Category Archives: Vegetarian Mains

My Larder and Lentil Heroes

Tonight I cooked a pot of green lentils, an especially good pot of green lentils if I’m honest. The recipe came from a fabulously inspiring new cookbook “The Art Of The Larder”, written by fellow Bristolian Claire Thomson. Claire has full cheffy credentials; she worked for Bristol legend Barney Haughton back in the Rocinantes days (for the  benefit of non-locals I’ll just say that it was, and still lives on in my memory as, one of my top restaurants of all time). More recently, after all sorts of culinary adventures, Claire ran Flinty Red (another sorely missed classic) with über-talented hubby Matt Williamson. Claire now has three daughters, co-founded the bonkersley brilliant Table of Delights , writes cook books and newspaper columns, pops up on the telly-box and basically makes the rest of us look like right slackers!

These “lentils with green olives, mint and orange’ were so very, very moreish.
I’ll not give you the recipe – suffice to say that it was a cracker –  simple, easily accessible ingredients, a great combination and, sadly, there are no left overs. The entire book is filled with “everyday meal solutions, all with store cupboard basics at their heart” and I can’t wait to cook my way through them.

And, on the subject of lentils, there’s some very exciting news from Hodmedod’s ( my British pulse heroes – come on, get with it, I’m always talking about them)…… Not only are they finalists in the producer category at the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2017 (winner to be announced next week), but have also just harvested their first commercial crop of British-grown lentils. I love the fact that more and more British pulses are available, reducing food miles and giving our farmers the chance to diversify into niche crops that will hopefully make them a decent living. Hodmedod’s have a great website where you can read more about their lentils (and stock up your larder too).

I’m hoping to have a taste of the new-harvest lentils at The Abergavenny Food Festival this weekend. You’ll find Hodmedod’s amongst all the other amazing producers, talks, feasts, classes, and demos. Should you be interested in getting your kids in the kitchen, enjoying cooking and eating some pulses, do join me at midday on Sunday at The Castle.



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)


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

-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. 

Theatre Dal

A couple of weeks ago I gave a dal demonstration in a West Country theatre, it was part of a double bill with a one man show called Strictly Balti. Now, I really do try not to make a habit of apologising for failing to write my blog more regularly but this time I really AM sorry; Saikat Ahamed’s account of his childhood growing up in Birmingham with Bangladeshi parents is absolutely gripping, funny, emotive and one of the best things that I’ve seen in years and you’ve most probably missed it! If you do happen to read this today you may be able to get a last minute ticket to catch him in Shoreditch tonight or in  Chippenham on December 19th. GO if you can, it’s a gem.

And giving a demo’ at a theatre was a first for me, it’s what I absolutely love about my job….. one day I’m making chutney with a class of 9 year olds for the Duke of Gloucester, the next I’m writing about smokey lamb chilli for the Borough Market Magazine. I did promise to post the very simple recipe for the dal and here it is (finally) for those patient people who have sent me emails. Do pass it on to your friends.

To anyone who is not familiar with making or even eating dal, apart from the odd side dish at an Indian restaurant, I can only urge you to have try. We have a huge pot on the go at the moment – I make enough to last a couple of days, and add different Tarkas (toppings) to keep things fresh.

In Britain dal is often just thought of as a lentil dish but in fact a huge variety of hulled, split and even whole pulses are used depending on the country or region in Asia . Most common are masoor dal (red lentils), mung dal (hulled and split mung beans) and chana dal (skinned and split chickpeas) but  other legumes such as urad dal (split black urad beans), toor dahl (split pigeon peas) and even red kidney beans can go in too.

Last week I decided to tip all my almost empty jars into the same pot; a mixture of red lentils, urad dal and split chickpeas- it was perfect. Pete even had dal on toast with chutney for a quick lunch, it’s great stuff to have lurking in the fridge for a hungry moment.



Tarka Dal

What gives this dal its character and kick is most commonly known in this country as the tarka or the tempering: a fried up mixture of spices and aromatics, and possibly onions, shallots or garlic that is thrown over the dal just before serving.

Serves 6 as a main with flat bread or rice, or 10 as a side dish

400 g  mung dal, masoor dal (red lentils), urid dal .
1 knob of ginger about 5cm, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 – 1tsp salt

2 generous tbsp of ghee, butter or vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, sliced
3-4 fresh green chillis, sliced
2 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Wash the dal thoroughly and check for any tiny stones (I was once responsible for someone chipping a molar – I always check now).

Now place them in a large saucepan with a 1 1/4 litres / 2 pints of water. Bring them up to the boil and skim away any frothy scum.

