You may have noticed that there has been very little activity on this blog for quite a while now. My “Bean Queen” duties have taken me out and about and there’s been little time for writing. In fact this post will be a bit of a cheat too, as I’m just about to link you to the wonderful Borough Market website.
Eating beans certainly doesn’t have to be all about calorie counting as this warm fava bean purée swirled with rich, nutty butter demonstrates. I cooked up the recipe at a recent workshop in London for The Guild of Food Writers and promised to post it.
British beans and peas are enjoying quite a renaissance at the moment thanks to Nick Saltmarsh and the rest of the team at Hodmedods. The fact is that we export vast quantities, thousands of tons in fact, of fava beans (dried broad beans) every year and they taste bloody good, are fantastically nutritious and really economical too. It seems rather fortuitous that we’re developing a taste for cheap, homegrown beans right at this moment, with the pound plunging ever downwards and us setting our country adrift into God knows where, we may well be needing some economical sustenance in the near future (that will be my first and last Brexit comment here otherwise I might just get into a rant).
The dish was inspired by a recipe in the new United Nations FAO cook book, Pulses: Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future (the book can be downloaded here). Turkish chef Didem Senol gives a recipe for warm hummus (made with chickpeas as you would expect) and a hot spicy butter. Here’s a copy of the recipe….
My version used some split fava beans that cook up to a deliciously soft purée in about half an hour with no need for soaking at all. These split beans are great to add to curries and stews to thicken up the sauce (good for the gluten intolerant and also great for those like me who enjoy the creamy texture), they also make the most fabulous falafel. I liked the idea of the melted butter on top as, hoorah, we’re able to ladle on the fat again nowadays without an ounce of guilt (I feel so sorry for those who’ve been suffering margarine or low-fat spread for decades only to discover that it was all a waste of time). So, I was up for the melted butter but thought I’d really pull out all the stops by caramelising it too. If you’ve never tried this before you’ll be amazed; “beurre noisette” is heaven with fish (just add a few capers and a bit of parsley) and even better with pasta (add some sage leaves to crisp up as the butter browns).
Warm Fava Hummus with Caramelised Pistachio Butter
Makes 2 large bowls – ideal for sandwiches, salads, dipping and whatever else you usually do with hummus. The butter only really works with warm hummus, you could always zap it in the microwave just before serving.
250 g split fava beans
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon
100 ml -ish extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
50 g unsalted butter
50 g roughly chopped pistachio nuts
Good pinch of Urfa chilli flakes (or any other sweet, slightly smoked chilli)
For the hummus
Take a small pan, cover the fava beans by a couple of centimetres of cold water and then place over a medium heat. Skim off the froth as the beans come up to the boil and then simmer until they begin to soften and collapse into the cooking liquid. Do add a little extra water if needed but only enough to keep the favas from drying out. The idea is to purée the beans and liquid to make the hummus but if they are very wet you could strain through a sieve.
Whizz up the beans with a blender, out board engine (aka handheld blender) or food processor and mix in the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt to taste. You could, of course, serve this minus butter BUT please do give it a go, you may become hooked.
For the butter Melt the butter in a small saucepan (ideally a steel rather than dark, non-stick pan so that you can watch the colour of the butter changing later).
Turn up the heat until the butter begins to froth and then use your nose; once you begin to get that gorgeous biscuity smell you need to be on your guard. Swirl the pan a little so that you can see what’s going on and once the little flecks of milk solids are turning a foxy red/brown it’s time to quickly tip the butter into a heatproof container to stop it from burning. Too pale and the butter will taste cloying and fatty, too dark and it will taste burnt (just like a sugar caramel).
Stir in the pistachios and Urfa chilli flakes. Swirl the butter over the warm hummus and serve right away with toasted bread.
Split favas are available in many health food shops, deli’s and good grocers now and also online at Hodmedods
Urfa chilli flakes are available at plenty of good spice shops and delis and I found mine online at Sous Chef
DO listen to The Radio 4 Food Programme on 10th/11th July – it’s all about pulses. Nick Saltmarsh of Hodmedod, Sanjay Kumar of The Cornish Sardine School and I had a wonderful time recording some of the programme with Sheila Dillon in Bristol last week.
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!)
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.
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.
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!
Last 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
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.
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
200 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 !
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.
