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Needling concerns: creamy sage and pancetta beans

One of my great talents is that, given time, I can turn any 'healthy' activity into a rabid compulsion, says Sophie White, and it's my dinner that inevitably suffers


Creamy Sage & Pancetta Beans

Creamy Sage & Pancetta Beans

Creamy Sage & Pancetta Beans

A craze for knitting swept through my life this time last year, and I felt that it may now be time for some quiet reflection on what has, in typical me-fashion, become a rampant obsession.

I took up the needles because I felt my roster of millennial pick-me-ups - meditation, therapy, psychiatric medication, yoga, reformer Pilates, podcasts, crystals and non-dairy milks - was still looking a little light. As a manic millennial, any hint of idleness has me running for a distraction. Sitting comfortably with our thoughts is something of a lost art for this generation, and now virtually nothing fills us with more dread than the dwindling battery on our phones and no soothing podcast hosts to listen to as we go about our lives.

The urge to be constantly 'on' and productive was definitely another motivator when I was hunting for a new hobby to heal my existential woes and fill the hours. Every millennial has a 'side hustle', and if your late capitalist hobby isn't in some way resulting in output - providing grist for your Instagram feed, or content for your YouTube channel - then what is the point? I chose knitting because I felt it was the thing that was least likely to become a malignant outlet for my pesky workaholism.

The knitting began as a benign release for my excess of nervous energy. I'd watch TV or listen to podcasts with the accompanying soothing click of the needles. However, soon I found myself pushing the boundaries of where and when it was socially acceptable to knit. I'd knit at social gatherings; as a non-drinker, it was quite simply something to do while chatting along with the conversation. I'd knit while I worked, and while I relaxed. I tried, unsuccessfully, to knit in the bath. I began to notice an urge to knit creeping in during sessions with my therapist. Our hour-long sessions became time wasted to my hyperactive mind.

"Think of all the rows I'm letting go un-knit while I sit here trawling through my petty predicaments and inane idiosyncrasies," my brain would lament, as my poor counsellor valiantly recommended getting more downtime and balancing work with rest.

One day, I decided to test the waters, and asked her outright if I could knit during my sessions or if it would be inappropriate. I should have anticipated her response, which was typical of her profession: "Why do you feel you need to knit here during our sessions?"

Goddammit. She had a point. Why is it that I can parlay the most innocent of pastimes into all-out neuroses? They say an obsession becomes unhealthy when it starts negatively impacting your life, and, sure enough, I began to notice the knitting was encroaching on some of my other passions. I was reading less and cooking less, as I became more enslaved to the needles. I have vowed to put down the needles more and focus on what's really important: adding booze and creaminess to delicious savoury dishes like these high-end beans on toast.


Creamy Sage & Pancetta Beans

Serves 4

You will need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 leek, washed and sliced

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely sliced

100g pancetta, diced

200ml white wine

80g creme fraiche

1 x 400g tin cannellini

beans, drained and rinsed

Finely sliced fresh sage leaves

Pinch of dried chilli flakes


4 slices sourdough, toasted

Parmesan cheese, to serve

1 Add the olive oil into a medium-sized saucepan and place the pot over a medium heat. Add the butter and the sliced leek, and saute the leek until it has softened. Add the finely sliced garlic and cook it for a couple of minutes. Add the diced pancetta to the pan. Increase the heat, and stir frequently to prevent sticking.

2 Pour in the white wine, and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer the liquid for 5-10 minutes until it has reduced by about two-thirds. Stir in the creme fraiche. Add the tinned cannellini beans to the pan and cook them for one minute until they are heated through. Stir in the sliced fresh sage leaves and the chilli flakes, if you are using them. I usually skip any additional seasoning because the pancetta is generally salty enough.

3 Serve the creamy sage and pancetta beans on the toasted sourdough, topped with shavings of Parmesan cheese.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine