Roast Vegetable Hummus and the Simplest Flat Bread Ever

Okay, it’s been a while and sadly I’m not about to regale you with fabulous tales of holidays and adventures that have filled my days. It’s just that Peter (the husband) is away in Antarctica for a few weeks and my life seems to be a hectic (read chaotic) combination of working all over the place at funny hours (a result of being freelance that I usually embrace) and farming Imi out to wonderfully supportive family, friends and neighbours (three cheers for “Spare Granny” Sasha) at both ends of the day.

The amazingly bright autumn weather (not today – the S.A.D. lamp is definitely on), a few trips to The Bristol Lido to swim outside and some very special one-to-one time with Imi have thankfully made the chaos pretty wonderful too. I feel so blessed living in Bristol where I took these pictures just 5 minutes walk from the house. Last Sunday, the 1st of November, just felt like a bonus, an almost summery day, before we hit the colder weather – everyone was out (and I remembered that I really, really need a dog).

One of my Autumn highlights has to be the day spent at Victoria Park Primary School, in Bristol, helping with their Healthy Schools Week. I was working with Ramona Andrews: a school Mum, food writer, social media guru, producer (she’s a talented lass) and we a ball (a tiring one, but oh so rewarding). The idea was to get kids cooking, tasting and experimenting with simple recipes that happened to be healthy too, rather than the didactic approach.

With over 30 kids at a time, in the school art room, it wasn’t going to be individual soufflés so we settled on flat breads and hummus. It was all about tasty, simple and accessible recipes that the kids would most likely eat too and with Halloween looming we thought we’d throw some roasted pumpkin into the hummus. The room was filled with great wafts of garlic, cumin, baking bread and lots of noise (good noise, enthusiastic, excited noise).

One thing that I’ve learnt about cooking with children is that everyone wants, and needs, to be busy for every available second (I so, so appreciate you school teachers – it’s knackering). We had plenty of grating going on to keep everyone gainfully employed and made a massive bowl of salad. Radishes, beetroot, carrots, cucumber, apples, pears, seeds, herbs, lemon zest – it all went in, and of course there were a few doubters (some rather more vociferous than others) but pretty much everybody tried the end result and, best of all, most of them loved it.

So here you have my recipes from the day and though I do admit to buying hummus sometimes, and pitta bread too, this reminded me how simple, cheap and adaptable they are to make. The children were amazed at how easy it is to prepare the basic flat breads with plenty of scope to play around sprinkling with different spices They’re ideal for baking with some eager little helpers but worth throwing some together for yourself too.

Halloween may be over, pumpkin fever a thing of the past, but there are plenty of squash around in the markets and shops to experiment with. The texture is fabulous in hummus and the slightly nutty, caramelised flavour works well with Middle Eastern spicing or you could try some rosemary instead. The children devoured this, one even suggested that it would be good for “dipping KFC chips in”! (you can’t win ’em all) but the best thing was the palpable excitement  at eating something they’d prepared.



1 x 400 g can of chickpeas, drained
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin (roast and grind your own if you have time)
juice of 1/2 -1 lemon
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt and ground black pepper

Whizz up the the chickpeas in a food processor with the garlic, the juice of 1/2 the lemon and most of the cumin.

Blend for a moment or two before adding the olive oil. If the hummus is very stiff you can add 1-2 tablespoons of water. Blend again until you have a nicely textured, rather than smooth, paste.

Season with the black pepper. Have a taste and decide whether you want to add more lemon juice.

Coriander or parsley are great stirred in at the last moment (no earlier or your hummus will look a murky khaki colour.

Roasted Vegetable Hummus

600 g carrots or pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
1 x hummus recipe above

Pre heat the oven to 200ºC, fan oven 180ºC, gas mark 6

Put the carrot or pumpkin pieces into a roasting tin and add the olive oil, tossing to coat the vegetables and sprinkling with a little salt. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until they’re beginning to brown and caramelise.

Add the vegetables (hot or cold, it doesn’t matter) to the food processor  (or whizz with a stick blender), purée until smooth and then stir in the hummus.

Tip: Try using other vegetables such as roasted peppers, onions or aubergines too.

