How long this takes will depend on how old the beans are, but in most cases it will take between 50 minutes and 1½ hours. Taste at 50 minutes, then every 10 minutes thereafter, until they are fully tender but not disintegrating. If overcooked, the best thing to do is to purée them. Small black beans cook much more quickly and will take no more than 20 minutes.
Whatever kind of beans, when done remove them from the heat and leave to cool in their cooking liquor if you do not want to serve them immediately.
Soak and cook the beans as described above, adding the garlic, chilli and bay leaves as flavourings. Drain, discarding the flavouring ingredients.
Make the gremolata: chop the parsley and garlic, and mix with the grated lemon zest. Stir the gremolata into the beans, squeeze over the lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper.
Finally dress liberally with extra-virgin olive oil. The dish has fresh flavours, looks lovely and has a nice texture. It can also be served cold as a salad.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.