Black Badgers and Blood Oranges

Today’s bright and chilly; I’ll try to whisk myself along to The Lido for an outside swim once I’ve written this post. I’ve no problem with piling on the long johns and stuffing some extra fleece into the guinea pigs’ bed box, the cold feels invigorating and the light is a joy. Dingy, grey days are another matter; I’m often convinced that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, that awful drained and lethargic feeling during the dark months of winter. I have a S.A.D. lamp that I switch on beside my desk on the gloomiest of days, I’m not sure that it makes too much difference but at least I feel that I’m taking control of the situation.

People often talk about comfort food in dismal weather but actually what I need is a serious pepping up and so a salad packed with good stuff such as oranges, avocado and pulses is just the thing. It’s not that I would shun a doughnut (particularly if it happened to be a Borough Market Bread Ahead doughnut – once tasted never forgotten) but if I put together a really vibrant salad of fabulously tasty bits I will enjoy it just as much, yes I promise you, I really will. That’s just it, pulses are often considered rather stodgy and worthy, they can be, but given the right treatment they taste divine.

In Britain we produce vast, vast quantities of peas. Frozen green peas are the nation’s favourite veg’ and I’m not knocking them at all – sweet, quick, crowd pleasing and great for soups, (try this absolute cracker from Diana Henry), but it’s easy to forget that historically all the peas we grew were dried and cooked up into staples such as the  “pease pudding” we all know from the nursery rhyme. We get through a fair amount of marrowfat peas too; matured on the stem until starchy and rotund, and particularly popular for mushy peas. Nigella’s recipe for marrowfat pea and avocado hummus is inspired (just whizz up 1 ripe avocado, a drained 300g can of marrowfat peas, 1/2 a clove of garlic, juice of 1/2 a lime – then season with salt, pepper and more lime if required) Dried, split yellow and green peas make great soups – particularly the classic pea and ham soup  I wrote about on The Borough Market blog.

Today I want to tell you about my all-time favourite pea, the Black Badger, and not for the first time, here’s a “vintage” post (there’s an irritating title for yesterday’s news). Black Badgers or Maple Peas have plenty of other names: Carlin or Carling Peas in Yorkshire, Black Peas in Lancashire and Grey Peas in the Black Country.

The peas are said to have flourished in English monastery gardens hundreds of years ago, with their beautiful blooms. Geordie folklore tells a tale of siege and starvation back in 1327 when the people of Newcastle were saved by a shipload of Carlin Peas from Norway, other sources talk of the peas being gathered from a Spanish shipwreck  in Elizabethan times. Whatever their history these nutty little peas have only really been appreciated in more recent times up North. “Parched Peas” (just slow-simmered and served with salt and vinegar) are a Lancashire classic on Bonfire night whilst you’re more likely to be eating your Carlin Peas in Yorkshire on the Sunday before Palm Sunday  ( so best go buy some) with a little butter stirred in.

I like to cook up a pot of Black Badgers (they take about 45 minutes) and throw them into  salads, soups or stews. Try using them in the place of a chickpea in any recipe; they’re chameleons like all legumes, soaking up flavours and infinitely adaptable. I felt the need for a winter vitamin hit and never take any persuading when it comes to blood oranges. The citrusy sweetness is the secret to this salad, offsetting the hearty nuttiness of the peas and the richness of creamy avocado. Sprouted radishes add an almost mustardy nose-rush and then there’s plenty of coriander too. All in all the salad has attitude, that’s the best way with pulses.

Blood orange and Black BadgersBlack Badger and Blood Orange Salad

Serves 4 (as a light lunch, maybe with a bit of bread?)

600 g cooked black badgers, drained
4 blood oranges, peeled and segmented (reserve the juice)
2 avocados, flesh cut into chunks
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tbsp cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of sprouted radishes (you could use sliced, feisty radishes instead)
Fresh coriander, leaves from 2 good sprigs
1 tbsp black sesame seeds (if you have them, or white or even a few sunflower/pumpkin seeds)

So, drain your badgers and put them in a bowl with most of the orange segments.

