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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).

 

image

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

 

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.

Fava Falafel and my Ambassadorial Post

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Split-Fava Falafel

Makes about 30

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

Sunflower or olive oil for frying

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about?

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

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

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

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

The Ambassador's Party

Do please join me

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

Bristol, Food Connections Festival

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

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

Bath, The Bertinet Kitchen

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

Just a small class so book soon! More info here

London, Borough Market

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

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

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

 

 

 

Picky Eaters, Stripey Salads

Any of you who follow my blog, dip into my books or come to my classes will recognise that a rather poncy, striped salad is not really me at all. It’s just that Imi was tackling a great piece of homework this weekend and I got carried along by the theme.

Primary school children are being given the chance to design a new edible bed for Bristol Zoo Gardens. It’s an inspiring project getting them thinking about how the plants look, their height and spread, sunny and shady planting positions, the seasons and hopefully what they’d like to harvest and eat too***. I dug out a few books to set Imi on her way and she was immediately drawn to the beautiful illustration of a planting scheme in Pete Lawrence’s The Allotment Cookbook (thank you to Illustrator Nici Holland). As I prepared a quick salady lunch I was interrogated about fruit and vegetable varieties (about which I know plenty when it comes to eating and shamefully little when it comes down to growing)

Jenny Chandler - Picky Eaters

Salads are often one of the trickier things to get children excited about and I (along with most cooks I’d imagine) can’t help getting irritated if things get picked off the plate. Imi has always chomped into stews, curries, pulses and whole grains with wild abandon but been more picky when it comes to raw fruit and veg’. It can sometimes be difficult for mealtimes to remain relaxed and stress free with kids about (do read Bee Wilson’s First Bite – I’m halfway in, it’s fascinating) and I do so want Imi to be adventurous about food. I’d got a fairly challenging (read absolutely scrumptious), selection of ingredients and decided to set it up in vegetable patch -style rows and let Imi take the pick and mix approach.

Stripey Salad

So from the left we had:
Watercress which, perhaps surprisingly, Imi loves despite it’s peppery flavour.
Oxalis (aka New Zealand Yams/oka) New to me. Very crisp texture, subtle citrus flavour.
Celeriac I can’t get enough of it, just raw with lemon juice and black pepper.
Carrot reassuringly sweet and familiar.
Red Quinoa
well-rinsed before cooking to get rid of any bitterness, dressed with plenty of salt, pepper and olive oil whilst still warm.
Roasted Peas sprinkled over the top from Hodmedods for a bit of crunch (I’m addicted)
Blood oranges with fresh mint, a seasonal treat
Romaine Lettuce
Imi’s favourite salad leaf.
Raw Beetroot sliced really thinly, roasted would be delicious too.
Sprouted Mung Beans sweet, crunchy and incredibly nutritious.

Dressing : extra virgin olive oil, cider vinegar and a dash of maple syrup, salt and pepper.

Jenny Chandler - Stripey Salad

Imi made up her own salad, the only guideline being that she had to select at least seven of the stripes. Five were familiar but I knew that I’d be pushing new boundaries with the last two. She surprised me; she enjoyed being in control and only avoided the beetroot. And, better still, there was no need for discussion, cajoling, bribery or frustration. Whilst I have no intention of arranging our food as funny faces or jungle scenes, I may just pursue the D.I.Y. stripey salad selection for a while as a way to introduce new bits and pieces. In fact once the homework’s out of the way I’ll get Imi on grating duty too.

 

*** And if any of you were starting to feel irritated about our rather smug family: perfect student, glorious homework, healthy eating…… then you’ll be relieved to hear that there’s been a hiccup. I’ve just found the accompanying Zoo info’ sheet – it was meant to be a garden packed with animal feed – let’s just hope that the lemurs like artichokes.

My two new books on the block – Highly recommended

Pete Lawrence – The Allotment Cookbook
Sadly I have no allotment, no shed, but still love this little handbook. It’s written in a very personal, heartfelt way and the recipes look wonderful (yet to try , will be reporting back) I’ll certainly be planting up a big bin of Jerusalem artichokes as a result of my reading.

