Festival Season – Spilling the Beans

No sooner is the summer music festival season over than the flurry of food festivals begins. It’s harvest, the perfect time to get excited about all of our local fare and artisan producers, and to indulge too (you’ve got months before all those irritating people begin shouting about detoxes and beach bodies). This year I’ve been blowing the trumpet for pulses, as many of you are already well aware.

First stop was beautiful Ludlow, one of the original food festivals ,that started out in 1995. The main festival venue is the castle but there are events all over the town, and what a stunning town it is. Sorry, I only managed a few snaps whilst I did some speedy sightseeing before making my appearance on the stage. I managed to gather some fabulous bits from the stalls too – plates to die for from Sytch Farm Studios, chorizo and saucissons from Charcutierltd , Ludlow Blue cheese from Ludlow Food Centre and then the most divine custard tart, that I ate straight away, from the fabulous Harp Lane deli’ right off the market square. Now if you’ve been clicking on all those links it’s a miracle you’re still here, so well done.

I cooked up my favourite green pea fritters (here’s the recipe).I did put some fabulous local chorizo on top this time, delicious cooked up with some red onions and a splash of Herefordshire cider. The second dish was a freekah and butterbean number with roasted cauliflower (here’s a red rice version but do use freekah instead – just boil in lightly salted water until tender and drain.)

On my way home, as I drove from Ludlow to Bristol through some of England’s most stunning countryside, I got all excited. I’ve now made a pact with myself that whenever I’m on a long journey I’ll turn off up a random lane and stop for a few minutes just to breathe and take in the scene. First stop Ocle Pychard, who could resist? And just look what I found!

The next weekend it was off to Abergavenny, to work with kids cooking up some British baked beans. I’m a firm believer that getting children in the kitchen is a great way to encourage adventurous eating and invaluable life skills. We used Hodmedod’s red haricots to make our beans with fried onions, carrot, celery and garlic and a tin of chopped tomatoes. With a little seasoning and a dash of local cider vinegar those beans put the supermarket beans-in-gloop to shame. There’s a recipe in Cool Kids Cook. We added a little chilli and lime juice to our beans and toasted them in a wrap – hey presto! Quesadillas! I’ll get Imi on the case to give you a demo’ very soon.unspecified-2

Now I have to admit that I was so taken up (in a good way) with the kid’s workshops that I only had a couple hours flying around the amazing festival, I managed to squeeze in one of Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company ‘s lobster and seaweed butter rolls. One day I’ll make it to their original beach shack, Café Môr, in Pembrokeshire, in the meantime I’ll sniff them out at every possible festival opportunity. Random stop this time was overlooking the Usk valley just a few miles outside Abergavenny: plenty of sheep, very green hills and blackberry brambles for some opportunistic picking.

Next up Bradford, The World Curry Festival, a long train journey but so worth it; part of a week-long festival celebrating curries of the world with chefs such as Ken Hom and the broadcaster /comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli. I was giving a dal demo, I did worry that I might be teaching grandmothers to suck eggs and so I pulled all the stops out with this magic Sambar recipe. For any of you who came to the demo you’ll find the chickpea Sundal Accra recipe here and the simple Tarka Dal recipe here

