresh peas
  • Salad leaves
  • Radishes
  • New Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Currants – red/black/white
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Apricots


  • Field mushrooms
  • Marrow
  • Sweetcorn
  • Pumpkin
  • Squashes
  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Sloes
  • Damsons
  • Pears
  • Quince
  • Plums


  • Brussels
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Parnsips
  • Swede
  • Turnips
  • Leeks
  • Celeriac
  • Pears
  • Quince
  • Apples

Article written by Jenny Letts, The Fruity Farmer

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Communities benefit from shopping small – it is powerful

Communities benefit from the power of shopping small. It is a subject, as you know, that is very close to our hearts at Essentially Local. We try to be realistic about what it means. For most of us, it would be impossible to only shop at independent outlets, however, to shop in this way when you can is powerful.

We asked Jenny Letts from The Fruity Farmer to share her thoughts on the subject. Jenny is the owner and producer of the delicious gins and other liqueurs as well as producer of a local rapeseed oil. She sells online and also through local farmers’ markets.

Jenny’s thoughts – The power of shopping local

Did you know that if every adult in the UK spent just £1 every day with a small business it would add £12 billion to local economies? Let’s just take a moment to really think about that. Just £1 a day?

Small business guru Holly Tucker dedicated the month of June to her amazing campaign Shop Independent. It’s her mission to spread the word about the power of shopping small & local and how important it is to our economy.

Whilst it is all too easy to reach for Amazon or the myriad other large national or international conglomerates, it really makes a difference to shop small. Is there a shop on your nearest High Street that sells the thing that you’re looking for on Amazon? Do you need to order another gift from Next or is there a small business online you could order from?

Small businesses often offer an amazing range of top-quality choices from other small, independent, and artisan makers and producers. Not only that, price-wise small businesses are mostly very well priced compared to the giants. And if you pay slightly more, you’re getting an individual and far less ‘run of the mill’ product.

Shopping small is convenient too. Walk down your local High Street and see what you can buy; have a look around your local market stalls; visit a local village shop – they are treasure troves!; browse small businesses online. You’ll find the most incredible, colourful, vibrant and wonderful community.

Small businesses also offer local jobs and often collaborate with one another to come up with fantastic services, products and events. Small really is powerful.

Our view

Shopping small does so much for communities – convenience is one thing, employment is another and of course, you get the product too. However, one of the most important things that local businesses offer to communities is support. Shops provide produce or products for raffles and competitions. Local services carry out work like tidying community areas or fixing items without charge in community buildings. Of course, we accept that bigger organisations may also offer support, but it is the small ones that seem to offer the day-to-day help. They rarely expect free publicity.

The barrier of time

Whereas most of us would love to always use local facilities, there are often barriers. Time walking up and down the High Street is often perceived as too long. Incredibly though, most of us will spend an hour or more in a supermarket. Often, this is longer than planned and more expensive. Obviously, it’s hard to resist strategically placed offers that lure us into spending more on things we don’t want or need.

Personally, I am shocked that local people will not walk 3 minutes from a car park to an independent shop. Yet, I note that Saturday shoppers will walk 3 minutes from the furthest car parking space to get into the store. Of course, they’ll have spent 10 minutes fighting and waiting for a space directly outside the door before giving up!

It costs too much

Cost is also an issue. When it comes to food, families don’t necessarily have the financial power to go anywhere but the cheaper supermarkets. We must remember that they employ local people who may spend locally so may bring money back. Equally, we should consider if buying a slightly more expensive sausage from a farm like Cranley Barn Farms is money better spent. Sometimes, the mix of a cheaper product with the independently produced can bring the balance. However, the adage ‘Eat less, eat better’ is there for a reason.

Location, location, and more

We are only too aware that where you live also makes a difference. If you live in central Milton Keynes it is not necessarily easy to get to the market towns. As great as Stony Stratford, Wolverton, Towcester, Olney and Buckingham are, are those car miles good for the environment? However, with fewer miles in locally produced items, does it balance out?

We’re all different

What we do know and accept is that our needs are all different. We believe that you don’t need to buy everything locally. However, by committing to using local once or twice a month, you will be making a difference to your community. Hopefully, you’ll also see that just because it’s big or online it isn’t necessarily easier, better, or cheaper. So go on start shopping small.

Moorgate Farm

Growing up in the Yorkshire Dales living on farms since a young age Susan has always strived to protect and educate all generations on where their food comes from and how it is produced. She has built up a reputation far and wide for her KellyBronze turkeys. Read more

The Fruity Farmer

The Fruity Farmer