Category Archives: Uncategorized

Less Meat, More Veg’

My daughter, Imi, is about to leave primary school, it’s the end of an era (breaks my heart if I’m honest), she’s had the most amazing time. So, a couple of days ago Peter and I donned our aprons and performed a ” Fanny and Johnny” cooking demo’ ( I do tend to boss the poor chap around a bit in the kitchen), as a school fundraiser.

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We eat less and less meat at home, it just seems a no brainer to me – as a result we eat far more veg’ (including lots of pulses, well of course) which means more nutrients, more fibre and I believe a far more varied and interesting diet. There’s the sustainability side of things too, with meat requiring vast quantities of our valuable resources to produce: we eat just a little meat, see it as an absolute treat and make sure that it is produced ethically.

So back to the evening – all performed in truly unprofessional style on a table that just about reached our knees, with a 2 hob Baby Belling to cook on. I promised the parents that I’d post the recipes, so for the rest of you here are a few bonus dishes. Too busy to take pictures of the food I’m afraid, but here are a couple of snaps of the two of us in action (Peter in full Johnny-mode and me looking like I’ve swallowed my teeth as I gonged my pan to get the show on the road – what an attractive couple we are!)

 

Zucchini fritters  ( makes about 10)

You could make these with grated carrot, parsnip, beetroot, squash. How about adding some spices?  you could even just add a ready made spice mix such as a bit of garam masala/ ras al hangout/ baharat and keep the herbs to parsley aand chives (maybe throw in coriander too). This is a truly versatile recipe and a great way to get your kids eating more veg’.

1 onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 medium courgettes, grated
125 g green pea flour or chickpea flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp mixed fresh herbs  eg thyme, oregano, parsley, chives, rosemary
1 tbsp  pine kernels, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds,  sesame seeds,
3  tbsp olive oil

Fry the onion until soft in the oil and then add the garlic for a moment or 2.
Now mix all the ingredients together well.

Heat up the oil in a large frying pan and place spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil.
Fry in 2 batches. Turning the fritters once golden and set.

Drain on paper towel and keep warm in the oven for a few minutes if not serving straight away.

 

Romesco Sauce  (enough for 12 servings)

A short cut recipe for Romesco, not authentic at all ( if you’re after the real thing then here’s a recipe ) This works beautifully with the fritters, with roasted veg’ (or with a bit of lamb or fish – you see I’m not anti animal protein, its just about eating less of it).

1 red pepper
2 tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic
1 heaped tbsp sweet paprika
1 small dried red chilli pepper
100g hazelnuts, roasted ( or a mix of almonds and hazelnuts)
1 -2 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt
a handful of parsley, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C

Roast the pepper in the oven for about 30 minutes adding the  tomato and garlic for last 10 minutes.

Place everything in a blender together ( bar the parsley that you can stir in later – otherwise the sauce will turn a murky browny – green), balancing the vinegar, salt and olive oil at the end.

Add the parsley and serve.

 

Chickpea flat bread  – Farinata

Italian farinata, cecina, torta di ceci (depending on where you’re from), or socca from just over the French border in Nice, is a simply baked flatbread made from chickpea flour. The locals love it. Trattorias and bakeries the length of the Riviera draw regular lunchtime queues and back in my Italian yachting days I became a fan too.

The bakery in Chiavari had a sign scrawled up in the window announcing the time the hot farinata was on sale, straight from the wood-fired oven. I remember zipping back to the boatyard on my moped with a meticulously tied greaseproof parcel of steaming farinata for the crew.

A wood-fired oven is obviously not on the cards for most of us but you can create something approximating farinata in a very hot domestic oven. It’s usually just served with plenty of black pepper but I love to pile some delicious cheese or cured meat on the top.

Serves 4

200 g chickpea flour (gram flour, besan)
1/2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary (optional)
1 tsp salt
400 ml  water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Tip the chickpea flour, salt and rosemary into a large bowl and slowly whisk in the water until you have a loose, lump-free batter. Rest the batter for at least an hour and up to 12

Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas mark 7

Take a large flat tin or oven-proof frying pan ( the professionals have a huge round pan specifically for the purpose) and heat it up in the oven or on the hob.