Simple Flat Breads (12)

250 g self raising wholemeal flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
250 g natural yoghurt

Just mix everything together in a large bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Squash the dough around in the bowl with your hands until it feels smooth and then roll the ball in a little four to stop it sticking the bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate or tea towel for at least 20 minutes

Divide the dough into 10 (easiest to chop in half and then cut the halves into 5 each- get the Maths going) Roll out until they are the thickness of a pound coin and bake in the hottest oven possible or cook on a ridged griddle until baked through..

Brush with oil and herbs ( try za’atar : sumac, sesame, tried thyme and salt) or garlic butter and eat straight away.

Grated Fruit and Vegetable Salad

You don’t need a recipe really but here are a few suggestions – a great moment to empty the veg’ basket and fruit bowl. It’s a fab’ way to introduce new flavours to kids, pile in plenty of the familiar and then just a little of something new.

Dressing made with lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning1 apple/pear
1 beetroot red or golden or even candy-striped (the kids loved these)
2 carrots
1 -2 sticks of celery
Fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, dill or coriander.

Put your dressing into a bowl and grate the r fruit and vegetables into it (turning so that they don’t get a chance to brown)
Mix everything together ( it’s best to stir in beetroot at the very end or you will end up with a Barbie-pink salad – you may want to wear gloves whilst you are grating).

Taste and season , then add nuts, seeds, herbs whatever you fancy.




The Pinot Noir Harvest and Butter Beans with Chorizo

This week has been an absolute spin: recipe writing for Borough Market, cooking lessons at home and away, a W.I. tapas demo’ out in the wilds near Bath, a spot of local grape picking this morning followed by an afternoon whipping up a humungous pot of butter beans and chorizo for a friend’s party.

Things have changed so much since I was a child, for a start there’s absolutely no way that I’d have imagined that I’d make my living in the kitchen ( my father had high hopes of a rather more lofty professional career for me; I wanted to be a shoe shop lady). The idea of picking West Country Pinot Noir grapes for a very good rosé wine would have been pretty alien too, and as for popping along to the local supermarket to choose my chorizo from a selection of half a dozen, you were lucky to find a salami.

So here we are, some pictures of our couple of hours of grape picking. To be honest I spent more time chatting, taking pictures and losing my secateurs than any very fruitful labour – sorry Ingrid, but there will still be that magical moment when I take my first sip of Dunleavy 2015 and look back to today; that low hum of conversation amongst the vines, the sound of snipping  secateur’s and children’s voices – pretty idyllic really AND it just happens that the last two vintages have tasted fabulous too.

And now to the beans; I find myself cooking renditions of this dish time and time again. The beans are bubbling away downstairs as I write and I’ve already fried up a vast pan of onions, garlic and chorizo. It’s a brilliant dish to feed a crowd and any leftovers will taste fabulous (even better in fact) the next day.

Chorizo with Red Pepper and Butterbeans
Serves 4 – 6

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
2 cloves garlic, diced
250 g chorizo, hot or sweet, sliced
500 g  butter beans ( 2 x 400 g tins – drained)
1 x 400 g/ 14 oz can of chopped plum tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Fry the onions and the pepper in a large pan until they soften and then add the garlic and the chorizo.

Once the chorizo fat has rendered down and the pan is swirling with its crimson juices then tip in the beans, stirring to cover them in the delicious oil.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Now, if you do have time allow the beans to sit in the tomato sauce for a few hours, soaking up the flavours)

Sprinkle with the parsley and the olive oil before serving.

(Today I added some celery to the onions too)

Tips when cooking butter beans – 

  • Soak for at least 8 hours (the beans will cook through more quickly and evenly)
  • Drain away the soaking water, pour over cold water to cover. Do not season with salt but a couple of bay leaves do add some great flavour.
  • Bring up to the boil and skim off any frothy scum.
  • Simmer gently (for anything between an hour and two until the beans are soft and creamy when pressed between your finger tips – if the flesh feels at all granular just keep on cookin’)
  • Season well before the beans cool down.

