Spilling the beans and a Greek Fava puree

There are so many fabulous hummus-like dips around and yet we seem to be stuck in a rut- don’t get me wrong, I love chickpea puréeé but why not give some of the other legumes a go too. I talked about Moroccan Bessara back in May which I made with fava beans but this month I’d love to share this Greek island fava with you. It is rather confusing as traditional fava is not made with what we know as fava (broad beans) but with split yellow peas instead. I was stirred into action with this one when my mother brought me a packet of the split peas back from her recent holiday in Rhodes. You can use any yellow split pea but if you’re after the real thing you could go to the Ergon restaurant and deli in London or buy their beans on line.

Greek split peas

Greek Fava Purée

200 g/7 oz  yellow split peas, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp salt
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
A few very finely sliced pieces of red onion.

Place the split peas, bay leaves, the onion and enough cold water to cover everything by a couple of cm in a saucepan. Bring the water up to the boil skimming away any scum or froth.

Now simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time and, if necessary, adding a little extra water to keep the peas just covered.

Add the salt and continue to simmer until the beans are very tender and almost dry.

Remove the bay leaves and allow the split peas to cool for a few minutes before you puree them with a hand held blender or in a food processor.

Don’t worry, the peas will taste bland and flabby, they will be screaming for seasoning. Add the garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and more salt, if required, until you have a wonderfully balanced puree.

Spoon into a bowl and allow to cool completely, letting the flavours get to know each other.

Serve with a sprinkling of capers, the parsley, red onion and a splash of extra virgin oil.

Try topping the fava with any combination of the following:
Chopped fresh oregano, coriander or parsley
A few chopped Kalamata olives,
Diced tomato and a handful of rocket.
A sprinkling of roasted cumin seeds and sweet Aleppo or Urfi chilli flakes

Greek Fava puree

We’re having the fava with a few olives, a tomato salad and some bread for a really healthy light lunch but do try serving it with some charred squid or cuttlefish.

NEWS –  Spilling the Beans: September 10th at The Folk House Café

I met up with cook and nutritionist Lou Marchionne a couple of weeks ago, only to discover that she’s as excited about pulses as I am. Over the years Lou has cooked at so many of Bristol’s most iconic places such as Rocinantes, Bordeaux Quay and now at The Folk House Café on Park Street. So, after lots of excited chat we’ve decided to have a Pulse night on September the 10th at The Folkhouse ……..I’d love you to come along.

We’re planning an hour-ish cooking demo (using recipes from my book Pulse)  followed by a buffet supper of delicious beany dishes – the menu will include chickpea farinata, a zippy Asian style soup, super healthy sprouted bean, fruit and feta salad, a roasted cauliflower, butter bean and wild rice dish and a smokey pork chilli. The idea is to inspire you with the amazing versatility of legumes, Lou will point out their tremendous health benefits along the way and then you’ll get to eat some very tasty food.

The tickets are an absolute bargain at £8.50 (you will have a great supper – plenty for vegans, vegetarians and the resolute carnivores) The bar will be open, so a great time to catch up with friends. The evening will last from 18.30 to around 22.00.

You can buy tickets HERE. Really hope to see you and your friends.

I’ll be selling my book PULSE on the night and matching the Amazon price of £17 (rrp £25) so do bring along a bit of cash (I don’t take cards) if you are planning to buy a book.

PULSE photographs by Clare Winfield






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. 





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.