Category Archives: Pulses

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 .

 

Real baked beans and a walk in the woods

_DSC6717Last weekend my kitchen turned into a baked bean factory. A great friend of mine, Clare Hargreaves, who runs Feast with a Chef (bringing amazing Michelin-starred chefs out to strut their stuff in a village hall),  was organising a dawn chorus walk in the woods and a fabulous breakfast to follow. Clare asked me to provide some proper baked beans to accompany the carefully sourced sausages and bacon and, since she addressed me as the “bean queen”, how could I refuse? I promised early risers that I’d post the recipe and here it is,  if you nip down to the bottom of the page.

For those of you who might need a bit of encouragement when it comes to getting out into the woods here’s a quick glimpse of our little walk earlier on today; there are bluebell woods all over Britain and now’s the time to get your wellies on. If you’re reading this blog abroad then please forgive my showing off a little, we may have plenty of dank, dark days in the UK but we get our rewards too; there really is nothing more beautiful than a glade of bluebells.

Prior’s Wood sits above the village of Portbury, just a few miles from Bristol. There are carpets of wild garlic, just beginning to flower with its lacy  white starbursts of blossom, and then the swathes of bluebells. It’s unimaginably beautiful.

There’s a carrot dangling at the end of the walk too, just to help you up the hills. Every year there’s a fabulous cake stall set up in the driveway by the footpath; villagers bake cakes in aid of St Peter’s Hospice, the church and school. Let me tell you, there’s quite a selection: fruit cakes, lemon drizzle, brownies, marmalade cake, chocolate cake, banana and chocolate chip, coffee and walnut, Victoria sponge and the cakes just keep arriving. This year we actually managed the walk before the cake, but it does take some self discipline. The cake stall will be open this year until 15th May 11am -5pm at weekends and on the bank holiday Monday ( I thoroughly recommend the banana and chocolate chip)

 

Should cakes not be your thing, or perhaps you can manage a quick cider after your cake (we did), then just a couple of miles down the lane is one of the West Country’s most glorious pubs, The Black Horse at Clapton-in-Gordano. It’s a proper pub that’s managed to escape the poncey -fication of recent years, no light oak and carefully placed prints, just an open fire, old chaps downing the scrumpy and the odd Adge Cutler ( he of Wurzel fame) album cover on the walls.

So that’s your next weekend’s walk and refreshments sorted and now I’d better get down to the beans.

Real Baked Beans

Serves 4 -6

750 g preferably home-cooked or 3 x 14 0z tins haricot beans
1/2 tsp English mustard powder
1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
2 tbsp black treacle
1  x 400 g can of chopped tomatoes
200 ml of good beer (I used Bath Ales – Gem)
2 small onions, peeled but left whole
4 cloves
350 g pork belly, in thick strips, rind removed
salt and pepper
Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 140 c/275 F/Gas Mark 1

Drain your beans, if using home cooked you’ll be using the liquid as stock later, if using canned just tip the gloop away and give the beans a rinse.

Pour the beans into a large cast iron pot or casserole.

Mix up the mustard, treacle, sugar, tomatoes and beer and tip over the beans. Stud your onions with the cloves and toss those into the pot too.

Now, nestle the piece of pork down in amongst the beans with a good teaspoon of salt. Grind over plenty of black pepper.

If the beans are not completely covered with liquid then add a little bean cooking liquid or water. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid or be creative with the tin foil (you just don’t want to lose all those delicious juices) and place in the oven for 3 hours.

Remove the lid and have a taste, this is when to up the salt and pepper then, ( to play around with a dash of Worcestershire sauce if you feel the need (and usually I do). If the beans seem a little dry do add a splash of water but the end dish wants to be thick and sticky.

Pull out the pork and chop it into large chunk, stir it back into the beans and then put the pot back into the oven, uncovered this time, for another 45 minutes to an hour.

Serve with crusty bread .

Veggie Beans
The veggie beans had a sofritto of onion, carrot and celery (fried until soft in olive oil) added with the treacle etc and then were finished off with a some Shiro miso to taste. The miso is absolutely wonderful at creating that Umami  (savoury) depth of flavour.