The Best Vegetarian Brunch Ever – Lablabi

Today’s World Vegetarian Day and though I’m not a vegetarian myself I’m all for spreading the word about the fabulous veggie food that we should all be eating more of – it’s not just better for the planet it’s better for your waistline too. But you know all that, so I’m not going to keep banging on about why you SHOULD be eating this because quite frankly once you’ve tried it you’ll be wanting to make this again and again.

Lablabi is the traditional breakfast soup served in cafés all over Tunisia, it’s the kind of food that seriously sets you up for the day. This chickpea broth can be as fiery and spicy as you like but be sure to add plenty of lemon juice – it’s the tangy zing that really makes the dish. The recipe comes from my book Pulse  (which I must point out is not purely vegetarian but of course, since it deals with legumes, has loads of veggie recipes). The picture is by the very talented  (and gorgeous) photographer Clare Winfield

Clare Winfield, Pulse

I can just about manage a few tablespoons of muesli and a sweet (I know, appalling) coffee for breakfast first thing but from about 10.30 onwards I’m up for anything. Lablabi makes an amazing brunch and with chickpeas, bread and poached egg it’s pretty hearty and satisfying. You can poach eggs ahead of time for a crowd – here are some pretty comprehensive directions

The capers, olives , spices and harissa give the broth a multi- dimensional flavour. It’s up to you whether you serve everything together as we’ve done in the picture or whether you put all the garnishes in diddy bowls for people to zapp up their own serving as much as they’d like – either way you end up with a riot of Mediterranean colour and flavours.

Tunisian chickpea and lemon broth
Lablabi                                    Serves 4

If you do get around to cooking your own chickpeas their water will really enhance the broth.

For the broth
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
700 g/1  1/2 lb cooked chickpeas or 3 x 400 g tin of chickpeas, drained
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp harissa paste
800 ml/ 1&1/2 pints vegetable stock or chickpea cooking water
Juice of 1 lemon

In the broth
2-4 slices of good, day old rustic bread, ripped into large pieces (I use sour dough)
4 eggs, poached
1 tsp wine vinegar

On the top
4 tsps harissa paste
1 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp capers
12 black olives, chopped
2 red peppers, roasted, skinned and cut into ribbons (optional)
1 lemon sliced into quarters
a dash of extra virgin olive oil.

Take a large saucepan and fry the onion in the olive oil until soft and golden.

Add the garlic and once your kitchen is filled with fabulous wafts throw in the chickpeas, cumin, harissa and  a pinch of salt, stir for a couple of minutes and then pour in the liquid. Traditionally this is the broth produced by the chickpeas as they cook but vegetable stock works well too. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and season with salt.

Place the ripped bread in individual soup bowls, ladle over the broth, throw in some chickpeas and place the egg on top.

Now for all the garnishes: I usually sit a small blob of harissa on top of the egg and serve some more at the table for anyone after the extra kick. Sprinkle over the other delicious bits and serve.

And if this kind of spicy breakfast brunch/breakfast is your thing and you just haven’t got the time to whip it up yourself here are …..

My Top 3 Brunch Spots
I make no apologies for the fact that two are in Bristol – it’s where I live and the food scene is just great (and ever evolving)

Bakers and Co on the Gloucester Road (Bristol) make the best huevos rancheros this side of Mexico (slow cooked pinto beans, salsas, tortilla and fried egg) and I defy you not to manage to squeeze in an amazing pastry too.

The Souk Kitchen on North Street, Bedminster (Bristol) does fabulous brunches on a Saturday and Sunday. Lots of fragrant North African flavours (as well as a good old English if you must), I had an incredible beetroot and cumin puree with my egg and sourdough last time we went. On Sundays there’s a great food market opposite too (1st Sunday in the month has lots of retro clothes etc too)

Honey and Co Warren Street, London Oh yes, it absolutely lives up to all the hype (haven’t heard the hype? Where the hell have you been?- certainly not reading my blog!) As well as having published 2 of my favourite recipe books ever, these guys serve up a simply amazing brunch . The shakshuka (eggs in a spiced tomato sauce) is to die for, their aubeginey-feta frittata just heaven, the cakes on the windowsill just can’t be resisted. GO. On weekdays there’s a great breakfast menu, on Saturdays it becomes a feast (closed Sunday).