Throw in the ginger, garlic and turmeric and simmer, with a lid ajar, on the lowest heat possible for about an hour and a half. A ridged griddle pan can help to difuse the heat if you have a particularly fierce gas hob, just put your saucepan on top.

You will need to give the pan a stir from time to time and add more water if the dal is getting very thick.

Season the dal with salt and add more water if you like a soupy consitancy, I prefer mine to be more like a loose porridge.

For the Tarka
Heat the ghee, butter or oil in a separate pan. The choice is yours but I would go for ghee or butter every time, the luscious creaminess is unbeatable.

Fry the onion until golden and then add the chillis for a moment or two.

Tip the tarka over dal, stir it in and then sprinkle with coriander.

You could add tamarind paste, lime juice or even sprinkle over a pinch of Amchuur (an intriguingly sharp powder made dried green mango) instead of the lemon. Or leave out the sharp altogether for something more mellow that would work alongside a zippy curry or pickle.

Different Tarkas
You can totally transform your dal by frying up a different tarka, the options are virtually limitless but here are some of my favourites.

Always start with the ghee, butter or oil and then fry onions or shallots if you are using them, followed by the garlic and spices. Use your nose and eyes, garlic and spices will take literally seconds to release their amazing aromas or to jump about the pan and then it is time to tip them over the dal.

Tarkas to try

  • 3 diced shallots or 1/2 an onion, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger, 2 finely sliced cloves garlic,  diced flesh of 3 tomatoes
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds, about 8 curry leaves, 1/2 -1 tsp crushed chilli
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

or any combinations of the above.

Tarka Dal - Pulse

And, just one more thing, the theatre – The Theatre Shop in Clevedon is the most amazing community theatre, utilising an empty shop unit in the town centre, it’s inspirational. They have loads of great stuff going on during the festive season including The Nutcracker ( Dec 19th – Early January) that I’m going to take Imi along to.

Thank you to Marie-Dominique Demers-King for her great pictures of the Theatre Shop event and to Clare Winfield for the beautiful dal photograph from my book PULSE

Sundal Accra – A Bonus Spicy Chickpea Recipe!

OOPs I did it again! In the carefully selected words of Imi’s favourite Britney Spear”s number.

I can just about write one blog but managing to write two is almost beyond me. I decided to set one up for our wedding guests and have, for the second time, managed to post some completely irrelevant information to hundreds of food followers and chickpea enthusiasts- Sorry if you’re bewildered – I’ve taken it down now and you have a very quick post in it’s place!

So it’s not all bad since I’m going to reward you with one of my favourite recipes from Pulse (Oh and what a fine excuse to mention my book once more)

Pulse Jenny Chandler

Southern Indian Chickpeas and Coconut
Sundal Accra

There are so many amazing Indian snacks made with pulses to choose from, it was the pure simplicity of these chickpeas that caught my eye. Then, once eaten never forgotten, they make a great little nibble to serve before a curry.

This snack is traditionally served outside the temples of Southern India during the Hindu festival of Navratri. Nowadays it’s tricky tracking down whole coconuts in Britain but you’ll certainly know what to do next time you score on the coconut shy at the local fête. I’ve used desicated coconut but if you do find a fresh one in an ethnic store it is oh so much tastier.

1 tsp vegetable oil such as rapeseed, sunflower, ground nut or coconut oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 green chilli, very finely diced
1 tsp fresh ginger, very finely chopped
5 curry leaves (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp urad dal or very unorthodox red lentils (optional)
250 g home-cooked or 1 x 400g tin, drained and rinsed chickpeas
4 tbsp freshly grated coconut or 2 tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut

A handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped

Take a large frying pan and heat up the oil, add the mustard seeds and wait until they begin to splutter and pop about.

Now throw in the chilli, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, salt and raw dal (or lentils) if using.

Wait for the aromas to burst out of the pan and the dal/lentils to begin crisping up and then stir in the chickpeas.

Remove from the heat and stir well, add the grated coconut and dive in.

Scrumptious warm or cold.

A sprout is not just for Christmas

Jenny Chandler Sprouts

We bought our Christmas sprouts on the stalk yesterday, ensuring optimum freshness for our big feast tomorrow. The guinea pigs are already munching on some of the sweet leaves from the sprout top and we’ll have the rest for lunch.

