Perfect Butter Bean Salad & 5 Reasons to Eat Pulses

Last week was pretty extraordinary; a trip to Rome for my appointment as The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation European Special Ambassador for The International Year of Pulses (that’s quite something to fit on a business card!)

 ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano 26 May 2016, Rome Italy – International Year of Pulses (IYP) Special Ambassador Jenny Chandler and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. International Year of Pulses (IYP) nomination ceremony of FAO IYP Special Ambassador for Europe Jenny Chandler, and launch of IYP publication, (Sheikh Zayed Centre), FAO Headquarters. 

The ceremony was both nerve-wracking and exhilarating, I’m quite used to public speaking but I can usually hide behind a frying pan and do a bit of stirring if I’m lost for words. Thankfully everything ran smoothly and it was an absolute honour to meet the UN FAO Director-General, José Graziano de Silva and dozens of other inspiring people who work in this huge organisation leading international efforts to end world hunger.

I’ve been enthusiastically spreading the word about just how good pulses are to eat for years and now I have even more reason to do so. Firstly I’d like to say that, given the right treatment, pulses are one of my favourite things to eat …..ever. I think it can sometimes be counterproductive to bombard people with too many nutritional and environmental reasons to eat something if we don’t remind them that they taste amazing too. There’s that nagging doubt – is this going to taste like that 1970’s hippy-healthfood?  The answer’s no, with a little love and attention. Think dal with spicy tarka, slow cooked cassoulet, freshly fried falafel or black bean burritos.

So here’s a great salad, ideal for the lunch box or just for a simple supper. I wrote the recipe for the Meat Free Monday website, a great source of vegetarian recipes. Now I’ll be straight, I’m no vegetarian however we probably only eat fish or meat a couple of times a week. I’d rather eat plenty of relatively cheap pulses and vegetables and then once in a while splash out on carefully sourced meat or fish as a treat…..better not just for our own health but that of the planet too.

Butter bean and cauli

Spicy Roast Cauliflower, with Butter Beans and Red Rice

The textures work beautifully here: crunchy cauliflower, creamy beans and the chewy bite of the red or brown rice.

Serves 4

1 large head of cauliflower, divided into small florets
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp medium curry powders s
2 red onions
4 tbsp olive oil
500 g home-cooked or 2 x 400g can of butter beans, drained
2 tbsp cider vinegar
25 g butter
salt and pepper
100 g red Camargue rice (or brown rice)
500 g spinach, washed
150 ml Greek Yoghurt
A good sprig of fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 200 c/gas mark 6

Rinse the cauliflower and then toss it around in the lemon juice. Place the florets in a roasting tray and sprinkle with the curry powder.

Peel and chop each onion into six, (individual slices will burn). Add the onion to the cauliflower and pour over the olive oil.

Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning everything once until nicely golden and beginning to caramelise. Add the butter beans, cider vinegar and butter to the vegetable pan, place it back in the oven but switch off the heat, the idea is to heat through rather than cook the beans.

Whilst the vegetables are roasting rinse the rice, place it in a pan, (ideally the base of a tiered steamer), of cold water with a pinch or salt, bring up to a boil and then cover and simmer until tender. Drain.

Now steam your spinach. I just place mine in a steamer over the rice, but you may prefer to use a separate pan. Steam the spinach until it just collapses and drain (there is no need to squeeze it here as it should remain really juicy).

Add the rice and spinach to the vegetable pan and season well. Add more vinegar, chilli, or salt to taste.

Serve with a spoonful of Greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of mint.

 

5 Reasons to Eat Pulses

Good for you: High in fibre and complex carbs (keeping your digestive system healthy and you feeling satiated and full for hours – less trips to the biscuit tin!)

Good for the Budget: A really cheap alternative to meat, fish and dairy as a source of protein – remember to eat cereals such as rice or wheat too to maximise pulse potential.

Quick and easy: Whether you decide to cook up a big pot and use the pulses for a few days in a variety of different dishes or just to open a can, cooked pulses are fabulously quick and easy ingredients to whip up into a meal – check this blog or my book Pulse for dozens of ideas.