AND PLEASE DON’T FORGET NEXT WEEKEND…….. Bristol, Food Connections Festival

Sunday May 1st –  No 1 Harbourside, 4.30-7pm
Get your pulses racing!
I’ll be taking part in 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.

Wild Garlic and Tomato Cannellini

Two blog posts in one week is a record for me but I must get this out to you whilst the wild garlic is still in its prime……

School holidays, and just the time for a National Trust expedition, our membership (thanks sis’) is such a boon, if we’re away on holiday or visiting friends there’s always somewhere nearby to explore. This week it was a day trip from Bristol with old friends to Newark Park, near Wooton-under-Edge (close-ish to Stroud). Monday’s weather forecast was pretty grim but you can always bet on a quiz for the kids in the house and a good café to hole up in if things get really wet.

After a good look round the extraordinary house (austere Tudor hunting lodge with centuries’ worth of additions, brought back from rack and ruins in the 1970’s by a Texan tenant) we set off into the estate. I have NEVER seen so much garlic, all absolutely in its prime (now’s the time to pick, when the leaves are young and tender, before those lacy white flowers appear)

image

And, before anyone suggests that we shouldn’t have been picking, it was all legit; we were given brown paper bags by the guy at the ticket office and invited to help ourselves, as long as we gathered carefully and didn’t uproot any bulbs. The smell was intoxicating as we foraged and even more so in the car on the way home.

Back in the kitchen I thought I’d give Imi the challenge of single-handedly putting lunch together (with just a little bit of instruction). This dish is so super-simple and keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge.

Wild Garlic and Tomato Cannellini

Jenny Chandler Cannellini200 g (ish) cherry tomatoes on the vine
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Large handful of wild garlic leaves
2 x 400g cans of cannellini beans (drained)
Splash of white wine
salt and pepper

Switch the oven to about 180ºC

Put the tomatoes in the oven with the olive oil in a heatproof serving dish and leave for about 20 minutes until they have split and softened.

Meanwhile wash the garlic leaves (there were plenty of dogs being walked along our path!) and then chop up roughly.

Use a fork to knock/scrape the tomatoes off the vine (a vine does look good on the top so you might keep one back). Stir in the garlic, beans, wine and season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Warm the beans through in the oven for about 10 minutes, long enough for the garlic to wilt.

Serve warm from the oven – you can eat the beans just as they are or you could

Try
-Doing the delicious double carb thing and serving with pasta (pile on some parmesan or pecorino too).
– Serving on sourdough toast, maybe with a bit of goat’s cheese.
– Eat alongside some fab’ sausages, lamb or fish.

 

 

So get your kids cooking, or throw something together yourself – it’s child’s play (sorry, had to be done) And for lots more inspiration there is , of course, a very handy book coming out in just a few weeks time. You could even click here to pre-order Cool Kids Cook !

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seizing the Day and Lucky Lentils

I’d be lying if I said that 2016 has got off to a great start; it’s one of those strange situations when Pete, Imi and I are doing fine but other people I truly care about just aren’t. There’s that wierd conflict between feeling sad and helpless in the face of other people’s tragedies and, realising how fragile life can be, seizing the day.

12565568_517857278397199_6466019848023937389_nChildren are so great at living in the now. I adore this picture of Imi in Bath last weekend. She skips, she sings and can’t resist a bollard- she’ll leap frog it or do a high kick and, whilst I don’t quite have her flexibility (or the flamingo legs to go with it), I can only hope to soak up some of her innocent joie de vivre.

Luck plays such a huge role in our lives; our destinies do seem to change at the role of a dice and so I’m going back to those lucky lentils that the Italians dive into every New Year. I’m just starting my year again and every one of those tiny seeds is going to bring us all good fortune. Superstition apart, lentils are genuinely capable of bringing prosperity and fine health; eating legumes is incredibly economical and they’re so very good for you.

I always prepare food that I like to eat rather than counting calories or assessing nutrients, if it happens to be packed with goodness, well, that’s a bonus. Lentils are loaded with fibre (keeping you feeling full, helping to regulate blood sugar levels and of course, keeping you regular). They provide valuable protein as long as you throw some grains into your diet along the way (it doesn’t have to be at the same meal) and cost a fraction of the price of meat. Consider all the calcium, iron, folate, zinc and potassium they bring with them and yes, we could give them that irritatingly clichéd title of a ……….SUPERFOOD!