Chassignolles and Simple Puy Lentil Salad

Jenny Chandler at ChassignollesI’ll try not to allow this post to sound like some completely over the top advert for a quite impossibly perfect place to go on holiday BUT, to be quite honest, our three night honeymoon (apparently rather nauseatingly known nowadays as a “minimoon”) was just heaven. We went to the Auberge de Cassignolles in the Auvergne, a small hotel with eight rooms and, most importantly, an utterly amazing restaurant.

I simply loved everything about the place: the jar of wild roses and blackberries by the bed, the crispy white bed linen, the shuttered windows opening out onto the village square with it’s medieval church (with its very loud bells), the fabulous art on the walls. It’s almost impossible not to bang on about it all but I’ll hold back and let Peter’s pictures ( well, I might have taken a couple) do the talking.

And, as to the food, it just couldn’t have been better. Peter Taylor (previously of The Riverstation, Bristol) owns and runs the show with his incredibly resourceful chef, Matt Robertson (American… Arkansas in fact, been cheffing in Paris and all over the place for years including Chez Panisse). The auberge vegetable patch provides most of the fresh produce along with eggs, goat’s milk (for the cheese, ice cream etc) lamb and pork. Unpasteurised cow’s milk comes from just down the road, as do all the amazing local cheeses, charcuterie is all made in-house (Peter visibly winced as I asked him if the veal boudin blanc was homemade – of course it was) so are all the fabulous jams. Breakfast is perfect, dinner is even better ( sorry, I did tell you that I was going to go overboard in my excitement).

Every night Peter serves a five course meal (an absolute bargain at 25 euros) of the most stunningly balanced food, it’s all obviously so gloriously fresh and as he says “it’s what Matt doesn’t do to it”. Locals book tables for the upcoming evenings without even inquiring what will be on the menu; the blackboard goes up just before dinner. Our first night will stay with me as one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever eaten- a citrus scented pumpkin soup, a fresh goat’s cheese salad with grilled courgettes and shaved radishes, then roast lamb with fresh chard, tomatoes and flageolet beans, followed by local cheese and leaves from the garden and finishing up with a strawberry frangipane tart with incredible buttery pastry. It sounds like we would need to have been stretchered off to bed but, incredibly, the plates were so carefully measured that I felt beautifully satisfied rather than stuffed.That’s the thing about a chef’s menu, as Sally Clarke’s been demonstrating for decades in London, they think about the balance so much better than we do when we select our favourites from a menu. So basically, if you love food just get to Chassignolles; it’s simply no wonder that it was recently listed by The Times in their Top Foodie Hotels of Europe 

A rather miraculous side to our trip was the lack of hang-overs or the slightest hint of an early morning fuzzy head – even if Mr Bassett does look as if he’s getting pretty pie-eyed on the Negronis. This has to come down to the natural wines that Peter serves, he’s brilliant too when it comes to introducing you to what is, for most of us, pretty new territory. SO, a gushing review about, what does just happen to be, some friends of our’s hotel but I’d like to add that it doesn’t make the positive report predictable at all, I have to admit that it makes me quite nervous going to a friend’s joint, it’s that awful feeling that you might NOT like it…. then silence is the only way.

We didn’t spend every waking hour eating and drinking at Chassignolles, we headed out in our diddy hire car to the market in Langeac – one of those proper French markets with producers bringing their own small selection of cheeses, charcuterie, fruit or veg. I came away with a few saucissons (finished last for lunch today) and some Mirabelles jam.

We pottered down country roads, got lost (I was map reading – more about my navigational skills later) but did find the lentil Mecca of Le Puy en Velay.  The volcanic landscape was stunning but not a lentil in sight (all harvested in August) but we still managed  to slip in a lentil salad for a light lunch beside the Cathedral.


It’s so tempting to digress into talk of pilgrims, the trail to Santiago de Compostela, winding medieval steps trodden over centuries but I do need to get down to giving you a lentil salad recipe. I’m sure that you get the picture from Peter’s photos & I’m definitely getting back to Le Puy in lentil season next year, so more on that at a later date.

The salad recipe is as simple and straightforward as they come, all about quality ingredients and perfect seasoning; a lesson learnt in Chassignolles.