DSC_1625.jpgSouthern Indian Vegetables with Dal  – Sambar

Sambar is a southern Indian staple. It’s essentially a dal cooked with whatever vegetables are in season, so don’t worry about the long ingredient list, just use what you have to hand..
Traditional sambar has a very loose and almost soup-like consistancy and is served alongside rice, dosa or flatbreads. I like to make mine a little thicker.
For the curry – (serves 6 with rice or flatbread)
100 g red lentils (or more authentically  toor dal) well rinsed and drained
1 tsp turmeric
2 onions, sliced
2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 aubergine, diced
100g pumpkin or squash
a handful of french beans
3-4 tbsp tamarind paste
salt
For the spice paste
1 tbsp oil
3 shallots, diced
100 g dessicated coconut (unsweetened please)
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried chillis
For the Tarka
1 tbsp ghee or oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10-15 fresh or frozen curry leaves
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Put the lentils in a large pan with the turmeric and cover with 600 ml/1 pint of water.
Simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are soft ( you may need to add a dash more water). Add the onions, potatoes, tomatoes, aubergine and pumpkin and cook, stirring from time to time, until tender. 
Meanwhile take a small frying pan and heat up the oil. Fry the shallot until soft and then add the coconut, coriander, cumin and chillis. As soon as the mixture is aromatic and golden remove it from the heat. Make a fine paste using a pestle and mortar, a spice grinder or small processor.
Add the green beans, tamarind paste and spice paste to the lentils, stir and cook until the beans are tender. Do add more water if you like the traditional, soupier consistancy
Re-use the frying pan and make the tarka. Heat the oil and cook the mustard seeds until they begin to splutter, add the curry leaves and chilli, stir once and then tip over the sambar.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my little diary of events, more like a newsletter this month, I assumed you’d jump to the recipe if you got bored! Next stop on my “Pulsathon” is Brussels and then on 22nd October you can find me at The Dartmouth Food Festival. I’ll be cooking with kids and also doing a beany demo’ too. Come along, I’d love to see you.

 

 

Iced Lemonade & Hot Green Peas

Warm August days and there’s really no better place to be than Britain. I did wonder a few weeks ago, whether I would regret our decision not to go abroad this summer. Right now, having looked after a friend’s glorious garden just down the road in Clifton (with cabin – see the amazing pic’s below) for a couple of weeks, and with a little sortie to see my sis’ in Devon planned, I’m very happy.

Fresh lemonade is always a winner and a really simple thing for children to knock up. This picture of Imi and fabulous friend Alpha (who also appears in the Cool Kids Cook book) was taken by  John Holdship for the Borough Market Magazine (you can find the original honey and rosemary lemonade on the market site here). Today I’ll give you the simplest of recipes.

lemonade 3

Iced Lemonade                                       Serves 6-8

The most thirst quenching drink imaginable, as long as it’s not too sweet.

6 large, juicy lemons (ideally unwaxed)
5 tbsp sugar
250ml water
Plenty of ice and cold water to top up.

Peel the zest from 2 lemons (avoiding too much bitter white pith) and place in a small saucepan with the sugar and water. (If your lemons are waxy and shiny it’s worth dropping them into boiling water for a couple of minutes and then wiping away as much of the sticky wax as possible with some paper towel before zesting)

Heat up the pan to boiling point and then leave it to steep whilst you squeeze the lemons. People talk about microwaving lemons to make the juicing easier, I just roll the whole lemons around on the work surface , pressing and squashing as I go, to loosen up the flesh.

Pour the fresh juice into a jug and, once it is cool, add the steeped syrup from the pan,  along with a few pieces of the pared zest. Top up to taste with plenty of ice (don’t forget that this will dilute the lemonade as it melts) and some cool water.

Lemons vary in size and acidity so I’d have a couple of extras standing by, in case you need to sharpen this up a little.

& Hot Green Peas

The fact is, when it is really, really hot in the UK, we just aren’t prepared for it. Last month I went to Westminster for a parliamentary event to mark The U.N. International Year of Pulses. It just happened to be the hottest day of the year, sweltering in fact. The aim of this gathering of M.P’s, Peers, farmers, traders and campaigners was to raise British pulse awareness. You can take a look here if you don’t know why we’re all shouting about legumes this year; if you’ve been reading my blog over the last few months then you’ll have all this info’ down pat so feel free to move on. FAO-Infographic-IYP2016-FoodSecurity-en

The extraordinarily British element of this day was that, despite the excruciating heat of  Westminster’s Jubilee Room, two particularly dedicated members of The British Edible  Pulse Association still slipped into their lycra pea outfits (talk about boil in a bag).