There are a few lentil recipes for you to explore on my blog already, just give them a click.
How about?
Simple lentil salad

Quince, Bath Blue and lentil salad

Rhubarb and lentil curry

There are obviously dozens more to discover and enjoy in my book PULSE (how’s that for some shameless self-promotion?)

January’s been pretty full-on writing for all sorts magazines, blogs and campaigns, spreading the word about The International Year of Pulses (hence the “quiet” January on my own site), including Meat Free Mondays, Coeliacs Uk, The World Wildlife Fund and Borough Market.Jenny Chandler in Borough Market, photograph by Simon Rawles

I’m going to share the Borough Market lentil recipe that I created for their blog (I know that it’s a marketing faux-pas to send your readers elsewhere but hey, I’m generous like that and it’s a great place to go for ideas and a good read.  I love working for them; the monthly demonstrations are an excuse to explore, shop, eat and work in one of the world’s finest food markets.

Here’s a chance to use seasonal Seville oranges (be quick – they’re not around for much longer) if you really don’t require more marmalade. Imi and her Brownie friends got so excited last year that we over produced and still have a mountain to munch through. You can use sweeter oranges for the lentils too but you may require a bit of lemon juice to sharpen things up.

Tangy orange lentils

I’m using the little brown Spanish Pardina lentils because they seem an appropriate match for Seville oranges but any small, firm lentil will do.

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
1-2 chillies, finely chopped (optional)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small sprig of of rosemary, leaves very finely chopped
250 g/9 oz Spanish Pardina lentils, or another tiny hold-together variety
Juice of 1-2 Seville oranges and zest to taste
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 large handful of parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp Crème fraîche  or extra virgin olive oil

Take a large pan and fry the onion and carrots in the olive oil until soft.

Stir in the chillies, garlic and rosemary and continue to cook until the garlic just starts to colour.

Add the lentils, the juice of one orange, a good pinch of zest and enough water or stock to cover them by a couple of inches/5 cm. Cook until juicy and tender ( about 20-25 minutes), do keep an eye as you may need to top up the water.

Drain the lentils if necessary and then add the mustard, parsley, salt and pepper and enough of the remaining orange juice to balance the lentils. The crème fraîche or extra virgin olive oil are up to you, the creamier version is great with ham, lean pork chops, or just served as a salad with piles of watercress whilst the extra virgin olive oil works better with rich belly pork or duck.

 

One or Two Lentil Facts 

Legumes can keep you feeling full for an extra 2 to 4 hours, meaning that you’re less likely to be foraging in the biscuit tin.

Lentils are not just a cheaper source of protein than meat, gram for gram they have higher levels of protein than beef (as long as you also consume grains which contribute the missing essential amino acid). If you’re a resolute carnivore try adding lentils to stews, curries or cottage pie to eek out the meat. Better for you, better for the planet.

Red lentils are actually hulled and split brown lentils. So, since their protective skin has gone they collapse easily making them fabulous for dal or any creamy soup. They contain much less fibre (as that’s mainly found in the skin) and so are easier on the digestion making them ideal for baby food. Just cook up a pan-full in some stock until soft and mushy and add to different vegetable purées. 

Happy New Year …… of Pulses

2016 has been declared The International Year of Pulses by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation; at last I have even more reason to shout about lentils, chickpeas and beans.

This year I plan to write at least one post a month about a different legume amongst all of my other ramblings. Being a champion of pulses doesn’t mean that I’m focused on dieting or totally obsessed with healthy eating (you’ll find a few indulgent dishes and cakes amongst the recipes on my blog) I just write about the ingredients and food that I like to eat.

Luckily the pulses, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables that we regularly tuck into are incredibly good for us, it’s almost like a fortuitous accident. I’d better quickly add that I’m certainly not squeaky clean –  I happen to love pasta, smoked bacon, Stilton cheese and custard tarts amongst many other delights on the “nutrition guru’s” black list. It may sound very simplistic but, in my view, if your diet is predominantly made up of the unprocessed, slow-to-digest bits there simply isn’t room to fit in too much of the naughtier stuff.
Michael Pollan’s “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” pretty much sums it up.

