Since time immemorial beans and legumes have figured prominently in regional dishes throughout Greece. Dried Gigantes beans (pronounced YEE-GAN-DES) are a staple of Greek cookery and can usually be found in Greek specialty shops and bakeries, or most well-stocked supermarkets around the world.
Also referred to as Elephant beans, Gigantes are about 1 inch long or roughly twice the size of conventional lima beans, and are a variety of runner bean. Cultivated largely in north central Greece, these beans can be prepared and served as an appetizer, as part of a salad, or as a main course. Indeed, this bean is so popular in Greece that five varieties of Gigantes/Elephant beans have been recognized as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) / Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) produce by the European Union.
The extraordinarily meaty and buttery texture of this extra large bean has served to make them a ubiquitous menu offering in Greek tavernas and restaurants the world over. However, the version you will usually find in such eateries is one where they are baked in a rich tomato sauce. This particular recipe is popular on the Cyclades Islands and makes for an excellent appetizer dish.
1 cup dried Gigantes (Greek Elephant Beans)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1 cup extra virgin olive oil*
Salt & pepper
1. Soak the beans in water overnight to re-hydrate them. Drain the water and rinse the beans well before cooking.
2. Add beans to a pan with enough cold water to cover the beans by about 1 inch or so. Add salt to water and bring to a boil then simmer for ten minutes.
3. Drain beans, rinse them with cold water and return them to the pan. Add fresh cold water to the pan along with some salt and once more bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 25-30 minutes until beans are tender. Remove from heat, drain water and set the beans aside.
4. Beat milk and egg well in a small bowl. Sift the flour into another small bowl and add salt and pepper to taste. Put the breadcrumbs into a third bowl.
5. Heat oil in pan. *NOTE: You need to ensure that there is enough oil in the pan to almost, if not completely, cover the beans when they are added to the pan. My suggestion would be to use a smaller pan which will require less oil.
6. Flour the beans in small batches then dip them in the egg mixture and then cover them with breadcrumbs. Fry them in small batches and be ready to turn them over quickly in the pan to cook both sides evenly – stay on top of them when frying as they don’t require very long and you don’t want them to burn. Remove beans from the oil when a uniform golden brown outer colour is achieved.
Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve warm.
Garnish with chopped parsley.