It does sound seriously poncey I know, but this salad came about quite by mistake and not as some highfalutin cheffy notion. A couple of weeks ago I was running a workshop at Imi’s Primary School with an entire class of Year 3 (7-8 year olds) and had planned on making a huge minestrone soup showcasing some of the vegetables picked in the school garden. Of course that particular day turned out to be the heatwave of the century (it did only last a day) and hot soup really did not fit the bill at all. SO, deconstructed minestrone it was and how tasty it turned out to be too.
I’ve started teaching regular cooking workshops with the help of some enthusiastic parents at my daughter’s primary school; it’s quite a challenge as we’re working in the dining room, have just one small oven and no individual hobs as yet. Interestingly these limitations forced me to really think how to go about the sessions and now we have a great formula. In each class we have a core recipe such as a bulgur wheat salad, or Turkish borek (little folded filo pastries) or in today’s case minestrone with about 4 or 5 key ingredients and a few basic instructions. Then we let the kids loose on a whole variety of other vegetables, herbs, cheeses, spices and seasonings (or any other appropriate bits) that I’ve arranged on a huge table. The children work in small groups on their recipe; it’s quite extraordinary to watch the peer pressure and competitive spirit at work -suddenly previously green-phobic kids are diving into pea shoots, raw courgette, dill and avocado.
Perhaps the most gratifying thing about our Food Group sessions is the parental feed back, some children are even sending their mothers off with shopping lists so that they can reproduce the simple meal back at home, others are being more adventurous in their food choices. There’s no doubt that cooking is key to getting children excited about eating healthy food (it’s not just about making chocolate brownies and cup cakes – I could rant now but we’ll leave that for another day)
But back to the Minestrone – a classic Italian dish that translates as “big soup”, it varies with the region and the season but is quite definitely never a salad! So get off my back Italophiles. I know that it doesn’t really make sense but the ingredients (with the obvious omission of the stock) are basically the same – just raw rather than cooked. This “Deconstructed Minestrone” is great way of plumping up a summer salad into a substantial lunch dish and also using up any random vegetables that are good eaten raw. It’s up to you how many ingredients you throw into the mix.
70’s Style Still L ife
250 g cannellini or haricot beans ( 1 x 400 g can of beans drained or home – cooked – it’s up to you)
100 g tiny pasta e.g. orzo (like tiny rice), acini de pepe (literally pepper corns) or stellette (little stars )
250 g ripe, tasty tomatoes cut into bite-sized pieces
3 or 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely slice
A large handful of basil leaves, ripped into small pieces
Shavings or parmesan or pecorino cheese
The Dressing Juice of 1 lemon 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper to taste
Optionals Fresh peas straight from the pod Courgette, cut into very fine slices (yes, raw courgette is delicious and a winner with the kids)
Celery, chopped finely
Red or yellow pepper cut into tiny dice
Carrot, diced finely
Parsley, dill, mint, oregano, rocket, pea shoots, baby spinach
French beans or baby broad beans, blanched until tender.
Rinse the cannelloni or haricot beans and place them in a large salad bowl.
Boil the pasta in salted water until just “al dente” it’s pretty quick with all these tiny, soupy shapes so keep an eye. Drain the pasta and add it to the beans.
Now add the remaining vegetables and dressing to the bowl, holding back on tender herbs, salad leaves and the cheese shavings until you are just about ready to serve.
The salad only improves with a few extra hours in the bowl with all the flavours getting to know one another.
You could add tinned tuna (leave out the cheese), anchovies, capers or olives to the mix but now we are really straying from the minestrone roots.
Sadly, hot soup seems the better option today as I sit at my desk in summer frock and flip flops desperately trying to think sultry sunny thoughts. We’re off to W.O.M.A.D. ( a fabulous music festival) tomorrow, the wellies and not-so-fashionable rain ponchos are by the front door but I’m crossing my fingers.
There are so many fabulous hummus-like dips around and yet we seem to be stuck in a rut- don’t get me wrong, I love chickpea puréeé but why not give some of the other legumes a go too. I talked about Moroccan Bessara back in May which I made with fava beans but this month I’d love to share this Greek island fava with you. It is rather confusing as traditional fava is not made with what we know as fava (broad beans) but with split yellow peas instead. I was stirred into action with this one when my mother brought me a packet of the split peas back from her recent holiday in Rhodes. You can use any yellow split pea but if you’re after the real thing you could go to the Ergon restaurant and deli in London or buy their beans on line.
Greek Fava Purée
200 g/7 oz yellow split peas, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp salt
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
A few very finely sliced pieces of red onion.