Good for the land: Pulses actually enrich the soil as they grow, fixing Nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, reducing the need for fertilisers.

Good for the planet: Pulses have one of the lowest carbon foot prints of any crop, they require less water to grow and are vitally important in areas of the world where drought and extreme heat make farming incredibly challenging.

In short they’re a wonder crop……….. EAT MORE PULSES!

 

 

 

 

One-pot Spanish Chicken with Butter Beans; Child’s Play

The last couple of weeks have been bonkers,  so bonkers in fact that I’m going to break my post up into two instalments. Firstly my new children’s cook book was launched and then last week I was appointed the UN FAO Special Ambassador for Pulses (WHAAAT? – I’ll fill you in on that one in a couple of days time)

So, the kid’s book. It’s so nerve wracking when a book finally comes out, you just have to hold your breath and hope that it’s going to be well received. I’ve been very chuffed with all the feed back so far, especially Xanthe Clay’s piece in The Telegraph  (here’s the shorter online version).

Imi’ s been pretty excited about it all, other than the very badly-timed tonsillitis set back on the night of the launch party (“I’m feeling so depressed, this was going to be one of the best days of my life” – good on drama), but she did manage to rally. I’ve purposely not been pushing the cooking too much just recently, there’s always that chance that things might backfire, but last weekend she decided to celebrate our newspaper appearance by cooking a three course dinner. She spent a while planning her menu (from the book of course), made a shopping list and then had a ball being independent in the supermarket with her own shopping trolley (not a quick shop, it has to be said). I was then sent out of the house for a swim and husband Pete was told that he must NOT interfere, other than having to rush around like a kitchen porter every time he was summoned to open the recycling bin.

Imi’s done plenty of cooking before but this was her first “dinner party”. We kicked off with a corn chowder, had one-pot Spanish chicken to follow and finished up with elderflower jellies and chocolate dipped strawberries. She spent hours laying the table, organising music and lighting and then served up her feast with such great pride that it made this entire book writing journey feel worthwhile for her benefit alone (on the financial side of things it would be handy to sell a few books too).

Spanish One-pot Chicken

So here you have a simple dish, rather than a dish for children, and that’s the point of the book; uncomplicated food that we all want to eat. There are 3 variations on this recipe in the book: Spanish, Southern French and Indian. I love the idea of children learning to cook a dish until it becomes intuitive and they no longer need a recipe. The only real difference between the recipes is the spicing and the choice of pulse to soak up the juices.

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil, rapeseed oil or other vegetable oil
15 g butter
2 medium onions
4- 8 chicken thighs, depending on size, on the bone and with skin (thighs are so much juicier than breasts in this dish)
1/2 tsp salt and plenty of black pepper
2 red or yellow peppers, seeded and sliced
3 medium tomatoes cut into quarters
12 pitted green or black olives
1 heaped tsp Spanish sweet smoked paprika
2 x 400 g can of butter beans, drained

Preheat the oven to 180 ºc/350º F/Gas 4

Take a large oven proof dish (mine measures 25 x 30cm)  and spoon in the oil and the butter.

Cut the onions in half leaving the root on, peel and then slice them. Put the onions into the dish.

Trim any flappy bits of skin from the chicken thighs and add these to the dish too. Now turn everything gently with your fingers in the oil and leave the thighs skin side up. Go and wash your hands and the chopping board now.

Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and a good grind of black pepper and put the dish in the oven for 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and pop the dish back in the oven for 30 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Make sure that the chicken is always skin side up on the top so the skin gets crispy .

Taste the juices, you might need a bit more salt and pepper.

Always check that the chicken is properly cooked through, turn over a thigh and cut in next to the bone, there should be no sign of blood or raw-looking flesh. 

TIP: Adding cooked pulses such as beans, chickpeas and lentils to a dish is a very quick and affordable way of transforming it into a satisfying meal.

The recipe is accompanied by great step by step pictures and graphics in my book. Cool Kids Cook is available from all good bookshops including, one of my all-time favourites, the wonderful Topping and Company .

 

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.

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)

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

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

Wild Garlic and Tomato Cannellini

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

Switch the oven to about 180ºC

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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