Simple Lentil Salad Serves 4
No photo I’m afraid – you’ve had more than the usual ration and I want to get this post out before the auberge closes for the winter. If you’re in Bristol then you’re in luck, as it seems that Peter and Max’s Bar Buvette is set to “pop up” again in the coming months. I’ll keep you posted.

250 g/9 oz Puy or Castellucio lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 small red onion , finely sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt and black pepper
4 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

Place the lentils in a pan with the bay leaf and cover with cold water by about 5 cm/ 2 inches . Bring them up to the boil and then simmer for about 20-30 minutes until tender but still just intact (don’t leave them like little pebbles, or you’ll have a lot of fun digesting them)

Meanwhile pour the vinegar over the onion and leave to soak, red onion will turn fuschia pink and become softer in both texture and flavour.

Drain the lentils, reserving their cooking liquid, and whilst still warm add the vinegar, olive oil and season well with salt and black pepper, allowing the tastes to marry.

Once cool stir in the chopped parsley and add a little cooking water if the salad seems dry.

Try stirring in a teaspoon of Dijon mustard & serve with cold ham or a good pork pie.
Use as a base for any winter salads with roast vegetables and goat’s cheese.

Recipe from my book Pulse
Most of the pic’s by Peter Bassett – my husband!.

Oh, and just one word on my navigational skills, or travel planning. It’s wise to check maps and distances carefully on the internet. It transpired that Chassignolles is indeed just an hour from Limoges airport, just not the Chassignolles that we were going to…….. could have been the first marital bust up after 4 hours in the car BUT thankfully Peter was swept away by the auberge’s charms too.

Prawn cocktails, shingle beaches and carousels – a Kentish holiday

WhitstableAs a child we headed west in August, never abroad, it was always a road trip to Wales. Nowadays it’s so easy to leap on a plane that everyone seems to assume that you’ll be heading to the Med’, having a British holiday even has a dreaded label – a “staycation”. Well, our drive from Bristol to Kent certainly took long enough to warrant holiday status and we thankfully enjoyed sunnier climes too, our week in the east was a stunner.

We stayed in Whitstable, famed for its oysters and more recently for having a touch of the Islington-on-sea about it. Now it might seem very shallow but I’m perfectly happy to share the place with the D.F.L’s (Down from Londons) since their penchant for the good life means that the town is packed with great deli’s, restaurants, and some rather tempting boutiques too.

We spent most of our week pottering around the town, sitting on the beach and being lured into the sea by 8 year old Imi and her little school friend. We did have one big day out to the much-talked-about Margate, just about 1/2 an hour down the coast. This rather dilapidated old seaside resort is firmly back on the map with the re-opening of its Dreamland amusement park and the very cool Turner Contemporary Gallery just along the seafront.

To be honest the resort did look a little down-at- heel and deserted when we arrived first thing (the girls had been up since 6 in anticipation), but once we were in (first through the gates!) we had a fab’ time. No queues for well over an hour: dodgems, shelter skelter, carousel, rockets, loads of fun and managed to avoid the few really hideously scary rides. Dreamland has been refurbished with a great retro feel, we loved the high diving display, the staff were incredibly upbeat and enthusiastic and we even found a really good Thai green curry for lunch. Whilst Dreamland doesn’t compete with the likes of Chessington or Alton Towers on the thrill side of things it was simply perfect for younger kids and old crusties like ourselves who would probably have a breakdown on a corkscrew rollercoaster. So thumbs up for Dreamland!

We headed for the beach in the afternoon (the sand was the big lure after Whitstable’s pebbles) and Peter and I took turns to visit the Turner Contemporary where I was just mesmerised by the Grayson Perry exhibition – Provincial Punk. His Walthamstow Tapestry is worth the trip to Margate  – no photos permitted so get down there before September 13th when the show winds up.