Bee Wilson – First Bite: How We learn to Eat
A really fascinating insight into how we shape our eating habits: incredibly well researched, plenty of science and very moving personal experience. Beautifully written.

 

Cool Kids Cook and a Rhubarb, Rose Water Crumble

At last I can break the news (well, close friends and relatives have put up with months of my banging on about it already) I have a new cook book coming out in May.

Cool Kids Cook, Jenny Chandler May 2016

It’s all about getting children into the kitchen cooking REAL food. Imi and her friends have been my very willing guinea pigs as we regularly cooked supper at our “Monday Night Cooking Club”. It struck me that that whilst it’s fun to bake cupcakes and ice dainty biscuits Imi and her 9 year old mates were just as excited about rolling meatballs or making a Minestrone. We all know that children are much more adventurous about food if they get involved with the cooking and who needs encouragement when it comes to scoffing meringues? We need to get them excited about the good stuff. Don’t panic; there are recipes for tasty muffins, a basic cake that can be whipped up into all sort of different flavours and other sweet treats (any whiff of worthiness and we’ve lost the audience anyway) but the recipes are weighted towards healthy, proper food.

The book is aimed at 7-14 year olds (although quite a few adults have expressed an interest), there are step by step photos, fab’ illustrations, cheesy jokes and a selection of recipes that will set them up for life. I love to see children experiment and get excited about adding their own touches or favourite ingredients so the recipes have variations and suggestions to kickstart their imaginations. So do look out for it, shout about it, purchase numerous copies ( almost goes without saying) and get those young’uns into the kitchen; you may even be able to put your feet up whilst someone else cooks supper from time to time.

So that’s the pitch over and done with, now for the recipe…Crumble does appear in the book, with variations, it’s formatted in a fabulous child-friendly way – you’ll have to wait and see (if I reproduced the page I’d be in terrible trouble). Imi made this last weekend when we had some friends around for lunch, it was great to delegate the pudding to her – less work for me and a great sense of achievement for her

Rhubarb, Rose Water CrumbleRhubarb and rosewater

The crumble combination was inspired by an instagram post from the fabulous garden and food writer  Lia Leendertz, who was making a rhubarb rosewater tart. Reg the Veg was selling (and still is) glorious forced Yorkshire rhubarb, we happened to have 1/2 a bag of pistachios lurking in the cupboard and so this variation of the basic crumble was born.

Serves 4-6

You’ll need an ovenproof dish about 25 cm square and 5cm/2 inches deep

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/ Gas mark 6

The Crunchy Top

 

The Crunchy Top140 g/5 oz chilled butter
200 g/7 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
100 g /3 1/2 0z caster sugar, light brown Muscovado sugar or a mix of the two
a handful of chopped pistachios

Chop the cold butter into small squares and drop them into a large mixing bowl with the flour and salt.

Give everything a quick stir with your hands and then rub the pieces of butter into the flour using your finger tips. Try to use your finger tips; your palms are hot and will melt the butter making greasy, stodgy crumble.

Once the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, with no big lumps of butter you can stir the sugar and nuts in with a spoon.

Put the crumble mixture into the fridge whilst you prepare the filling.

The Rhubarb

 

900 g/2lb rhubarb
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp ground almonds
1-2 tbsp rosewater

Cut the leaves and any ragged ends from the rhubarb and then chop into logs.

Sprinkle the ground almonds into the bottom of the ovenproof dish.  Lay the rhubarb over the top, scatter over the sugar and sprinkle with rosewater – don’t go overboard or the entire dish can seem a bit bubble-bathy .

Spoon the crumble mix over the fruit and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden.

Serve crumble with vanilla ice cream, cream or custard

 

 

 

 

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. 

Roast Vegetable Hummus and the Simplest Flat Bread Ever

Okay, it’s been a while and sadly I’m not about to regale you with fabulous tales of holidays and adventures that have filled my days. It’s just that Peter (the husband) is away in Antarctica for a few weeks and my life seems to be a hectic (read chaotic) combination of working all over the place at funny hours (a result of being freelance that I usually embrace) and farming Imi out to wonderfully supportive family, friends and neighbours (three cheers for “Spare Granny” Sasha) at both ends of the day.