 

And…………. on the subject of peas, if you feel like making a wonderfully simple and very, very good pea soup then try this Pea, Lime and Lemongrass Soup from the fabulous Diana Henry.

 

 

 

 

Imi Bassett’s Guest Post – Cool Kids Cook

Hi i’m Imi Bassett and here’s my guest post on my mum’s BLOG!

Last Friday I decided to cook a three coursed meal for four people (Mum, Dad, Spare Granny Sasha and ME!)

I started off with a Spanish dish called Pan con tomate (bread with tomato in Spanish). This is a nice and easy dish all you need is tasty sourdough bread, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and a pinch of salt. All you need to do is toast a slice of bread. Then whilst it is still warm rub a clove of garlic on it. After that squeeze the tomato on the bread and dispose the skins. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top. Take a pinch of salt and sprinkle over the bread. HEY PRESTO!
YUM YOUR DONE!!!!

The next course is my signature dish! Corn chowder, it’s a lovely soup. The main ingredients are bacon, potatoes, corn, milk and, if you want it, smoked fish. My favourite corn chowder recipe is the one from my mum’s book! (MUM DID NOT MAKE ME WRITE THAT!)

The first time I made jellies I used Mum’s recipe but nowadays I play around with the flavours! This time it was tropical! I served it with frozen mango kebabs and home made smoothie!

Thanks Imi for your lovely post – here are a couple of the recipes for the pudding .

Imi’s Tropical Jelly  (6-8)

5 sheets of gelatine
500 ml of whatever juice you like – Imi used a mango, banana, passionfruit juice (not too much pineapple in the mix or it won’t set properly)

Soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water, they will go soft and silky.

Make your smoothie or select your juice. It should taste sweeter than you would usually drink it because you will be serving it chilled.

Heat up about a 1/4 of the juice in a large saucepan, you don’t want it boiling – just hot. Remove the pan from the heat

Squeeze the cold water from the sheets of gelatine and drop them into the hot juice in the pan. Stir until the gelatine completely dissolves and disappears. Magic! Add the rest of the juice to the pan and give it all a stir.

Now, you choose, you can pour the jelly into moulds (metal are the best for turning out)  to turn out later or simply serve this from glasses. Chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours and then serve.

Turning out your jellies

Carefully dip the jellies into a bowl of hot water, one at a time, taking care that the water doesn’t go in the jelly. The idea is to melt the very outside of the jelly. Turn the mould upside down on to a plate and WOBBLE it. If it won’t come out try dipping again.

Imi put some of her jelly into silicone fairy cake cases and served them straight from these, the jellies she turned out were in metal dariole moulds.

Tropical Banana Smoothie

1 mango  (expertly peeled and chopped) + 1/4 banana + 1 cup pineapple chunks + pineapple juice to cover.

Whizz in the blender (we were borrowing a Nutribullet that worked brilliantly- may have to invest)

Imi did add 1 tsp honey as the pineapple was not quite sweet enough.

Imi’s “mango kebabs” – skewer cubes of mango onto cocktail sticks and freeze for about 2 hours.

Highlights:
Imi’s sense of achievement, a fantastic supper and her comment…….
When I’m a student I expect everyone will be saying “let’s go to Imi Bassett’s room for a chowder”

 

 

All Hail The Great British Pea

We might not be able to grow peaches, aubergines, watermelons or mangoes, but in Britain we do have the perfect climate for peas. As a child I used to love the early summer when you could hide away in the vegetable patch scoffing fresh peas straight from the pod, I still love them raw in a salad, and the fresh pea shoots too. Britain produces 160,000 tons of frozen peas each year and there are certain dishes such as shepherd’s pie that I couldn’t contemplate eating without a pile of barely-cooked petit pois and a hint of fresh mint. But today I’m talking dried peas, the rather unglamorous forefathers of the ubiquitous green pea.

It’s easy to forget that historically, peas were grown to be dried, stored and eaten at a later date. “Pease” were a British staple from the Middle Ages right through to the mid 20th century. You only have to think back to the old nursery rhyme to realise that dried peas were once a key source of protein in our diets, pushed aside in more recent times by meat.