Back in Whitstable much of our time, or mine at least, was devoted to the important business of food – no surprises there! We had to dive into some oysters of course; The Royal Whitstable Oyster Company is a glorious location with an incredible heritage and our lunch was fabulous too, even the girls sampled their first oysters. The Cheesebox  is unmissable; an entire shop of British cheese, local pickles, sourdough bread, Kentish cider – I could happily move in. DavidBrown’s Deli is another place to fill your picnic basket, or fridge (in fact you could happily graze around the food shops and never cook a thing) Being August, the local plums and cherries were in their prime too, I always think that cherries are pretty hit or miss, these were divine. And then, to top it all, comes the high altar of all things fishy; Wheelers. Yes, the original one- you have to book a table in the little back parlour months in advance (top priority before our next visit) but can thankfully buy prepared seafood such as smoked prawns, dressed crab, fish cakes, jellied eels (I tried to like them, I am so sad but I don’t ….. I Really don’t!) however the prawns were to die for.

I couldn’t resist the Wheelers’ cook book – Oyster Seekers (as well as a great collection of seafood recipes there’s some fabulous insight into Whitable’s history and the oyster trade). I’ve chosen to share this Prawn Cocktail in homage to the retro Dreamland, to Seventies summer holidays and all things British.

Wheelers Prawn and Dill Cocktail
Serves 4

28 Tiger prawns, raw, peeled and deveined (keep the heads and shells for stock)
lemon juice
1/2 a cucumber
6 tbsp good mayonnaise
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp horseradish sauce
paprika, cayenne and Tabasco
splash of Brandy
8-10 fronds of dill
1/2 a Cos lettuce
a few mixed salad leaves
8 cherry tomatoes
4 lemon wedges
4 slices Brown Bread

Cook the prawns in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, drain & allow to cool , squeezing a little lemon juice over them whilst they are still warm.

Shred the cucumber into spaghetti -like strips; a mandolin is the suggested tool (if you’ve fallen for the Spiraliser craze, well get on down!) or you could just use a knife. Season with a little salt and pepper. Put the cucumber in a colander to drain away excess moisture.

Mix together the mayo, ketchup, horseradish, a pinch of paprika and cayenne , a dash of Tabasco and brandy and add seasoning and lemon juice to taste. Chop up the dill and fold into the sauce.

Divide the Cos and salad leaves between 4 bowls (or cocktail glasses – come on give it the 70’s look) and top with some of the cucumber and tomatoes.

Pile on the prawns and spoon over some sauce. Finish up with a sprinkle of paprika.

Serve with a lemon wedge and brown bread and butter.

The ultimate prawn cocktail(From The Oyster Seekers by Mandy Bruce 2006)

Sundal Accra – A Bonus Spicy Chickpea Recipe!

OOPs I did it again! In the carefully selected words of Imi’s favourite Britney Spear”s number.

I can just about write one blog but managing to write two is almost beyond me. I decided to set one up for our wedding guests and have, for the second time, managed to post some completely irrelevant information to hundreds of food followers and chickpea enthusiasts- Sorry if you’re bewildered – I’ve taken it down now and you have a very quick post in it’s place!

So it’s not all bad since I’m going to reward you with one of my favourite recipes from Pulse (Oh and what a fine excuse to mention my book once more)

Pulse Jenny Chandler

Southern Indian Chickpeas and Coconut
Sundal Accra

There are so many amazing Indian snacks made with pulses to choose from, it was the pure simplicity of these chickpeas that caught my eye. Then, once eaten never forgotten, they make a great little nibble to serve before a curry.

This snack is traditionally served outside the temples of Southern India during the Hindu festival of Navratri. Nowadays it’s tricky tracking down whole coconuts in Britain but you’ll certainly know what to do next time you score on the coconut shy at the local fête. I’ve used desicated coconut but if you do find a fresh one in an ethnic store it is oh so much tastier.

1 tsp vegetable oil such as rapeseed, sunflower, ground nut or coconut oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 green chilli, very finely diced
1 tsp fresh ginger, very finely chopped
5 curry leaves (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp urad dal or very unorthodox red lentils (optional)
250 g home-cooked or 1 x 400g tin, drained and rinsed chickpeas
4 tbsp freshly grated coconut or 2 tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut

A handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped

Take a large frying pan and heat up the oil, add the mustard seeds and wait until they begin to splutter and pop about.

Now throw in the chilli, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, salt and raw dal (or lentils) if using.