I’ve adored sprouts for as long as I can remember, even as a toddler- along with Stilton cheese. I’d always felt quite proud about my developed palate; early signs of a true food lover, I thought. I recently discovered that a love of bitter, strong flavours as a child could betray the fact that I’m short on taste buds; “super-tasters” (those people with the highest concentrations of taste buds) apparently find most brassicas overpoweringly bitter. So, do I miss out on all sorts of delicate nuances as I eat every day? That may be, but at least it allows me to revel in the delicious possibilities of the Brussel sprout.

It seems tragic that most people only eat their sprouts once a year when there are so many tasty possibilities- so here are my …..

5 favourite ways with sprouts

Simply steamed until JUST cooked through and then tossed in a bit of butter before serving. If you’re using small sprouts there’s no need to cut those little crosses in the bottom; if using large sprouts I cut them in half. Any bacon you might have put over a roasting bird can be chopped or broken up and thrown in too

Roasted sprouts are a revelation. Turn your oven up really high  (200°c +). Toss whole sprouts in olive oil, salt and pepper and then roast for about 10 minutes (more if they’re large ones) or until the outer leaves are a bit charred and the centres are tender.

Stir fried sprouts with orange and chestnuts are heaven with a roast. Slice the sprouts as finely as possible. Take a wok or large frying pan and begin by frying a diced onion in olive oil until soft. Throw in a finely sliced clove of garlic and your sprouts and toss around over a high heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Now add about 1/2 tsp of orange zest and a handful of cooked chestnuts. Give everything a good stir before adding the juice of the orange and seasoning with plenty of salt and pepper.
A few lardons fried up with the onion at the beginning of the dish are fantastic here too.

Brussel sprout Bubble and Squeak is the  absolute best- using any left overs from the sprout dishes above or eve shredding some sprouts for the purpose. Make sure that having mixed them in with your potatoes you fry the mixture with plenty of oil and allow it to catch and caramelise on the bottom of your frying ban. The charred, crunchy bits are the key to a sublime dish, along with plenty of Worcestershire Sauce and a poached egg.

– My new favourite, sprout salad, discovered at a fabulous pop-up in Bristol only last week. If you happen to be a local then make sure that you head down to  Bar Buvette (great write up by Fiona Beckett) on Baldwin Street as this bar may only be around for a few weeks and you REALLY DON”T WANT TO MISS IT!
But back to my sprouts – Peter Taylor (formerly of The Riverstation and Bell’s Diner) was serving very simple cheeses, charcuterie, fab’ cheese toasties  and then this very simple (but incredibly delicious salad) when we went down to sample his wines last week. I don’t think I’d ever eaten raw sprouts before….strange when I love all sorts of variations on coleslaw.
(Peter pointed out that you could always ponce things up and go a bit Italian by calling it a Cavolini or Cavoletti salad).


Sprout, Pecorino and Hazelnut Salad 
(as starter or side dish for 4)

400 g sprouts, peeled and shredded
100 g pecorino or parmesan, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A good handful of hazelnuts
salt and black pepper

Toss everything together and season to taste. Great eaten on its own or very delicious with a crispy jacket potato and a bit of cold ham too.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS & I do hope you enjoy your sprouts.




Runner Bean Frittata

You could hardly call our handful of runner beans a glut but I did have to come up with a quick way to use them up before we set off on holiday. It happens every year; all the plants I’ve been tending for months are suddenly laden with fruit just as we’re going away.

These beans have some heritage too. Peter’s father Royston Bassett was one of the most positive, generous spirited men I’ve ever met, he was also the king of beans. Roysty Reg, as we all called him, grew literally hundreds of pounds of both broad and runner beans every year. “When you’ve got beans you’ve got friends” I remember him announcing as he filled his wheelbarrow for the umpteenth time. The journey home from the allotment, with the Kings Head en route (where Roysty did a great trade swapping beans for pints with his mates) was often an eventful one. He managed to misjudge the kerb once, somehow ending up underneath his upturned wheel barrow, finishing up like a giant metal tortoise. He was such a fabulous character, always up for a laugh. His antics go down in family history, perhaps my favourite is the time the Bassett family went out for a celebratory family meal. It was back in the seventies and Roysty was sporting a fashionable blue velvet jacket, purchased for the occasion. The waitress asked “would Sir like a roll?” “don’t mind if I do” said Roysty as he jumped down from the table and rolled on the floor picking up every bit of crumb, hair and carpet fluff on his blazer.

When Roysty died earlier this year, aged 91, he left a huge sack of his prized beans, dried and ready for podding. It was wonderful, as Imi and Pete podded the beans on the doorstep lots of our friends and neighbours stopped for a chat as they passed by, most of them left with a handful of beans. Roysty’s beans have gone to Spain, London and countless gardens around Bristol and I know that this sounds rather sentimental, but Roysty seems to live on through his beans.