The amazingly bright autumn weather (not today – the S.A.D. lamp is definitely on), a few trips to The Bristol Lido to swim outside and some very special one-to-one time with Imi have thankfully made the chaos pretty wonderful too. I feel so blessed living in Bristol where I took these pictures just 5 minutes walk from the house. Last Sunday, the 1st of November, just felt like a bonus, an almost summery day, before we hit the colder weather – everyone was out (and I remembered that I really, really need a dog).

One of my Autumn highlights has to be the day spent at Victoria Park Primary School, in Bristol, helping with their Healthy Schools Week. I was working with Ramona Andrews: a school Mum, food writer, social media guru, producer (she’s a talented lass) and we a ball (a tiring one, but oh so rewarding). The idea was to get kids cooking, tasting and experimenting with simple recipes that happened to be healthy too, rather than the didactic approach.

With over 30 kids at a time, in the school art room, it wasn’t going to be individual soufflés so we settled on flat breads and hummus. It was all about tasty, simple and accessible recipes that the kids would most likely eat too and with Halloween looming we thought we’d throw some roasted pumpkin into the hummus. The room was filled with great wafts of garlic, cumin, baking bread and lots of noise (good noise, enthusiastic, excited noise).

One thing that I’ve learnt about cooking with children is that everyone wants, and needs, to be busy for every available second (I so, so appreciate you school teachers – it’s knackering). We had plenty of grating going on to keep everyone gainfully employed and made a massive bowl of salad. Radishes, beetroot, carrots, cucumber, apples, pears, seeds, herbs, lemon zest – it all went in, and of course there were a few doubters (some rather more vociferous than others) but pretty much everybody tried the end result and, best of all, most of them loved it.

So here you have my recipes from the day and though I do admit to buying hummus sometimes, and pitta bread too, this reminded me how simple, cheap and adaptable they are to make. The children were amazed at how easy it is to prepare the basic flat breads with plenty of scope to play around sprinkling with different spices They’re ideal for baking with some eager little helpers but worth throwing some together for yourself too.

Halloween may be over, pumpkin fever a thing of the past, but there are plenty of squash around in the markets and shops to experiment with. The texture is fabulous in hummus and the slightly nutty, caramelised flavour works well with Middle Eastern spicing or you could try some rosemary instead. The children devoured this, one even suggested that it would be good for “dipping KFC chips in”! (you can’t win ’em all) but the best thing was the palpable excitement  at eating something they’d prepared.

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Hummus

1 x 400 g can of chickpeas, drained
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin (roast and grind your own if you have time)
juice of 1/2 -1 lemon
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt and ground black pepper

Whizz up the the chickpeas in a food processor with the garlic, the juice of 1/2 the lemon and most of the cumin.

Blend for a moment or two before adding the olive oil. If the hummus is very stiff you can add 1-2 tablespoons of water. Blend again until you have a nicely textured, rather than smooth, paste.

Season with the black pepper. Have a taste and decide whether you want to add more lemon juice.

Coriander or parsley are great stirred in at the last moment (no earlier or your hummus will look a murky khaki colour.

Roasted Vegetable Hummus

600 g carrots or pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
1 x hummus recipe above

Pre heat the oven to 200ºC, fan oven 180ºC, gas mark 6

Put the carrot or pumpkin pieces into a roasting tin and add the olive oil, tossing to coat the vegetables and sprinkling with a little salt. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until they’re beginning to brown and caramelise.

Add the vegetables (hot or cold, it doesn’t matter) to the food processor  (or whizz with a stick blender), purée until smooth and then stir in the hummus.

Tip: Try using other vegetables such as roasted peppers, onions or aubergines too.

Simple Flat Breads (12)

250 g self raising wholemeal flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
250 g natural yoghurt

Just mix everything together in a large bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Squash the dough around in the bowl with your hands until it feels smooth and then roll the ball in a little four to stop it sticking the bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate or tea towel for at least 20 minutes

Divide the dough into 10 (easiest to chop in half and then cut the halves into 5 each- get the Maths going) Roll out until they are the thickness of a pound coin and bake in the hottest oven possible or cook on a ridged griddle until baked through..

Brush with oil and herbs ( try za’atar : sumac, sesame, tried thyme and salt) or garlic butter and eat straight away.