Keep the orange juice to toss the avocado around in (then it doesn’t oxidise and go black)

Mix together the dressing, taste and balance it up and then tip over the badgers. Taste again pulses need to be well seasoned and love vinegar/acidity.

Add the avocado and any orange juice, the remaining orange segments, radishes, coriander and sesame seeds but DON’T stir (or the creamy avocado will make your glistening peas look murky and sad).


Cooking Black Badgers

or any whole dried peas for that matter

I soak my peas overnight, drain and then cover with plenty of cold water. Simmer for about 45 minutes ( I put a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda in with 500 g dried beans to spend up the softening process as an experiment – yes they cooked marginally quicker and are definitely a bit softer and creamier than my last batch) Marrowfat, green or yellow peas may take a little longer to cook.

Leaving the peas overnight in the fridge in their cooking water has given the peas a darker look – more dramatic black than brown now.

You may have a local source for Black Badger Peas, I can find them in a number of Bristol stores, if not you can track some down on line at the wonderful Hodmedods  And, a little advice, don’t just stick with the Badgers, Hodmedods sell a whole range of fabulous British  Peas, beans and quinoa. The roasted peas are my current desert island snack.

No Black Badgers?

A black bean would work nicely (I love the contrasting colours here) as would a pert lentil (of the Puy/ French green style rather than softer brown) or even a chickpea. I know that I’ve said it before but here we go again…. legumes are wonderfully versatile.

If you’d like to learn more about cooking pulses how about coming along to my day workshop ?

Pulse: At the heart of the kitchen 
The Bertinet Kitchen on Saturday May 7th








A British Celebration – Cloisters and Black Badgers

The sky feels heavy, the daylight lamp’s on and I’ve got a hot water bottle on my lap to keep warm at my desk. I’ve already drunk my daily coffee quota ( I’m trying to switch to green tea but  it’s just not happening) and I’m meant to be sorting my accounts. These are the days that I suddenly find a mound of washing to do, decide to clip the guinea pig’s nails or, once I’m finally at the computer, do a bit of “surfing”. Some masochistic streak always seems to pull me towards a blog called Manger. Envy isn’t a pretty thing to admit to, but hell, it’s unavoidable. The writer, the super-modelesque Mimi Thorenssen (oh yes, she has an unbelievably exotic name too), gazes out of the glorious pictures taken by her uber-talented photographer husband. There are teams of dreamy children, hounds to die for (I so want a dog) and the most incredible images of the rural Médoc. Even the recipes are inspiring, fabulous, and really work too. Take a peek. You’ll no doubt feel an urgent need to trade in your Tupperware for Terracotta and your M&S for Missoni, but there’s no denying it, Manger is a work of art.

But now’s the moment to get a grip. The huge basket of Seville oranges are waiting to fill the house with their fabulous wintery scent when I put on the marmalade later today. The hellebore buds in the garden are just days off bursting into flower. I’m beginning to reminisce about our fabulous visit to Lacock  in the sunshine last week and all of a sudden there seems plenty to get excited about. Right now I’m determined to celebrate all things British and where better to start than The National Trust and a bowlful of Black Badger Peas?

I’m ashamed to admit that a National Trust Membership did seem a rather middle-aged birthday present (I’m in denial), from my sister last year  but I’m loving it. The West Country is just packed with magical buildings and parks to visit, so last weekend with a clear blue sky calling we leapt into the car, proudly bearing our badge, and whistled off to Lacock Abbey (I’ve not got as far as packing the thermos and sandwiches yet, but just give me time). There’s no need for the tour guide bit now, you can find all that on the Lacock link. I’ll just say that it’s right up there with spots that I’ve traversed oceans and trekked up mountains to experience. The tythe barn, the abbey cloisters, early snowdrops and ploughman’s lunch in the pub. It’s a great reminder to celebrate what you’ve got in your own back yard.

