Cheap and simple to make, in addition to being nutritionally beneficial, Lima Bean Souffle is a tried and true standard which can be relied upon to both satisfy and nourish.
The lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus), also known as butter bean, sieva bean, double, Carolina, Rangoon or Burma bean, is an ancient crop originating in South America. Lima beans can be found in dishes right across Meso- and South America and archeological artifacts show Peruvian cultivation in the Andes goes back eight thousand years. In North America, Native Americans also cropped lima beans in the southern climes, and by the 16th century, Spanish Conquistador, Hernán Cortés (1485 -1547) had introduced them to the imperial court of Charles V (1500-1558), Holy Roman Emperor. From there, judia de Lima (Spanish), fagiuolo di Lima (Italian), haricots de Lima (French) and Lima bohne (German), slowly integrated into Continental diets.
Relatively easy to grow and rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre, they also established as an economical domestic garden crop in the United States of America during the late 18th / early 19th century, and for home cooks a bean that could not only be eaten fresh when harvested, but store-dried, proved most advantageous - providing winter sustenance when few vegetables were available. In fact, lima bean stew, or beef and lima bean casserole continue to be hearty wintertide meals today.
Lima Bean Souffle was a relatively well known and economical presentation during the Edwardian era, and as food shortages began to impact upon civilian kitchens during World War I (1914-1918), it became an even more important dish in the arsenal of wartime homemakers, newly affected by meat rationing. The recipe below comes from North America, and was published in 1917, one month after the United States joined Allied forces in the war against Germany.
Whilst Americans weren't confronting the same dire food shortages as their allies closer to Europe, the war forced consumption changes upon the public, and in August 1917, The Food and Fuel Control Act (Lever Act) was passed to promote food security. As a consequence, citizen patriots were urged to adopt meatless and wheatless dining, twice a week, in order to conserve food, and dishes like Lima Bean Souffle became familiar menu additions at this time. With a cooking time of only 30 minutes, this golden souffle remained popular throughout the 1920s, the Great Depression, and once again emerged as a popular meatless dish during World War II.
Easy and economical, Lima Bean Souffle has proven itself to not only be a satisfying and reliable recipe in lean times, but also a tasty one, with a light and airy disposition that sets it apart from much heavier bean-inclusive stews of the past. Though plain in nature, its impact can easily be enhanced with piquant sides and garnishes. In the spirit of its forebears, I've purposefully made this version vegetarian, but meat-lovers could easily pair it with bold garnishes of pan-fried onion and bacon for extra oomph.
Lima Bean Souffle
1 cup bean mash
½ a cup of milk
3 eggs, separated
½ teaspoonful of salt
½ teaspoonful of paprika
Pinch of black pepper
Garnish with slithers of red pepper, spring onion and parsley, or other favourites.
1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 356°F and butter a baking dish or tin well.
2.. Open can of lima beans and drain, reserving the bean brine as an egg white substitute for other dishes or desserts.
3. Mash, puree or blitz lima beans to a smooth paste.
4. In a saucepan, combine milk and bean pap and slowly bring to a simmer.
5. Separate egg yolks from white. Place egg yolks into a heatproof bowl and whisk well. When saucepan contents reach boiling point, remove from heat immediately. Beat into yolk mixture until smooth and light.
6. Add salt, paprika and black pepper, then set aside to cool a little.
7. Whisk egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the lima bean mixture.
8. Pour mixture into buttered dish and bake for roughly 30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
9. If baked in a form or tin, allow to a few minutes before unmoulding directly onto a platter or wire rack, and serve immediately, garnished with preferred sides and greens.
Do not be tempted to open the oven door with this souffle, it may sink!
Baking in a buttered dish which can be brought straight to the table is an ideal solution for fuss-free entertaining.
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