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Yotam Ottolenghi’s Bkeila, Potato, and Butter Bean Stew

Yotam Ottolenghi

by Yotam Ottolenghi, Ixta Belfrage from Ottolenghi FLAVOUR

Bursting with herbs and spices, this rustic, Tunisian-inspired stew from Ottolenghi FLAVOUR is a comforting and intensely flavoursome dish.

From the book

Ixta Belfrage, Yotam Ottolenghi


Tunisian Jews make a condiment called pkaila or bkeila, which is extraordinary. It is prepared by cooking down plenty of spinach for hours in a generous quantity of oil. The spinach – Swiss chard is often used as well – loses all its water, and very slowly fries in the oil, resulting in a small amount of greasy paste as black as crude oil, which is used to flavour all kinds of soups and stews. Our version here is modified and highly simplified but it still imparts an essence-of-spinach flavour in this rustic stew, which makes it rather special; the kind of dish you keep coming back to for sustenance and comfort.

If you have time to make the butter beans in smoked cascabel oil (p. 41 of Ottolenghi FLAVOUR), or indeed if you’ve cleverly made a stash already, they are a wonderful addition to this stew in place of the plain butter beans.

The stew will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.

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80g coriander, plus 20g, roughly chopped, to serve
30g parsley
600g baby spinach
120ml olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 onion, finely chopped (150g)
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 green chillies, finely chopped (deseeded for less heat)
1¼ tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp caster sugar
2 lemons: juice to get 2 tbsp, then cut the remainder into wedges to serve
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
500g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
1 × 700g jar of good-quality cooked large butter beans, drained (500g) (we use Brindisa Navarrico large butter beans, but you can, of course, use tinned or cook your own)


1. Put the herbs and spinach into a food processor in batches and pulse until finely chopped (or finely chop by hand). Set aside.

2. Put 75ml of oil into a large, heavy-based pot on a medium heat. Add the onion and gently fry for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Add the garlic, chillies and spices, and continue to cook for 6 minutes, stirring often.

3. Increase the heat to high and add the chopped spinach and herbs to the pot along with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the spinach turns a dark green, almost grey colour. You want the spinach to catch a bit at the bottom, but not to burn, so turn the heat down if necessary. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice, stock and 2 teaspoons of salt, scraping the bottom with a spatula as you go. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat to medium, add the potatoes and gently cook until they are soft all the way through, about 25 minutes. Add the butter beans and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 20g of coriander. Divide between four bowls, drizzle with some oil and serve with the lemon wedges alongside.

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From the book: Ottolenghi FLAVOUR

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