You could call us a “flexitarian” household (just a poncey way of saying that we have plenty of meals that don’t include meat or fish). Husband Peter and 9 year old Imi don’t even seem to notice whether a meal is vegetarian or not, they’re just as happy eating a chickpea pilaff as a lamb stew, it’s about tasty food. This way of eating happens to be cheaper, means we can afford great quality meat when we do buy it and most importantly to me it’s exciting and varied (Oh, and another added bonus, it’s good for us and the planet too)

I did mean to give you a lentil recipe to celebrate New Year – the Italians believe that each little lentil represents a coin bringing prosperity for the year ahead (Yes, please). Here’s a fab’ rhubarb and lentil curry recipe in any case. It’s just not that often that I have a little film up my sleeve………….
So here’s a quick video of how to throw together some very simple dips to set your pulses racing (sorry that had to happen just once)  that I filmed a couple of weeks ago with Rob Wicks of Eat Pictures. You’ll find the recipes below.

Black Bean and Chipotle Dip

Makes 1 medium-sized  bowl
Chipotles are smoked jalapeno peppers, traditionally you buy them dried or in adobo, a spicy sauce made up predominantly of tomato and onion. You could easily substitute the Chipotle paste or ketchup  that is increasingly available in supermarkets too. No Chipotles at all ? A spoonful of smoked Spanish paprika and a few hot chillis will taste great too.

Here’s a Tex-Mex winner to serve alongside Guacamole, tomato salsa and a few corn chips. Crack open an ice cold bottled beer, slide in the wedge of lime and let the fiesta begin.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 x 400 g tin of black beans or 250 g home cooked beans
2 chipotle chillis in adobo sauce, stalks removed
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp soured cream
Juice of 1 -2  limes
1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
salt and a few drops of tabasco to taste

Fry the onion in the oil until soft and golden. Now add the garlic to the pan and continue to cook until it smells wonderful.

Put the onion and garlic into a food processor with the beans, the cumin and just half of your Chipotle ( it’s always wise to tread carefully with any chilli). Whizz everything up and add the remaining chilli, soured cream, lime juice and salt by degrees until the dip is balanced.

Stir in most of the coriander, check the seasoning again and up the heat with a dash of Tabasco if you’re feeling fiery.
Serve with a swirl of soured cream and a sprinkling of coriander.

Roasted Pumpkin Hummus

Makes 1 medium-sized  bowl.
This makes a very welcome change from the more familiar hummus bi tahini. You could swap the pumpkin for other roasted vegetables too.

600 g peeled and roughly chopped pumpkin (or butternut squash)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 x 400 g tin or 300 g drained, cooked chick peas
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of 1 lemon
125ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toss the pumpkin in the olive oil and roast at 200 c/ 400 f/ Gas mark 6 for about 40 minutes

Place the chickpeas in a food processor with the garlic, lemon juice and roasted pumpkin. Blend for a moment or two before adding most of the olive oil. Now pulse the mixture, adding more oil and a little seasoning until you have a deliciously creamy paste.

Try adding :
a handful of chopped parsley or coriander
a couple of teaspoons of harissa, swirled through the top.

Cannellini and Beetroot dip

Makes 1 medium-sized  bowl
1 x 400 g/14 oz tin of cannellini, haricot or flageolet beans, drained
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
a pinch of salt and pepper

For the beetroot swirl
2 medium sized, cooked beetroots
2 sprigs of fresh dill
1-2 tsps of ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste

Whizz the beans, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning into a purée in a food processor or with a stick blender and then adjust the seasoning until you are happy. The creamed beans will be subtle but need to be balanced all the same.

Purée the cooked beetroot with the dill and ground coriander. Balance with salt and pepper.

Swirl the beetroot into the bean dip but don’t stir to much, it’s more appetising as a ripple effect.

You’ll find lots more pulse recipes on the official Pulses.Org website  here  and plenty of other inspiration on my blog – just click on the relevant legume in the ingredients list to the right.

AND, JUST ONE MORE THING – on January 6th people will be eating pulses all over the world to raise awareness of their health and sustainability benefits – you can join the social media party here or you may just prefer to sit down quietly with your friends and a big bowl beans.

Happy New Year!