Wait for the aromas to burst out of the pan and the dal/lentils to begin crisping up and then stir in the chickpeas.

Remove from the heat and stir well, add the grated coconut and dive in.

Scrumptious warm or cold.

Deconstructed Minestrone

Minestrone SaladIt does sound seriously poncey I know, but this salad came about quite by mistake and not as some highfalutin cheffy notion. A couple of weeks ago I was running a workshop at Imi’s Primary School with an entire class of Year 3 (7-8 year olds) and had planned on making a huge minestrone soup showcasing some of the vegetables picked in the school garden. Of course that particular day turned out to be the heatwave of the century (it did only last a day) and hot soup really did not fit the bill at all. SO, deconstructed minestrone it was and how tasty it turned out to be too.

I’ve started teaching regular cooking workshops with the help of some enthusiastic parents at my daughter’s primary school; it’s quite a challenge as we’re working in the dining room, have just one small oven and no individual hobs as yet. Interestingly these limitations forced me to really think how to go about the sessions and now we have a great formula. In each class we have a core recipe such as a bulgur wheat salad, or Turkish borek (little folded filo pastries) or in today’s case minestrone with about 4 or 5 key ingredients and a few basic instructions. Then we let the kids loose on a whole variety of other vegetables, herbs, cheeses, spices and seasonings (or any other appropriate bits) that I’ve arranged on a huge table. The children work in small groups on their recipe; it’s quite extraordinary to watch the peer pressure and competitive spirit at work -suddenly previously green-phobic kids are diving into pea shoots, raw courgette, dill and avocado.

Perhaps the most gratifying  thing about our Food Group sessions is the parental feed back, some children are even sending their mothers off with shopping lists so that they can reproduce the simple meal back at home, others are being more adventurous in their food choices. There’s no doubt that cooking is key to getting children excited about eating healthy food (it’s not just about making chocolate brownies and cup cakes – I could rant now but we’ll leave that for another day)

But back to the Minestrone –  a classic Italian dish that translates as “big soup”, it varies with the region and the season but is quite definitely never a salad! So get off my back Italophiles.  I know that it doesn’t really make sense but the ingredients (with the obvious omission of the stock) are basically the same – just raw rather than cooked.  This “Deconstructed Minestrone”  is great way of plumping up a summer salad into a substantial lunch dish and also using up any random vegetables that are good eaten raw. It’s up to you how many ingredients you throw into the mix.

Deconstructed Minestrone.

Minestrone Jenny Chandler

70’s Style Still L ife

The Base
250 g cannellini or haricot beans ( 1 x 400 g can of  beans drained or home – cooked – it’s up to you)
100 g tiny pasta e.g.  orzo (like tiny rice), acini de pepe (literally pepper corns) or stellette (little stars )
250 g ripe, tasty tomatoes cut into bite-sized pieces
3 or 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely slice
A large handful of basil leaves, ripped into small pieces
Shavings or parmesan or pecorino cheese

The Dressing
Juice of 1 lemon
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh peas straight from the pod
Courgette, cut into very fine slices (yes, raw courgette is delicious and a winner with the kids)
Celery, chopped finely
Red or yellow pepper cut into tiny dice
Carrot, diced finely
Parsley, dill, mint, oregano, rocket, pea shoots, baby spinach
French beans or baby broad beans, blanched until tender.

Rinse the cannelloni or haricot beans and place them in a large salad bowl.

Boil the pasta in salted water until just “al dente” it’s pretty quick with all these tiny, soupy shapes so keep an eye. Drain the pasta and add it to the beans.

Now add the remaining vegetables and dressing to the bowl, holding back on tender herbs, salad leaves and the cheese shavings until you are just about ready to serve.

The salad only improves with a few extra hours in the bowl with all the flavours getting to know one another.

You could add tinned tuna (leave out the cheese), anchovies, capers or olives to the mix but now we are really straying from the minestrone roots.


Sadly, hot soup seems the better option today as I sit at my desk in summer frock and flip flops desperately trying to think sultry sunny thoughts. We’re off to W.O.M.A.D. ( a fabulous music festival) tomorrow, the wellies and not-so-fashionable rain ponchos are by the front door but I’m crossing my fingers.