Skim off any froth from the top of the batter and then stir in most of the olive oil.

Add the remaining oil to the hot pan, swirling it to create a non stick surface. Now tip in the batter to a depth of about 1 cm/just under 1/2 an inch and place in the oven.

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes  or until the surface of the farinata is crisp and bubbling. I sometimes give mine a quick blast under the grill for some extra colour.

Give it a few turns of the pepper mill, slice up with a pizza cutter and serve right away.

To make unorthodox individual servings:

Fry off the batter (still about a centimetre thick) in a small omelette pan, turning it, just as you would a pancake ( make sure that it is non-stick ….ahem). Once the farinata is set slip it onto a greased oven tray. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, layering greaseproof between each flatbread and then place the tray in the oven for about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with piles of tomato salad or anything else that takes your fancy.

 

Syrian-style lentils   Serves  6

4 tbsp olive oil
3 brown onions, sliced finely
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and then ground
pinch of chilli flakes or better still 2 tsp sweet Aleppo chilli flakes
300 g  brown or green lentils
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions. Keep the temperature fairly low and allow the onions to soften, sweeten and turn golden; this may take about 30- 40 minutes. Be patient.

Take out half of the onions from the pan and set aside. 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 lentils and enough water to cover them by about 5 cm/2 inches.

Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook until the lentils soften and begin to break down. You may have to add a little extra water from time to time if they are getting dry but go carefully, remember that you don’t want to drain away any delicious juices later. Once the lentils are really soft, and this can take over an hour, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and enough lemon juice to freshen the dish up. Stir in the coriander leaves and garnish with the remaining fried onions.

Roasted carrots –

Preheat oven to 200 ºc

Roast carrots ( smaller carrots that can be served whole or cut lengthways do look good)

Peel carrots if you feel the need , cut into chunks or leave whole if little ones, toss in olive oil and roast for about 30 mins depending on size until tender and browning a little.

Throw in some sesame seeds, cracked coriander seeds for the last 5 minutes.

Serve carrots on top of the lentils with a good splash of pomegranate molasses , maybe some pomegranate seeds, sprouted radishes or herbs – whatever you have.

 

Labneh recipe coming soon …….. I’ve run out of time!

I’m off to Sicily later tonight, have yet to do my packing and am taking part in the fabulous Bristol Food Connections this afternoon making falafel and minestrone and talking all things British Pules related with the fabulous Nick Saltmarsh of Hodmedods 

Thank yous

Massive thanks to Max from Bar Buvette who sorted the magnificent bar.
Anna Byass  a Hotwells PTA powerhouse who does soon much behind the scenes and basically made our event happen.
To Kirsty, Kate and all the other fab’ Year 6 parents who cooked, helped and supported the event.

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The team.. ..all looking rather shiney faced and hot, we’d been working hard!

Also huge thanks to Leigh Court Farm, Reg The Veg, Chandos Deli, Isle of Wight Tomatoes and the Co-Op for being so generous donating ingredients.

HOORAH – we made lots of money for the fabulous Hotwell’s Primary School , where so many of our children have been given just the best start in life.

 

The Magic of Dal

Next week we’re holding the first British Dal Festival here, in my home city of Bristol, and so at last I’ve been kicked back into action on my blog.

British Dal FestivalAs many of you know I am fairly obsessed with pulses;  just had flat bread, Beluga lentils, tomatoes and  z’atar for lunch so I really do practice what I preach. Perhaps my favourite dish of all is dal, by which I mean the soupy, creamy pulse dish topped with its own tailor-made, zippy mix of herbs or spices.

For millions of Southern Asians dal is part of their heritage, a dish that appears on every table, rich or poor, fast day or feast day, come rain or shine. Dal tastes of home, of nurture and nourishment, eaten from the cradle to the grave. Now I can’t begin to pretend that I have this deep connection with dal, I probably hadn’t even tasted it until I was in my twenties but I can assure you that my love affair with this magical comfort food is no dalliance, I could happily eat it every day.

