When cooked, butter beans (also known as Lima and Madagscar beans) have a floury, buttery, creamy texture and a slightly musty aroma. It is an unusual combination. Always cook more butter beans than you need immediately because they are perfect for stews and casseroles, a variety of side dishes (where, unusually for beans, they combine well with cream), as well as slightly sweet tasting pâtés like this one which takes its subtle creamy green colour from the fresh parsley.
Cooking butter beans demands a little more care than is usually given to dried beans, but the trouble is worth taking. The problems are that in the initial stages of cooking, butter beans create a good deal of froth. And, although the beans are firm enough at the beginning and take a while to cook they can easily run away with you and end up as a pulpy mixture of skins and watery flesh. They need to be watched, that's all.
Soak as normal in cold water for about eight hours. Place the beans in a large saucepan – I use the base of a heavy old-style pressure cooker – cover well with water, allowing lots of space at the top to prevent the froth from spilling over. It also helps to add a dash of olive oil to the cooking water. Bring to the boil for a few minutes, spooning off any froth, reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are cooked though still firm. Test them with a sharp-pointed knife, remembering that you will probably be re-cooking them in one form or another. Drain the beans and reserve the water.
Butter beans, 225g (8 oz ), cooked as above, or the contents of one 400g tin, drained and rinsed
1 large field mushroom, peeled and chopped
Cashew nuts, approximately 225g (8oz), pieces or lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar
Fresh parsley, a generous handful, including stalks, chopped
Salt and pepper
Stock made with the butter bean cooking water
Fry the mushrooms gently in olive oil and butter, my preference in this case though any oil or fat of your choice will do. Add the butter beans, cashew nuts, and parsley. Stir well, add a small amount of salt and rather more pepper, cover with stock. Bring to boiling point and simmer until the butter beans and cashew nuts are softened and virtually all the liquid is reduced. This should take between ten and fifteen minutes.
If necessary add more stock to the blender while being careful not to add too much. You can blend until smooth (my preference) or blend less rigorously to leave a slightly nutty texture. Pot and chill in the fridge. Freezes well.