Chickpea Salad and Other Stories

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

Food Connections

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

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

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

 

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Chickpea, Beetroot and Feta Salad.
Serves 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wind Factor

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

Happy New Year …… of Pulses

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

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

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

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

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

Black Bean and Chipotle Dip

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roasted Pumpkin Hummus

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

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

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

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

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

Cannellini and Beetroot dip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

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.

image

 

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

Tarka
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