Digging back through my blog posts you’ll find a good few dal recipes: Tarka dal ,
Sambar  and rather bizarre sounding , but delicious, I promise you Lentil and rhubarb curry – read dal

My main role with the festival has been putting together a school pack that includes a recipe, an equipment list, a risk assessment form and plenty of cross-curriculum facts. The idea is that Key Stage 2, primary school teachers can download the info’ and set up a fabulous interactive dal class with the minimum of fuss. It may be too late to get on the timetable before the Easter holidays but why not point any teachers in the right direction for next term – all the info is here on the British Dal Festival website It’s never too late to learn about dal.

So, next week, in between all the fabulous Dal Festival events happening around the city of Bristol, I will be giving dal workshops at Hotwell’s Primary School Year 4, Compass Point Year 6  and also with students at The Bristol Hospital Education Service.

Last month I worked with Hotwell’s Primary School’s Year 6, who not only got fully involved with designing their own tadkas ( the herby/spicy dal topping) and scoffed all the dal but also put together a great info’ display for their school.

So many of our school children never get a chance to cook at home and here’s an opportunity to get them excited about making something really healthy and tasty. With childhood obesity on the rise we just have to get food onto the school curriculum somehow – so here’s a one small step in the right direction.

SO, what is dal?

The word dal can refer to a split pulse OR a soupy or stew-like dish made from pulses.

Why teach kids ( or anyone for that matter) about dal?

  • It’s simple to cook.
  • Super-economical.
  • Highly nutritious.
  • Filling and delicious
  • Pulses are one of the most sustainable sources of protein on the planet.

What’s with the “British” dal Festival? 

It’s not just that the celebration is being held here, it’s the opportunity to find out about the pulses we produce in Britain too – the great variety of dried peas, the fava beans, haricots and lentils.

THE FINALE 

Is happening at Paintworks in Bristol, on Sunday 25th March.

There will be street food, cooking demo’s (I’m on at 11 am – so please come an say hello), talks, kid’s activities and a chance to stock up on some great British pulses.

All the info, tickets etc Here

 

 

Kids, Cups and Head Recipes

Getting children into the kitchen is something I’m absolutely passionate about. There’s no doubt about it, cooking works on so many levels……… knife skills are perfect for developing fine motor skills, adapting quantities and weighing ingredients can be used to test mathematical proficiency whilst keeping on top of the mess and the timings calls for good organisation. Then, most importantly, there’s the opportunity to develop a love for,  and an understanding of, good ingredients and real food that will set up good eating habits for a lifetime.

Sometimes it’s great to have a recipe that really challenges, whilst at others a familiar and extraordinarily simple combination is wonderful for building confidence and creativity. There’s something really empowering about making something without even turning to a book. An omelette is a perfect example; once they’ve mastered the egg cracking a kid can decide between herbs, grated cheese, sliced spring onion, sweetcorn and a multitude of other bits that you find in the fridge. You will probably want to stand by as they fry depending on their age and ability but it really can be a meal in minutes.

American-style pancakes (Scotch pancakes or drop scones) are a fabulous “head recipe”  especially when you use measuring cups – most people use these in the U.S. and Down Under although I have to admit that I’d rather weigh if I’m looking for precision. However the beauty of cup measuring for simpler combinations such as the pancake batter is the speed and ease with which you can work and, even better, how easy it is to remember the recipe. There are plenty of cutesy cup measures around the shops nowadays or you can just stick with the basics.

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So, assuming that the child can remember the   1+1+1 recipe, they can head into the kitchen, have a cupboard/fridge forage (with your permission) and make any number of different combinations.

American- style Pancakes
– Serves 4  (about 12-16 pancakes)

The basic recipe

1 cup self raising white flour/ self raising wholemeal flour or a mixture of both.
pinch of salt
1 medium egg
1 cup milk
For the Frying: 2 tsp butter + 2 tsp vegetable oil

Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.

Add the egg and milk and whisk everything together until just combined Don’t worry about a few lumps, over whisking will make your pancakes tough.

