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Yotam Ottolenghi’s Fried Butterbeans with Feta, Sorrel and Sumac

Sumac, sorrel, and feta provide a pleasantly sharp counterpoint to the creamy butterbeans in this hearty springtime dish from Ottolenghi.

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi


I knew something was achieved when I recently spotted sumac in the spice section of my local Waitrose. I know Waitrose is up-market, but who had even heard of sumac, or za’atar, a couple of years ago? Although I can’t take full credit for it, this is a first step towards introducing a new exciting spice to the British cook and my answer to sceptics who often ask me why I use all these exotic ingredients that are impossible to find. Just in case you don’t live near me, you can get both za’atar and sumac from Middle Eastern shops, or buy them online from If you can’t find sorrel, use spinach and double the amount of lemon juice.

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450g dried butterbeans
2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
60g butter
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
8 spring onions, sliced lengthways into long strips
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 fresh red chillies, thinly sliced (optional)
200g sorrel, cut into 2cm strips, plus extra very thinly sliced to finish
½ tsp salt
1½ tbsp lemon juice
150g feta, broken into pieces
2 tsp sumac
A handful of chopped soft herbs such as dill or chervil

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Place the butterbeans in a large bowl and add twice their volume of cold water and the bicarbonate of soda. Leave to soak overnight.

The following day, drain the beans, place in a large pan and cover with plenty of fresh water. Bring to the boil and boil for at least 30 minutes, or until soft to the bite but not disintegrating. They could take over an hour to cook, depending on size and freshness. Add more water during cooking if necessary. When ready, drain the beans.

Next, you want to lightly fry them. You may need to do this in three or four batches, depending on the size of your pan. Take some of the butter and oil and heat up well. Add enough beans to cover the bottom of the pan and fry on a medium–high heat for 1–2 minutes on each side, or until the skin is a nice golden brown and blistered. Remove to a large bowl and continue with another batch of butter, oil and beans.

When cooking the final batch, as soon as the beans are almost done, add the spring onions, garlic, chillies, if using, and sorrel and sauté for about a minute. Then add the rest of the beans to the pan, remove from the heat and season with the salt. Allow the beans to cool down completely or until just warmish.

Taste the beans for seasoning, drizzle some lemon juice on top, then scatter over broken feta, a sprinkling of sumac, chopped herbs and some thinly sliced sorrel. Finish with a drizzle of
olive oil.

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