Pease pudding hot,  Pease Pudding cold
Pease pudding in the pot nine-days old

Today with ever-growing sustainability, animal welfare, health and obesity concerns many of us are looking towards a more plant-based diet and so I say “All Hail the Great British Pea”.

We’ve cooked dried yellow and green peas in comforting, wintery soups for centuries.  Whilst it’s possible to buy whole peas, split peas are much quicker and easier to cook, since they have lost their thick skins and don’t need any soaking. It may not be quite the season for it but pea and ham soup is a British classic (it’s other name London Particular harks back to the pea-souper fogs that used to engulf the capital) You will find my recipe here on The Borough Market website Split peas are a great store cupboard standby; they make wonderful dal  and Greek Fava purée too.

My latest discovery is green pea flour (quite literally ground, dried green peas). I’m happy to eat gluten, but for any of you cutting it out, this pea flour could be very handy. I’ve written about farinata (socca before) and this recipe is just a variation on the chickpea flour (gram flour) pancake eaten on the Mediterranean Rivieras. The colour is a glorious Kermit green and it tastes amazing too.

Pea Fritters with Ricotta and Honey

Pea fritters(makes about 16 individual or 2-3 larger pancakes)

100 g green pea flour
180 ml water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt

1-2 tbsp olive oil for frying.

75 g ricotta cheese (I found some local, fresh goat’s milk ricotta)
a couple of tablespoons of delicate honey
black pepper
a few fresh mint leaves

Pour the pea flour into a jug and add about half the water. Stir until you have a thick , smooth paste and then add the remaining water, oil and salt. Leave to rest for at least an hour (for the starch to swell) – I’ve left it for a day too and it was fine.

Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a frying pan until searing hot and then spoon in small pools of the mixture for individual pancakes or cover the pan with about 1 cm of mixture for a whole cake. Fry until set underneath but still slightly slimy on the top. Flip the small pancakes over with a palette knife or turn the large cake over on a large plate. Add a dash more oil and fry the underside.

Serve warm topped with ricotta, honey, black pepper and mint (and in this case a slice of fresh apricot)

Pea pancakes also make a marvellous savoury dish. Here are a couple of my instagram snaps of suppers past: pancakes topped with chicken, parmesan and lemon and then on another occasion with treacle lardons from Charcutierltd and a soft egg.

And some other peas………

If you read my blog at all you’re sure to have come across my favourite Black Badgers aka Carlin Peas – here’s the recipe for a super tasty (and just happens to be healthy )salad and in a few days time I’ll post the recipe for “Grey Peas” (not a particularly alluring name, I agree) that I cooked for the Radio 4 Food Programme.

And ....If you’re after pea flour Hodmedods sell it by mail order and in many health food shops, grocers etc. Someone did ask me the other day if I work for Hodmedods – the answer is no, thus far I’ve never written a sponsored blog of any kind. I just happen to love what Hodmedods do and sell.

Lastly a confession: as a Pulse Ambassador, I’m ashamed to admit that I just can’t get excited about marrowfat peas, even mushy peas have never really done it for me. Go on, do try to convert me. Nigella’s avocado and marrowfat pea purée is pretty good but I’d still rather eat guacamole.

The Radio 4 Food Programme about Pulses is no longer being broadcast this weekend (there was a reshuffle after a very fast turnaround programme last weekend about the Brexit effect on our food – really worth a listen on podcast) I’ll keep you updated. 

 

 

 

 

Warm Fava Hummus with Caramelised Pistachio Butter

DSC_1

Eating beans certainly doesn’t have to be all about calorie counting as this warm fava bean purée swirled with rich, nutty butter demonstrates. I cooked up the recipe at a recent workshop in London for The Guild of Food Writers and promised to post it.