Add 1/2 a teaspoon of butter and 1/2 tsp oil to a large frying pan and set the pan over a high heat. !!!!! Once the butter has melted, carefully add dessert spoonfuls of pancake batter to the pan. You can cook them 4 or 5 at a time.

If the pan begins to smoke turn down the heat.

Once the top of the pancakes are bubbly and the sides begin to firm it’s time to turn them over using a fish slice drawing or metal palette knife drawing

Cook for another minute or two, until golden and then place on a warm plate.

These are scrumptious eaten straight away but you can cover them with foil to keep warm until you have used all the mixture.

Add another teaspoon of butter to the pan, wait for it to melt and spoon in your next batch of pancakes.

Serve with bacon and maple syrup or a fruit salad with honey and yoghurt.

Jenny Chandler Cool Kids CookFruity Pancakes
Add 1 grated apple or pear (peel and all) to the pancake batter when you stir it all together. Great with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Or
Stir 1 mashed banana and the zest of 1 lime into the pancake mix and serve sprinkled with toasted coconut chips,  a pinch of brown sugar and lime juice.
Or
Add blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or blackberries to the pancakes as soon as you have spooned the mixture into the pan. About 3 0r 4 fruits per pancake will be plenty. Serve with honey.

 

Go Savoury
Stir 50 g grated cheddar cheese into the batter with a tablespoon of chopped chives.
Or
Stir 100 g sweetcorn kernels and 2 chopped spring onions into the batter. So, so good served with a dollop of guacamole!
Or
Make the pancake batter with wholemeal flour, a tablespoon of chives and chopped dill. Serve with smoked salmon and a blob of sour cream.

 

& the good news ……….I gave a presentation to Year 5 at Bristol Grammar School last week and we played around with some variations on these pancakes. When it came to tasting, more of the kids plumped for the savoury than sweet options……. RESULT!

Images are by Deirdre Rooney from my book Cool Kids Cook ( Pavilion 2016) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Imi Bassett’s Guest Post – Cool Kids Cook

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imi’s Tropical Jelly  (6-8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turning out your jellies

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

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

Tropical Banana Smoothie

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Chickpea Salad and Other Stories

Last week we celebrated The Bristol Food Connections Festival and I was in a whirlwind of cooking (plenty of pulses), teaching, writing, cooking and a bit of gallivanting too. Of course the very mention of the “wind” word will have probably unleashed a bit of school boy humour amongst some of you and I’ll address that at the bottom (oh dear!) of the post.

Food Connections

My demo’ at the festival focused on chickpeas (perhaps my favourite pulse of all, and certainly the variety I use the most) and I had decided, rather bonkersly, to cook 10 recipes in an hour. I often feel that people don’t realise how versatile and easy chickpeas are to use and so, with the help of nine year old Imi, we flew through loads of simple ideas. We did also have some help from the wonderful Clare Hargreaves and Steve Ashcroft – thanks so much to both of you.

Some of the recipes are on my blog already, just click on the links for recipes. We kicked off with farinata , the gram (chickpea) flour flatbread which is super cheap and incredibly moreish (even Gwyneth has included a recipe in her latest cook book, she uses the French name Socca,…. love the idea of putting sardines and tomatoes on the top). Our simple  soup has been a go-to-recipe of mine for years, a real store-cupboard standby, with chilli and lemon juice. The zingy  Southern Indian chickpea stir fry  is a winner if you’re up for some Indian flavours . I only cooked one dish with meat and that was a simple one pot supper dish using a little chorizo , it’s a recipe that really does demonstrate my belief that a small quantity of well-sourced meat can feed a crowd when you cook with pulses. So those are your bonus recipes, and I’ll do my best to post all of the dishes I cooked over time, but today I wanted to talk about salads.