Place the split peas, bay leaves, the onion and enough cold water to cover everything by a couple of cm in a saucepan. Bring the water up to the boil skimming away any scum or froth.
Now simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time and, if necessary, adding a little extra water to keep the peas just covered.
Add the salt and continue to simmer until the beans are very tender and almost dry.
Remove the bay leaves and allow the split peas to cool for a few minutes before you puree them with a hand held blender or in a food processor.
Don’t worry, the peas will taste bland and flabby, they will be screaming for seasoning. Add the garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and more salt, if required, until you have a wonderfully balanced puree.
Spoon into a bowl and allow to cool completely, letting the flavours get to know each other.
Serve with a sprinkling of capers, the parsley, red onion and a splash of extra virgin oil.
Try topping the fava with any combination of the following:
Chopped fresh oregano, coriander or parsley
A few chopped Kalamata olives,
Diced tomato and a handful of rocket.
A sprinkling of roasted cumin seeds and sweet Aleppo or Urfi chilli flakes
We’re having the fava with a few olives, a tomato salad and some bread for a really healthy light lunch but do try serving it with some charred squid or cuttlefish.
NEWS – Spilling the Beans: September 10th at The Folk House Café
I met up with cook and nutritionist Lou Marchionne a couple of weeks ago, only to discover that she’s as excited about pulses as I am. Over the years Lou has cooked at so many of Bristol’s most iconic places such as Rocinantes, Bordeaux Quay and now at The Folk House Café on Park Street. So, after lots of excited chat we’ve decided to have a Pulse night on September the 10th at The Folkhouse ……..I’d love you to come along.
We’re planning an hour-ish cooking demo (using recipes from my book Pulse) followed by a buffet supper of delicious beany dishes – the menu will include chickpea farinata, a zippy Asian style soup, super healthy sprouted bean, fruit and feta salad, a roasted cauliflower, butter bean and wild rice dish and a smokey pork chilli. The idea is to inspire you with the amazing versatility of legumes, Lou will point out their tremendous health benefits along the way and then you’ll get to eat some very tasty food.
The tickets are an absolute bargain at £8.50 (you will have a great supper – plenty for vegans, vegetarians and the resolute carnivores) The bar will be open, so a great time to catch up with friends. The evening will last from 18.30 to around 22.00.
You can buy tickets HERE. Really hope to see you and your friends.
I’ll be selling my book PULSE on the night and matching the Amazon price of £17 (rrp £25) so do bring along a bit of cash (I don’t take cards) if you are planning to buy a book.
I was recently talking and cooking at the wonderful Topping and Co bookshop in Bath and a number of people asked where I would recommend buying my pulses locally. So here’s a list of fabulous shops and suppliers that are really worth checking out. My list will naturally reflect the fact that I live in Bristol but I’d love you to send me any of your suggestions so that I can add any must-visit shops to the directory.
A Bean stall near Salamanca, Spain
Sweetmart on the St Marks rd in Easton is an Aladdin’s cave where you can find dozens of different pulses, particularly the Asian varieties. You can also find amazing fresh produce. I always stock up on curry leaves, baby aubergines, cashew nuts and spices whilst I’m there.
Wild Oats on Lower Redland rd, just off Blackboy Hill in is a fabulous place to get loose legumes of many types, great for natural tofu and tempeh too. They stock British pulses from Hodmedods too – but more about them in the online section.
Papadeli quite possibly the best deli EVER, on Alma rd (by the Clifton Down Shopping centre) has a small selection of top end pulses including my all time favourite Spanish chickpeas from Burcol. These creamy “lechoso” chickpeas are to die for. If you’re in a hurry you can also buy the jars of cooked Spanish legumes here too
Scoop Away is one of the great independents on the Gloucester rd with a very good selection of loose pulses.
– I need some more help on Bath, so please give me your suggestions, but thank you Lydia Downey for letting us know about this one.
Nada Mart, in Oldfield Park apparently sells plenty of pulses amongst the Halal, Arabic, Indian, Asian and Turkish foods.
La Bottega – Are mainly a wholesale concern but do have a small shop ( ask as some things may be tucked around the back) with an amazing selection of pulses. A few Bath dwellers have tipped me on this one. You can look at Hannah Cameron’s comments in the replies below.