British beans and peas are enjoying quite a renaissance at the moment thanks to Nick Saltmarsh and the rest of the team at Hodmedods. The fact is that we export vast quantities, thousands of tons in fact, of fava beans (dried broad beans) every year and they taste bloody good, are fantastically nutritious and really economical too. It seems rather fortuitous that we’re developing a taste for cheap, homegrown beans right at this moment, with the pound plunging ever downwards and us setting our country adrift into God knows where, we may well be needing some economical sustenance in the near future (that will be my first and last Brexit comment here otherwise I might just get into a rant).

The dish was inspired by a recipe in the new United Nations FAO cook book, Pulses: Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future (the book can be downloaded here). Turkish chef Didem Senol gives a recipe for warm hummus (made with chickpeas as you would expect) and a hot spicy butter. Here’s a copy of the recipe….

DSC_2

My version used some split fava beans that cook up to a deliciously soft purée in about half an hour with no need for soaking at all. These split beans are great to add to curries and stews to thicken up the sauce (good for the gluten intolerant and also great for those like me who enjoy the creamy texture), they also make the most fabulous falafel. I liked the idea of the melted butter on top as, hoorah, we’re able to ladle on the fat again nowadays without an ounce of guilt (I feel so sorry for those who’ve been suffering margarine or low-fat spread for decades only to discover that it was all a waste of time). So, I was up for the melted butter but thought I’d really pull out all the stops by caramelising it too. If you’ve never tried this before you’ll be amazed; “beurre noisette” is heaven with fish (just add a few capers and a bit of parsley) and even better with pasta (add some sage leaves to crisp up as the butter browns).

Warm Fava Hummus with Caramelised Pistachio Butter

Makes 2 large bowls – ideal for sandwiches, salads, dipping and whatever else you usually do with hummus. The butter only really works with warm hummus, you could always zap it in the microwave just before serving.

250 g split fava beans
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon
100 ml -ish extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

50 g unsalted butter
50 g roughly chopped pistachio nuts
Good pinch of Urfa chilli flakes (or any other sweet, slightly smoked chilli)

For the hummus
Take a small pan, cover the fava beans by a couple of centimetres of cold water and then place over a medium heat. Skim off the froth as the beans come up to the boil and then simmer until they begin to soften and collapse into the cooking liquid. Do add a little extra water if needed but only enough to keep the favas from drying out. The idea is to purée the beans and liquid to make the hummus but if they are very wet you could strain through a sieve.

Whizz up the beans with a blender, out board engine (aka handheld blender) or food processor and mix in the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt to taste. You could, of course, serve this minus butter BUT please do give it a go, you may become hooked.

For the butter
Melt the butter in a small saucepan (ideally a steel rather than dark, non-stick pan so that you can watch the colour of the butter changing later).

Turn up the heat until the butter begins to froth and then use your nose; once you begin to get that gorgeous biscuity smell you need to be on your guard. Swirl the pan a little so that you can see what’s going on and once the little flecks of milk solids are turning a foxy red/brown it’s time to quickly tip the butter into a heatproof container to stop it from burning. Too pale and the butter will taste cloying and fatty, too dark and it will taste burnt (just like a sugar caramel).

Stir in the pistachios and  Urfa chilli flakes. Swirl the butter over the warm hummus and serve right away with toasted bread.

Split favas are available in many health food shops, deli’s and good grocers now and also online at Hodmedods

Urfa chilli flakes are available at plenty of good spice shops and delis and I found mine online at Sous Chef

DO listen to The Radio 4 Food Programme on 10th/11th July – it’s all about pulses.
Nick Saltmarsh of Hodmedod, Sanjay Kumar of The Cornish Sardine School and I had a wonderful time recording some of the programme with Sheila Dillon in Bristol last week.

 

Perfect Butter Bean Salad & 5 Reasons to Eat Pulses

Last week was pretty extraordinary; a trip to Rome for my appointment as The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation European Special Ambassador for The International Year of Pulses (that’s quite something to fit on a business card!)

 ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano 26 May 2016, Rome Italy – International Year of Pulses (IYP) Special Ambassador Jenny Chandler and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. International Year of Pulses (IYP) nomination ceremony of FAO IYP Special Ambassador for Europe Jenny Chandler, and launch of IYP publication, (Sheikh Zayed Centre), FAO Headquarters. 

The ceremony was both nerve-wracking and exhilarating, I’m quite used to public speaking but I can usually hide behind a frying pan and do a bit of stirring if I’m lost for words. Thankfully everything ran smoothly and it was an absolute honour to meet the UN FAO Director-General, José Graziano de Silva and dozens of other inspiring people who work in this huge organisation leading international efforts to end world hunger.

I’ve been enthusiastically spreading the word about just how good pulses are to eat for years and now I have even more reason to do so. Firstly I’d like to say that, given the right treatment, pulses are one of my favourite things to eat …..ever. I think it can sometimes be counterproductive to bombard people with too many nutritional and environmental reasons to eat something if we don’t remind them that they taste amazing too. There’s that nagging doubt – is this going to taste like that 1970’s hippy-healthfood?  The answer’s no, with a little love and attention. Think dal with spicy tarka, slow cooked cassoulet, freshly fried falafel or black bean burritos.

So here’s a great salad, ideal for the lunch box or just for a simple supper. I wrote the recipe for the Meat Free Monday website, a great source of vegetarian recipes. Now I’ll be straight, I’m no vegetarian however we probably only eat fish or meat a couple of times a week. I’d rather eat plenty of relatively cheap pulses and vegetables and then once in a while splash out on carefully sourced meat or fish as a treat…..better not just for our own health but that of the planet too.

Butter bean and cauli

Spicy Roast Cauliflower, with Butter Beans and Red Rice

The textures work beautifully here: crunchy cauliflower, creamy beans and the chewy bite of the red or brown rice.

Serves 4

1 large head of cauliflower, divided into small florets
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp medium curry powders s
2 red onions
4 tbsp olive oil
500 g home-cooked or 2 x 400g can of butter beans, drained
2 tbsp cider vinegar
25 g butter
salt and pepper
100 g red Camargue rice (or brown rice)
500 g spinach, washed
150 ml Greek Yoghurt
A good sprig of fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 200 c/gas mark 6

Rinse the cauliflower and then toss it around in the lemon juice. Place the florets in a roasting tray and sprinkle with the curry powder.

Peel and chop each onion into six, (individual slices will burn). Add the onion to the cauliflower and pour over the olive oil.

Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning everything once until nicely golden and beginning to caramelise. Add the butter beans, cider vinegar and butter to the vegetable pan, place it back in the oven but switch off the heat, the idea is to heat through rather than cook the beans.

Whilst the vegetables are roasting rinse the rice, place it in a pan, (ideally the base of a tiered steamer), of cold water with a pinch or salt, bring up to a boil and then cover and simmer until tender. Drain.

Now steam your spinach. I just place mine in a steamer over the rice, but you may prefer to use a separate pan. Steam the spinach until it just collapses and drain (there is no need to squeeze it here as it should remain really juicy).

Add the rice and spinach to the vegetable pan and season well. Add more vinegar, chilli, or salt to taste.

Serve with a spoonful of Greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of mint.

 

5 Reasons to Eat Pulses

Good for you: High in fibre and complex carbs (keeping your digestive system healthy and you feeling satiated and full for hours – less trips to the biscuit tin!)

Good for the Budget: A really cheap alternative to meat, fish and dairy as a source of protein – remember to eat cereals such as rice or wheat too to maximise pulse potential.

Quick and easy: Whether you decide to cook up a big pot and use the pulses for a few days in a variety of different dishes or just to open a can, cooked pulses are fabulously quick and easy ingredients to whip up into a meal – check this blog or my book Pulse for dozens of ideas.

Good for the land: Pulses actually enrich the soil as they grow, fixing Nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, reducing the need for fertilisers.