And now to some other rather unlikely British stars – Black Badger Peas; you’ve probably never heard of them, I hadn’t until a few months ago. The fascinating thing is that we’ve been growing them in this country, along with fava beans, for hundreds of years. I came across the Black Badgers via Hodmedods, growers and purveyors of Great British peas and beans, whilst I was researching my book. Hodmedods, who are based in Norfolk, are doing a fabulous job of re-igniting our national appetite for beans. It’s easy to forget how big a role legumes have played in our national diet (think “pease pudding cold, pease pudding hot…….”). It seems bonkers that most of us are unaware that we’ve been exporting tons,  around 500, 000 tons a year I’m told, of beans to The Middle East for decades. At last we can eat British Baked Beans (yes, they even sell them by the can) along with local favas,  marrowfat peas and the evocatively named Black Badger pea. Black Badgers are also known as Carlin or Maple peas in the North of England or somewhat less glamourously as Grey Peas in the Black Country  (try the accent and they sound even more appetising!)

Hodmedod's British Black Badger Peas

I cooked up the Badgers on a particularly dismal day last week. I’d soaked them overnight and then cooked them for about 4o minutes (remarkably quick compared to most dried peas in my experience). After a bit of an Old Mother Hubbard moment  I reverted to my default way with legumes. It’s great to have a recipe up your sleeve that doesn’t usually require a trip to the shops. So here you have a simple adaptation of the Syrian lentils from my book Pulse.

Syrian-style Black Badgers

2-3 brown onions, sliced finely
4 tbsp olive oil
400 g cooked black badger peas ( cooked fava beans, cooked brown lentils would also work well)
1-2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and then ground
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 pinch of chilli flakes or better still 2 tsp of sweet Aleppo pepper flakes
1 small bunch fresh coriander, parsley or a few mint leaves, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

Begin by frying the onion in the olive oil in a large saucepan, you could use a frying pan and then transfer them but I prefer to keep this as a one pot dish. Keep the temperature fairly low and allow the onions to soften, sweeten and turn gold, this may take about 20 minutes. Be patient.

Set aside half of the onions from the pan, turn up the heat and throw in the garlic, cumin and chilli. Stir and, as soon as you can really smell the garlic, add the peas and a couple of ladles of their cooking water.

Simmer for about 10 minutes, enough for the flavours to marry, stirring from time to time.
Have a taste and season with salt, pepper and enough lemon juice to really zip everything up. Add the rest of the onions and plenty of herbs.  I used mint as we had some rather moth-eaten leaves left in the garden (come on spring I need some fresh herbs) but coriander or parsley are fab’ too.

We ate our Badgers with sourdough and a squeeze of blood orange juice but they would be equally good with toasted pitta or lavash and a dollop of creamy Greek yoghurt.


Peter has eaten ALOT of pulses over the years, as I experimented and tested my way through recipes, and he pronounced the Black Badger “one of his top three”(other winners to be revealed in later posts). I do agree that the entire dish was comforting and suprisingly nutty, without feeling too worthy or wholesome. Just give the Grey Pea a chance, it might not look much but it’s deeply satisfying.

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. 





Fava Falafel and my Ambassadorial Post

Well, Thursday was a rather extraordinary day. I was busy tinkering with some recipe development when the phone went. Had it been April Fool’s Day I may have thought that “Riccardo” was actually Peter, up the road on his mobile, pulling off a convincing Italian accent. The long and short of it all is that Riccardo was calling from The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation to tell me that I have been chosen as the European Ambassador for the International Year of Pulses! I have to say that I’m really honoured, chuffed and excited; I will happily and whole heartedly shout about all the reasons why we should be eating more legumes (not least because they are delicious) and really look forward to going out to Rome for the “Appointment Ceremony”.

As a cook I tend to write recipes and rave about the tastiness of pulses on my blog rather than talk extensively about the sustainability and health benefits of eating them. I assume that people probably surf elsewhere for up-to-date nutritional and environmental info’ however this infographic off The United Nations FAO site  gives a good glimpse of what makes pulses so incredibly valuable and why the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation are so keen for us all to eat more of them.


This blog will continue to be a place where I share dishes that I love to cook, with or without pulses, but I do hope that you’ll enjoy coming on any new ambassadorial adventures with me.