So here is the recipe for the quick lunch frittata that we dived into before heading off to very sunny Spain (more about that at a later date) It really helps to have a small, deep, non-stick frying pan. Mine is a rather expensive, but incredibly resilient, 20 cm SKK pan that I bought at Divertimenti. It’s THE perfect Spanish tortilla pan too.

Runner Bean Frittata
A handful of young runner beans, topped and tailed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
piquillo peppers, sliced ( you could use roasted bell peppers)
a small bunch of chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
6 eggs
a dash of milk
salt and black pepper

String the runner beans if necessary (mine were very young and pretty string-free) and then blanch them for a couple of minutes in a pan of boiling water, drain and then run under the cold tap to keep them lusciously green.

Fry the garlic, piquillo pepper strips and beans in the olive oil for a moment or two until you’re enveloped in wonderful smells.

Take a bowl and beat up the eggs with a dash of milk until well mixed. Tip in the fried veg’ and season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Reheat the frying pan with an extra tablespoon of olive oil and pour in the egg mixture. Now cook over a low heat until the sides of the frittata are beginning to come away from the pan. Place a large plate over the pan (the top will still be a bit runny) and turn the omelette over onto the plate. Slip it back into the pan and cook the underside. (if you can’t bear the idea of turning the frittata you can bake it in the oven at about 180 c/350 f for about 15 minutes or until just set, but not rubbery)

Now it’s up to you, if you’re going to eat the frittata warm then it can be delicious to leave the centre quite juicy and loose but if you are planning on eating it cold later then continue to cook until the centre is set. (Just press on the top to see if the centre feels at all wobbly or insert a skewer if you’re really unsure)

Serve up with some green salad.Runner Bean Frittata

 Frittatas are fabulous for all kinds of vegetables – favourites of mine are:  courgette, mint and parmesan or caramelised onion, thyme and goat’s cheese.

And if you really do have a glut of runner beans, you lucky things, then try Diana Henry’s recipe with anchovies , Xanthe Clay has plenty of great ideas for you and do take a look at The Foodie Bugle post by Andrew Green.

Rhubarb and Lentil Curry


Here’s a gratuitous blossom shot just to get yet another post about rhubarb off to a good start.  Imi and I walk under this glorious tree on the way down to school every morning and I thought I’d catch it in its pink powder-puffy prime before the rain and gale force winds set in.

I hope you’ll forgive me for returning to my pet subject but I cooked a very simple, tasty supper last night that I think you may love too. Rhubarb and lentils seem a pretty bizarre combination but you really should give this a go. The recipe comes from a good friend of mine, Celia Brooks Brown, who’s an uber-talented vegetarian food writer, cook and gardener. It’s from her book New Urban Farmer.

Pete and I did make a large dent in the lentils, but had I cooked up some rice there would have just about been enough to feed four. I was too busy collecting up the marauding snails in the garden (a head torch is mighty useful) to get around to the basmati, so we had warm flat bread instead. Served with a blob of yoghurt this makes a great, healthy and very economical supper. I reheated the leftovers and sprinkled them with some freshly sprouted lentils and radishes for my “photo shoot” today, which did spruce up the look of the lentils and added some pleasant, fresh crunch too.

Rhubarb and Lentil Curry (Serves 4)Rhubarb and lentil curry

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
salt, black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp crushed chilli flakes
1 handful coriander (cilantro), stalks and any roots, chopped (reserve leaves for garnish)
350 g (12 oz) rhubarb, cut into chunks
150 g (5 oz) Puy lentils
600 ml (1 pint) vegetable or chicken stock
1 – 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
To serve: steamed basmati rice or flat bread, yoghurt, coriander leaves and maybe some freshly sprouted lentils or beans.

Heat the oil in a large pan over a low heat and then add the onion, celery and carrots with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir from time to time and, once softening nicely, add the garlic. Stir in the spices and the coriander stalks (and roots if you have some) and cook until sizzling and spicy, 2-3 minutes.

Add the rhubarb and lentils and turn up the heat. Pour in the stock, give it all a stir , bring up to the boil and then turn down and simmer gently until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in 1 tbsp sugar. Balance the seasoning (you may want more sugar). Continue to simmer gently until the lentils are soft and the rhubarb has collapsed, about 10-20 minutes.

Serve up in warm bowls with the rice and/or flatbread, yoghurt, plenty of coriander and perhaps some sprouted bits too.