Grated Fruit and Vegetable Salad

You don’t need a recipe really but here are a few suggestions – a great moment to empty the veg’ basket and fruit bowl. It’s a fab’ way to introduce new flavours to kids, pile in plenty of the familiar and then just a little of something new.

Dressing made with lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning1 apple/pear
1 beetroot red or golden or even candy-striped (the kids loved these)
2 carrots
1 -2 sticks of celery
Fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, dill or coriander.

Put your dressing into a bowl and grate the r fruit and vegetables into it (turning so that they don’t get a chance to brown)
Mix everything together ( it’s best to stir in beetroot at the very end or you will end up with a Barbie-pink salad – you may want to wear gloves whilst you are grating).

Taste and season , then add nuts, seeds, herbs whatever you fancy.

 

 

 

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.

Chassignolles and Simple Puy Lentil Salad

Jenny Chandler at ChassignollesI’ll try not to allow this post to sound like some completely over the top advert for a quite impossibly perfect place to go on holiday BUT, to be quite honest, our three night honeymoon (apparently rather nauseatingly known nowadays as a “minimoon”) was just heaven. We went to the Auberge de Cassignolles in the Auvergne, a small hotel with eight rooms and, most importantly, an utterly amazing restaurant.

I simply loved everything about the place: the jar of wild roses and blackberries by the bed, the crispy white bed linen, the shuttered windows opening out onto the village square with its medieval church (along with very loud bells), the fabulous art on the walls. It’s almost impossible not to bang on about it all but I’ll hold back and let Peter’s pictures ( well, I might have taken a couple) do the talking.

And, as to the food, it just couldn’t have been better. Peter Taylor (previously of The Riverstation, Bristol) owns and runs the show with his incredibly resourceful chef, Matt Robertson (American… Arkansas in fact, been cheffing in Paris and all over the place for years including Chez Panisse). The auberge vegetable patch provides most of the fresh produce along with eggs, goat’s milk (for the cheese, ice cream etc) lamb and pork. Unpasteurised cow’s milk comes from just down the road, as do all the amazing local cheeses, charcuterie is all made in-house (Peter visibly winced as I asked him if the veal boudin blanc was homemade – of course it was) so are all the fabulous jams. Breakfast is perfect, dinner is even better (sorry, I did tell you that I was going to go overboard in my excitement).

Every night Peter serves a five course meal (an absolute bargain at 25 euros) of the most stunningly balanced food, it’s all obviously so gloriously fresh and as he says “it’s what Matt doesn’t do to it”. Locals book tables for the upcoming evenings without even inquiring what will be on the menu; the blackboard goes up just before dinner.

Our first night will stay with me as one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever eaten- a citrus scented pumpkin soup, a fresh goat’s cheese salad with grilled courgettes and shaved radishes, then roast lamb with fresh chard, tomatoes and the creamiest flageolet beans, followed by local cheese and leaves from the garden and finishing up with a strawberry frangipane tart with incredible buttery pastry. It sounds as if we would need to have been stretchered off to bed but, incredibly, the plates were so carefully measured that I felt beautifully satisfied rather than stuffed.That’s the thing about a chef’s menu, as Sally Clarke’s been demonstrating for decades in London, they think about the balance so much better than we do when we select our favourites from a menu. So basically, if you love food just get to Chassignolles; it’s simply no wonder that it was recently listed by The Times in their Top Foodie Hotels of Europe 

A rather miraculous side to our trip was the lack of hang-overs or the slightest hint of an early morning fuzzy head – even if Mr Bassett does look as if he’s getting pretty pie-eyed on the Negronis. This has to come down to the natural wines that Peter serves, he’s brilliant too when it comes to introducing you to what is, for most of us, pretty new territory. SO, a gushing review about, what does just happen to be, some friends of our’s hotel but I’d like to add that it doesn’t make the positive report predictable at all, I have to admit that it makes me quite nervous going to a friend’s joint, it’s that awful feeling that you might NOT like it…. then silence is the only way.

We didn’t spend every waking hour eating and drinking at Chassignolles, we headed out in our diddy hire car to the market in Langeac – one of those proper French markets with producers bringing their own small selection of cheeses, charcuterie, fruit or veg. I came away with a few saucissons (finished last for lunch today) and some Mirabelles jam.

