Baked butter beans, fennel & orange

baked beans, fennel, orange by irem aksu

That dish is truly a comfort food with the ingredients that you can find easily everywhere. I love cooking vegs and pulses in orange juice which always gives a tangy, zingy flavour to the dish. Olive oil based dishes are very much spring and summer to me as I remember my mum used to cook so many pulses and greens with olive oil, with always lots of onions and a squeeze of lemon, and tomatoes were a must if it was summer time. This spring I am remembering “home” – my memory-rich zone – in my London home. 

We have plenty of time to touch and understand the food, ingredients we eat and manage cooking balanced meals with the limited sources. Each little experience in the kitchen is a part of the evolving relationship with food in human memory these days… It is quite fascinating. 

The recipe makes for 2 servings. 


  • 400g butter beans – one can with its water OR  90g dried butter beans – soaked overnight
  • Half of fennel bulb – sliced 
  • 1 medium brown onion – sliced 
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 orange, zest first and juice of it 
  • 3tbsp olive oil + 1tbsp for finishing 
  • 2-3 strings of fresh thyme 
  • 1 carrot – grated  
  • 2 garlic cloves – finely chopped
  • A good handful of kalamata olives – 10-12
  • 30g feta, crumbled (2 tbsp ) you can use ricotta as well.
  • A pinch of grated nutmeg 
  • Salt + black pepper to taste 

If you use dry butter beans, drain the dry butter beans soaked in cold water overnight. Place a small pot and add the beans with 3 times more water. Cook around 30-35 minutes until they are soft but not mashy. The cooking time can vary depending on the origin of the beans. So, it is better to check them out after 30 minutes. 

Place an oven-proof pan on a medium heat. Add olive oil, when heated and onions, stir for 2 mins, add sliced fennel, garlic and keep cooking for 5 minutes until they get soft and tender. Add grated carrot, chopped celery and stir around for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the orange juice. 

Add cooked beans – around 250g and 150ml stock ( or just reserve from the water you cook the beans in). If you use a can of butter beans, add the beans with its water. Finally add olives. 

Season it with salt, pepper, touch of nutmeg, thyme and the zest of an orange. Cook for further 3-4 minutes. Cover the pan, place it in the oven – 170C/gas mark 4 – for 40 minutes. 

Take the lid off, put the oven on 150C/2, and add crumbled feta and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. 

Turn off the oven, take the pan out after resting 2-3 minutes. Feta must be soft on that stage, just stir through the dish. It will give a creamy consistency to the dish. You can add chopped parsley if you like.

Add 1tbsp of extra virgin olive oil for finishing the dish.

Serve warm. 

*this recipe is created for the first digital delivery of Delfina Foundation‘s traditional Family Lunch series during lockdown.