Today’s recipe is for falafel; they’re one of my absolutely favourite things to eat and they just happen to be a cinch to make, plus being incredibly economical too. It’s great to get children involved with the seasoning and shaping of these little balls of goodness although deep frying is definitely an adult activity.

It’s up to you whether you use chickpeas or fava beans for the recipe, personally I love fava beans (they’re British too, so less food miles involved). In fact until recently I never had any idea just how many thousands of tons of favas we produce in England each year and export – did you?  Well, that’s another story.

Traditional Egyptian falafel tend to be made with split favas so this recipe is a classic.

Split-Fava Falafel

Makes about 30

300 g/11 0z of dried split, skinned fava beans (or chickpeas) – soaked in plenty of cold water for 24 hours
1 small chilli, finely chopped or a good pinch of cayenne
1/2 a red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsps cumin seed, roasted and ground
1 tsp coriander seed, roasted and ground
a large handful of parsley, chopped
a large handful of fresh coriander, chopped
2 tbsp chickpea flour (also known as gram flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Sunflower or olive oil for frying

Drain the beans (or chickpeas) well and place them in a food processor with all the remaining ingredients bar the oil. Now whizz everything up to a green paste, stopping when you have a sticky but still slightly granular texture. Pounding and mincing by hand is an option but you’d have to be very keen.

Taste and balance the seasoning and then leave the mixture to rest for about half an hour.

Now for the production line: Scoop spoonfuls of the paste, roll it into walnut-sized balls, flatten them slightly and place on a tray. Continue until you have finished the mixture but don’t be tempted to upsize otherwise the centre will never cook through.

Heat enough oil to deep fry your falafel a few at a time. The oil should be 180 C (or hot enough for a little cube of bread to brown up in about 30 seconds). Test with one first, the oil should sizzle around it. Add the falafel in batches and cook for about 4-5 minutes until deep gold.

If deep frying is just not your thing I have had reasonable success shallow frying too, you will obviously have to turn the falafel and also extend the cooking time a little to ensure that the centre cooks through.

Serve whilst hot (you can keep the first batches  warm on a baking tray in a warm oven whilst you finish cooking).

How about?

Doing things traditionally- opening up a pitta bread and dropping in the falafel with a salad of crisp lettuce, cucumber and tomato, some tarator sauce and a dash of chilli.

Serving with drinks with a little tatziki or harissa to dip into.

Making a double quantity and freezing some of the mixture to shape at a later date (ready shaped frozen falafel tend to break up in the pan)

And despite the fact that my family are obviously very proud about my appointment there has been some Micky taking too, we’re British after all. So, if  you’d like a giggle do click here to watch our film .

The Ambassador's Party

Do please join me

If you’d like some pulsating inspiration here are a few dates for the diary. Places are limited for both Bristol and Bath so please click on the links and book away.

Bristol, Food Connections Festival

Sunday May 1st –  No 1 Harbourside, 4.30-7pm
Get your pulses racing!
I’ll be hosting a fun cook-off with a selection of local chefs. Ideas on how to make beans, lentils and chickpeas the centrepiece of so many really tastey dishes. Click here for info

Monday May 2nd – College Green, 2.00-3pm
Finger on the pulse
Ten chickpea dishes in under an hour. Family-friendly, super-tasty, cheap, healthy,  quick to prepare. Come along and let me inspire you; from simple hummus to Tuscan soup and Punjabi curry. Book here.

Bath, The Bertinet Kitchen

Saturday 7th May – 10.00am, Full day Workshop
Pulse: at the heart of the kitchen
A hands-on class where learn all about soaking, sprouting, seasoning and preparing. Get pulses into you repetoire with fabulously healthy, modern dishes.

Just a small class so book soon! More info here

London, Borough Market

Thursday 19th May – 12.30 – 2pm,
Celebrating British pulses
A demo with tasters, where I will be cooking with fava beans, dried peas and my favourite Black Badgers!

No booking required just turn up, I’d love to see you 

And I think I might have told you….. I have a kid’s cook book coming out SOON – May 12th Click here for more info’ about Cool Kids Cook