I’d quite happily eat salad every day of my life as long as it was more than a pile of leaves. Nowadays many of the hipster cooks and chefs seem to refer to a large plate of cold goodies as a buddha bowl or wellness plate, I just call it salad. It’s a great option instead of the daily sandwich that so many of us snatch at lunchtime, as long as it tastes fab’, fills you up and keeps you going for the afternoon. As you may know pulses are packed with fibre, are digested slowly and will keep you feeling satisfied and energised for hours. Another upside of chickpeas, beans and lentils in a lunch box is that they actually benefit from a few hours sitting in the dressing, herbs and spices that you may have decided to add. I could bang on about the low fat, no cholesterol, the protein ( when accompanied by grains, nuts or dairy), manganese and folate that chickpeas bring onboard but sometimes singing the health benefits of an ingredient makes people imagine that it will be a trial to eat. THIS SALAD IS DELICIOUS; one of my all time favourites from my book Pulse. I’ve taken a cheeky shot – of the salad pic’ by the fabulous Clare Winfield in my book (I’m up against it, I have a book launch on Wednesday and everything to get ready, so I do hope you’ll forgive).

 

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Chickpea, Beetroot and Feta Salad.
Serves 4

1/2 red onion, sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
500 g/ 1 lb home cooked or 2 x 400g/14 oz tinned chickpeas, (well rinsed and drained)
200 g/ 7 oz feta cheese, cut into large 2 1/2  cm/1 inch dice
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
100 g/4 oz baby spinach or other salad leaves
1/2 cucumber, diced
a large bunch continental parsley, chopped
About 20 mint leaves
2 small cooked beetroot (vacuum packed or home-cooked) , roughly diced
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
salt, pepper, wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to taste.

Soak the sliced onion in the vinegar, it will turn a glorious fuschia pink and become softer and more digestible.

Gently warm the olive oil and the garlic in a saucepan for about 5 minutes. The idea is not to fry the garlic but to infuse the oil and soften the the garlic’s flavour. Remove the pan from the heat and take out the garlic, it will be soft by now, chop it finely and return it to the pan with the chickpeas. Stir them around in the warm oil, season with a little salt and pepper and then set aside to cool.

Toast the sesame and fennel seeds in a frying pan until the sesame seeds dance around and turn gold. Tip the seeds onto a plate and carefully toss the feta around, covering each dice in a speckled crust.

Place the onion, chickpeas with their garlic oil, salad leaves, cucumber, parsley and most of the mint in a bowl and mix carefully. Now add the feta and beetroot and toss carefully just a couple of times otherwise the entire salad will turn a milky pink. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and a few mint leaves and serve with toasted pitta or some fabulous sourdough and a dash of olive oil.

How about?
Adding  a few pitted Kalamata olives
Some roasted pistachios along with the pomegranate
Grilled or char-grilled sliced aubergine
Chopped coriander instead of the mint

TIP: Warming the chickpeas in the garlicky oil makes them sing, if you’re not keen on garlic then try infusing with lemon zest or spices. This technique will make a difference to any beans or lentils, especially if they’ve come out of a tin

The Wind Factor

I’m always extolling the virtues of legumes and yet I’ve still to address the wind problem on my blog, it’s probably because it doesn’t really affect me (there are also plenty of things that help reduce the flatulence in any case ).

SO, why the wind? (Here’s a quote from my book – Pulse) “Legumes contain certain indigestible carbohydrates, the most troublesome being the oligosaccharides, that can’t be dealt with by the digestive enzymes in the stomach. So these carbohydrates pass through the upper intestine largely unchanged and are finally fermented and broken down by harmless bacteria in the lower intestine. This rise in bacterial activity results in gas. There’s also the high fibre factor; if your normal diet is low in fibre then a sudden rise will cause gas too.”

And what to do about it? Firstly, your body will gradually adapt to eating more pulses and fibre and then any wind will become less of an issue.
Secondly, the great pulse eaters of the world offer up plenty of calming options.
-You can add a small piece of Kombu seaweed to the beans as they cook as the Japanese do (available dried next to the Miso etc in health food shops)
-The Mexicans add a few leaves of epazote to the pot (available dried on line at Sous Chef  along with almost any other ingredient that you need to track down)
-Indians use asafoetida, cumin, turmeric or fennel in their dals and curries
-Italians swear by fennel and sage.

 

AND THE NEWS …….. COOL KIDS COOK is out this week

and of course there are a few pulse recipes thrown in, including 4 variations on a quick bean salad, ideal for the lunchbox. You can read more about it on my blog here