Butter beans really do have a rich buttery flavour, and as they tend to break up when they cook, a purée or a soup is the best thing you can do with them. This simple purée is wonderful, and goes perfectly instead of potatoes or rice with any roast or grilled meats or birds, or as part of a vegetarian meal. Butter beans combine specially well with the flavour of bay so for extra flavouring add a bay leaf or two to the water when cooking the beans.
Drain the soaked butter beans. Put them in a saucepan and cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil, boil for 10 minutes, then cover and simmer for 1-½ hours until very soft, slamming the surface as necessary to remove any scum.
Drain the cooked butter beans and place in a food processor with the crushed garlic and remaining butter. Whizz thoroughly to a smooth purée. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, then stir in the fried onion with its butter and oil. Spoon the mixture into a shallow earthenware or gratin dish.
Mix the breadcrumbs with the grated Parmesan cheese, sprinkle all over the top and dot with little bits of butter. Cook at 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6 for 20–30 minutes until speckled golden brown on top – if you already have meat or poultry roasting in the oven at a different temperature, just put in the dish and leave it for either more or less time until the surface has browned.
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