Good for the planet: Pulses have one of the lowest carbon foot prints of any crop, they require less water to grow and are vitally important in areas of the world where drought and extreme heat make farming incredibly challenging.

In short they’re a wonder crop……….. EAT MORE PULSES!

 

 

 

 

One-pot Spanish Chicken with Butter Beans; Child’s Play

The last couple of weeks have been bonkers,  so bonkers in fact that I’m going to break my post up into two instalments. Firstly my new children’s cook book was launched and then last week I was appointed the UN FAO Special Ambassador for Pulses (WHAAAT? – I’ll fill you in on that one in a couple of days time)

So, the kid’s book. It’s so nerve wracking when a book finally comes out, you just have to hold your breath and hope that it’s going to be well received. I’ve been very chuffed with all the feed back so far, especially Xanthe Clay’s piece in The Telegraph  (here’s the shorter online version).

Imi’ s been pretty excited about it all, other than the very badly-timed tonsillitis set back on the night of the launch party (“I’m feeling so depressed, this was going to be one of the best days of my life” – good on drama), but she did manage to rally. I’ve purposely not been pushing the cooking too much just recently, there’s always that chance that things might backfire, but last weekend she decided to celebrate our newspaper appearance by cooking a three course dinner. She spent a while planning her menu (from the book of course), made a shopping list and then had a ball being independent in the supermarket with her own shopping trolley (not a quick shop, it has to be said). I was then sent out of the house for a swim and husband Pete was told that he must NOT interfere, other than having to rush around like a kitchen porter every time he was summoned to open the recycling bin.

Imi’s done plenty of cooking before but this was her first “dinner party”. We kicked off with a corn chowder, had one-pot Spanish chicken to follow and finished up with elderflower jellies and chocolate dipped strawberries. She spent hours laying the table, organising music and lighting and then served up her feast with such great pride that it made this entire book writing journey feel worthwhile for her benefit alone (on the financial side of things it would be handy to sell a few books too).

Spanish One-pot Chicken

So here you have a simple dish, rather than a dish for children, and that’s the point of the book; uncomplicated food that we all want to eat. There are 3 variations on this recipe in the book: Spanish, Southern French and Indian. I love the idea of children learning to cook a dish until it becomes intuitive and they no longer need a recipe. The only real difference between the recipes is the spicing and the choice of pulse to soak up the juices.

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil, rapeseed oil or other vegetable oil
15 g butter
2 medium onions
4- 8 chicken thighs, depending on size, on the bone and with skin (thighs are so much juicier than breasts in this dish)
1/2 tsp salt and plenty of black pepper
2 red or yellow peppers, seeded and sliced
3 medium tomatoes cut into quarters
12 pitted green or black olives
1 heaped tsp Spanish sweet smoked paprika
2 x 400 g can of butter beans, drained

Preheat the oven to 180 ºc/350º F/Gas 4

Take a large oven proof dish (mine measures 25 x 30cm)  and spoon in the oil and the butter.

Cut the onions in half leaving the root on, peel and then slice them. Put the onions into the dish.

Trim any flappy bits of skin from the chicken thighs and add these to the dish too. Now turn everything gently with your fingers in the oil and leave the thighs skin side up. Go and wash your hands and the chopping board now.

Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and a good grind of black pepper and put the dish in the oven for 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and pop the dish back in the oven for 30 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Make sure that the chicken is always skin side up on the top so the skin gets crispy .

Taste the juices, you might need a bit more salt and pepper.

Always check that the chicken is properly cooked through, turn over a thigh and cut in next to the bone, there should be no sign of blood or raw-looking flesh. 

TIP: Adding cooked pulses such as beans, chickpeas and lentils to a dish is a very quick and affordable way of transforming it into a satisfying meal.

The recipe is accompanied by great step by step pictures and graphics in my book. Cool Kids Cook is available from all good bookshops including, one of my all-time favourites, the wonderful Topping and Company .