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 .

 

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.

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.

 

 

Warm Fava Hummus with Caramelised Pistachio Butter

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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….

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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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Coco – the crème de la crème of beans

Last week the wonderful Charlie Hicks dropped off a calico bag of the most amazingly creamy beans that I’ve ever tasted. Now, I’ve been a fan of semi-dried, or what the Americans call “shelling beans” for years. These beans are left on the plant until fully matured and beginning to dry. Their season is from late summer into early autumn so we’re really at the close- snap ’em up if you can or you’ll have to wait until next year.

When I was in my twenties I cooked on a very glam’ Italian yacht and the guests used to go bonkers with excitement at the beginning of the borlotti harvest and soon I loved them too. Last summer we spent a couple of weeks in Calabria and despite the fact that there were dozens of wonderful little restaurants and beachside lidos serving up zippy, chilli-fueled dishes I just couldn’t resist cooking some of the stunning pink-speckled borlotti from the market. Shopping was the first job of the day before the searing August heat set in and bean-podding made a change from the children’s other holiday job of making fresh lemonade. Podding was safer too; we only discovered that the lemon tree (that we’d encouraged the kids to climb) hung precariously over an 80 ft drop, on the last day of the holiday. What a way to go, plucking a lemon for your Dad’s G&T.

My way with borlotti is an Italian classic. You fry up some diced pancetta (unsmoked bacon will do), onion, celery and carrot and once your “soffritto” is meltingly soft then throw in the beans. Give them a stir and cover with water, or stock, and add a few herbs (such as rosemary or thyme) to the pot. Simmer until the beans are tender and then season, toss in some fresh tomatoes and some tiny pasta shapes. Cook until the pasta is ready. Heaven. (You can find a more detailed recipe in my book PULSE)

But now to the white beans. In Calabria I found fagioli a burro (Italian butter beans – not related at all to what we know as butter beans) and they were indeed pretty buttery in texture. It was about 40°c and so I made a really simple salad- in fact it was so hot when we decided to prepare my beans that Imi and I had to sit in the paddling pool to keep cool whilst we podded. I’ve cooked cannellini from the pod too, as well as delicious Spanish pochas, but until last week I was a coco virgin.

Coco beans

I have to admit that the Breton coco bean, or Coco de Paimpol to be precise (it has it’s own appelation d’origine contrôlée), is not much to look at in its pod – no flashy pink, just a rather mottled violety-beige, but it pops from the pod, glistening white and shiny. If the borlotti deserves Italian fashion status with it’s Missoni-esque markings then the aptly named Coco surely should be hailed as the pure chic, French Chanel.

The texture of the cooked coco is exceptional, Charlie tells me that they have been referred to as beany ganache, well it’s no surprise. These are the most melt-in -the mouthy legumes that I’ve ever experienced and that’s coming from someone who has spent a couple of years researching a book on pulses.

So what to do with them? …I kept it very simple.

Cover the beans in water, throw in a couple sage leaves and chop up a few fresh tomatoes (I picked the last few of our homegrown) Simmer the beans until tender and then season with salt.

We ate some of our beans hot with plenty of extra virgin olive oil alongside our monthly treat of rump steak (from our meat box). The remainder were shared with Sasha the fruit fairy up the road, and eaten as salad with some finely diced shallot, parsley, extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.

I’m waiting for the 2014 Paimpol coco season already. You may have to badger your green grocer to track some down but do, the coco is honestly the crème de la crème of beans.

One-pot Chorizo Supper and The Meat Course

I’ve always been a serious chorizo fan. The cured Spanish sausage, seasoned with paprika and garlic, can transform a pot of beans or lentils like nothing else. I have to say that I’m more excited about today’s chorizo than ever because I actually made it myself (but more of that later). Pete’s relieved that the sausages are […]

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