Supermarkets in General
It’s great to see more and more pulses on the shelves in our supermarkets. Waitrose and the Co-Op seem to me to have very good ranges whilst a lot of the bigger supermarkets seem to vary greatly according to the local neighbourhood. Don’t forget to look in the ethnic selections in the bigger supermarkets, and not just in the wholefood area.
On line/ Mail order etc
Pulses are pretty heavy so carraige costs can be high but if you are after a particular bean it may be a price that you’re prepared to pay. It’s also worth buying a good selection as many companies have a flat delivery fee.
Ocado have a pretty comprehensive selection of legumes so that it may be worth stocking up or adding them to a large grocery shop
Brindisa stock a fabulous selection of dried and cooked Spanish pulses and you could always snap up some other goodies such as Piquillo peppers at the same time.
Well, who would have thought that we export thousands of tons of Fava beans to the Middle East every year? I had no idea until I chatted to the guys at Hodmedods on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders. Hodmedods are now selling English Favas and many delicious varieties of dried peas to the home market. I know that packaging shouldn’t really matter, BUT IT DOES, just take a look at their beautiful boxes and each comes with a stunning little recipe leaflet.
Hodmedod’s British Black Badger Peas
Now your help please, if you know of some fantastic supplier that I’ve left out.
Last week the wonderful Charlie Hicks dropped off a calico bag of the most amazingly creamy beans that I’ve ever tasted. Now, I’ve been a fan of semi-dried, or what the Americans call “shelling beans” for years. These beans are left on the plant until fully matured and beginning to dry. Their season is from late summer into early autumn so we’re really at the close- snap ’em up if you can or you’ll have to wait until next year.
When I was in my twenties I cooked on a very glam’ Italian yacht and the guests used to go bonkers with excitement at the beginning of the borlotti harvest and soon I loved them too. Last summer we spent a couple of weeks in Calabria and despite the fact that there were dozens of wonderful little restaurants and beachside lidos serving up zippy, chilli-fueled dishes I just couldn’t resist cooking some of the stunning pink-speckled borlotti from the market. Shopping was the first job of the day before the searing August heat set in and bean-podding made a change from the children’s other holiday job of making fresh lemonade. Podding was safer too; we only discovered that the lemon tree (that we’d encouraged the kids to climb) hung precariously over an 80 ft drop, on the last day of the holiday. What a way to go, plucking a lemon for your Dad’s G&T.
My way with borlotti is an Italian classic. You fry up some diced pancetta (unsmoked bacon will do), onion, celery and carrot and once your “soffritto” is meltingly soft then throw in the beans. Give them a stir and cover with water, or stock, and add a few herbs (such as rosemary or thyme) to the pot. Simmer until the beans are tender and then season, toss in some fresh tomatoes and some tiny pasta shapes. Cook until the pasta is ready. Heaven. (You can find a more detailed recipe in my book PULSE)
But now to the white beans. In Calabria I found fagioli a burro (Italian butter beans – not related at all to what we know as butter beans) and they were indeed pretty buttery in texture. It was about 40°c and so I made a really simple salad- in fact it was so hot when we decided to prepare my beans that Imi and I had to sit in the paddling pool to keep cool whilst we podded. I’ve cooked cannellini from the pod too, as well as delicious Spanish pochas, but until last week I was a coco virgin.
I have to admit that the Breton coco bean, or Coco de Paimpol to be precise (it has it’s own appelation d’origine contrôlée), is not much to look at in its pod – no flashy pink, just a rather mottled violety-beige, but it pops from the pod, glistening white and shiny. If the borlotti deserves Italian fashion status with it’s Missoni-esque markings then the aptly named Coco surely should be hailed as the pure chic, French Chanel.
The texture of the cooked coco is exceptional, Charlie tells me that they have been referred to as beany ganache, well it’s no surprise. These are the most melt-in -the mouthy legumes that I’ve ever experienced and that’s coming from someone who has spent a couple of years researching a book on pulses.
So what to do with them? …I kept it very simple.
Cover the beans in water, throw in a couple sage leaves and chop up a few fresh tomatoes (I picked the last few of our homegrown) Simmer the beans until tender and then season with salt.
We ate some of our beans hot with plenty of extra virgin olive oil alongside our monthly treat of rump steak (from our meat box). The remainder were shared with Sasha the fruit fairy up the road, and eaten as salad with some finely diced shallot, parsley, extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.
I’m waiting for the 2014 Paimpol coco season already. You may have to badger your green grocer to track some down but do, the coco is honestly the crème de la crème of beans.