We pottered down country roads, got lost (I was map reading – more about my navigational skills later) but did find the lentil Mecca of Le Puy en Velay.  The volcanic landscape was stunning but not a lentil in sight (all harvested in August) but we still managed  to slip in a lentil salad for a light lunch beside the Cathedral.

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It’s so tempting to digress into talk of pilgrims, the trail to Santiago de Compostela, winding medieval steps trodden over centuries but I do need to get down to giving you a lentil salad recipe. I’m sure that you get the picture from Peter’s photos & I’m definitely getting back to Le Puy in lentil season next year, so more on that at a later date.

The salad recipe is as simple and straightforward as they come, all about quality ingredients and perfect seasoning; a lesson learnt in Chassignolles.

Simple Lentil Salad Serves 4
No photo I’m afraid – you’ve had more than the usual ration and I want to get this post out before the auberge closes for the winter. If you’re in Bristol then you’re in luck, as it seems that Peter and Max’s Bar Buvette is set to “pop up” again in the coming months. I’ll keep you posted.

250 g/9 oz Puy or Castellucio lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 small red onion , finely sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt and black pepper
4 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

Place the lentils in a pan with the bay leaf and cover with cold water by about 5 cm/ 2 inches . Bring them up to the boil and then simmer for about 20-30 minutes until tender but still just intact (don’t leave them like little pebbles, or you’ll have a lot of fun digesting them)

Meanwhile pour the vinegar over the onion and leave to soak, red onion will turn fuschia pink and become softer in both texture and flavour.

Drain the lentils, reserving their cooking liquid, and whilst still warm add the vinegar, olive oil and season well with salt and black pepper, allowing the tastes to marry.

Once cool stir in the chopped parsley and add a little cooking water if the salad seems dry.

Try stirring in a teaspoon of Dijon mustard & serve with cold ham or a good pork pie.
Use as a base for any winter salads with roast vegetables and goat’s cheese.

Recipe from my book Pulse
Most of the pic’s by Peter Bassett – my husband!.

Oh, and just one word on my navigational skills, or travel planning. It’s wise to check maps and distances carefully on the internet. It transpired that Chassignolles is indeed just an hour from Limoges airport, just not the Chassignolles that we were going to…….. could have been the first marital bust up after 4 hours in the car BUT thankfully Peter was swept away by the auberge’s charms too.

Wild Garlic Flower and Tomato Salad

I’m determined to make this post a short one; I’ve not got much time because I’ve been squandering it of late. I took a day away from my desk yesterday to go for a walk in the woods. I so rarely allow myself to take time out on a weekday, it’s that ridiculous Protestant work ethic we had drummed into us as children.

Well, it was glorious and now I’m determined to get out more often (I really do need a dog and then perhaps I wouldn’t feel so guilty or self indulgent).  I know that “the simple things…..” message is an old one but I often need reminding myself, so perhaps you do too?

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Prior’s Wood is just 15 minutes drive from my home in Bristol and at this time of year it’s renowned for the carpets of bluebells. The bluebells were heavenly yesterday yet I can’t help feeling that the haze of lacy, white wild garlic flowers deserve a shout too. Just like the rest of their allium cousins the flowers are arranged in glorious little star-bursty spheres and look so delicate above the lush green leaves.

The flowers aren’t just pretty , they taste fabulous too – you don’t need many to garnish a salad or a cheese plate so I’m not recommending that you set off with your empty knapsack and pick flower heads for the five thousand. Just a dozen flower heads will be plenty to serve at least four people. Have a taste, each tiny flower has a little bubble of garlicky juices that burst into your mouth as you bite.

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Wild garlic leaves are tasty too but by the time the plants are flowering they’ve often become a little bitter. So now’s the perfect season for sprinkling teeny flowers over the first of the English tomatoes, which is exactly what I did for my lunch.

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I could have added some young cheese too but those green tomatoes were spectacularly good and I wanted to savour them. So, a dash of extra virgin Arbequina olive oil and a few grains of coarse salt was all I added before garnishing with the flowers.

As I said, the simple things…..