Tag Archives: Chickpeas

Farinata and The Folk House

A couple of weeks ago Lou Marchionne and I had a great evening “Spilling The Beans” about the delicious and nutritious versatility of legumes at The Folk House Cafe in Bristol. We got things rolling with a nibble of freshly cooked rosemary farinata and many of you who came along loved it so much that I promised to share the recipe from my book (Pulse).

Farinata’s a flatbread/pancake (also known as cecina, torta de ceci or socca – depending on where you come from) made from chickpea flour. It’s a speciality of the French and Italian Rivieras that I first came across in the trattorias of Chiavari back in my yachty days. Farinata makes the perfect lunchtime snack and it’s obviously a fabulous choice for all the gluten -free/wheat-free brigade.

This morning I popped into  The Better Food Company in Clifton to pick up the chickpea flour, or gram flour as it’s often known, so that I could prepare and photograph the recipe for you. … Yippee, there was Lou behind the deli counter just setting out some of her freshly made farinata,  it was meant to be! So, you have a pic’ of Lou’s cooking instead of mine. May it entice you into either of the fabulous local Bristol joints where she works her culinary magic, the afore mentioned Better Food Company or The Folk House Cafe.

Chickpea Flatbread or Farinata
Serves 4-6

200 g/ 7 oz chickpea flour (gram flour, besan)
1/2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary (optional)
1 tsp salt
400 ml/ 14 fl oz  water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Tip the chickpea flour, salt and rosemary into a large bowl and slowly whisk in the water until you have a loose, lump-free batter. Rest the batter for at least an hour and up to 12 (strict timing instructions vary from town to town in Italy, with disasterous consequences if not adhered to, although I’ve noticed little difference in the results)

Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas mark 7

Take a large flat tin or oven-proof frying pan ( the professionals have a huge round pan specifically for the purpose) and heat it up in the oven or on the hob.

Skim off any froth from the top of the batter and then stir in most of the olive oil.

Add the remaining oil to the hot pan, swirling it to create a non stick surface. Now tip in the batter to a depth of about 1 cm/just under 1/2 an inch and place in the oven.

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes  or until the surface of the farinata is crisp and bubbling. I also give mine a quick blast under the grill for some extra colour.

Give it a few turns of the pepper mill, slice up with a pizza cutter and serve right away.

To make unorthodox individual servings: Fry off the batter (still about a centimetre thick) in a small crepe or omelette pan, turning it, just as you would a pancake. Once the farinata is set slip it onto a greased oven tray. Repeat the process with the remaining batter, layering greaseproof between each flatbread and then place the tray in the oven for about 5 minutes before serving.

How about serving with?
Fried onions and Gorgonzola cheese,
Mozzarella with tomatoes and basil,
or Taleggio with ProsciuttoFarinata recipe Pulse

And, for locals or visitors to Bristol…

Just a word about The Folk House which is one of those quintessentially Bristolian institutions that makes ours THE best city to live in. Tucked away down an alley at the bottom of Park Street it’s easy to forget that it’s there. The cafe is amazing, serving freshly-made, ethically sourced lunches – it’s restaurant food at cafe prices, I really can’t recommend it too highly. There is, of course, plenty of live music primarily but not exclusively of the folky kind and then there are the adult education courses. Where else could you sign up for classes from such an eclectic line up?  There’s everything from pottery to poetry, hula hooping to laughter yoga or succeeding at Suduko.

I have to admit that I’ve only done one course so far, a textile workshop where I designed some rather garish, shiny bits of fabric. One piece turned into a Barbie ballgown the other is languishing in my “things to mend and make” pile (it may be there for a while). I’m saving The Folk House up for when Imi leaves home or I somehow manage to transform my lifestyle and create some time.  I’m almost looking forward to getting old enough to retire so that I can sign up for the Wine Tasting, Indian Fusion Belly Dancing and Botanical Painting. I might just squeeze in a lampshade workshop in the meantime.

I hope you enjoy the farinata, Oh and I forgot to mention –  Lou says that eating lots of  rosemary is very good for the memory.

Spring In Snackistan ~ Spinach, Rhubarb and Pomegranate.

Japonica or Japanese quinceWelcome to Spring and Happy Nowrooz.

Today isn’t just the Spring Equinox it’s Persian New Year too. Iranians the world over will be celebrating, whilst back here the  Japonica up the street, on Jen the Potter‘s wall, is looking spectacular – a sign that winter’s been and gone.  I decided to mark the occasion by cooking a recipe from my very latest acquisition, Sally Butcher’s Snackistan, using some of the huge haul of rhubarb I received from a friend with a glut. Hoorah for gluts.

I have to admit that I hadn’t even heard of Nowrooz until last week when I visited Persepolis, Sally’s amazing shop, which she describes as a little bit of “Persia in Peckham”.  I walked through the door to find her amidst a new delivery from Iran, bowls of lush wheat grass and a washing tub of goldfish. The shop was hotting up for New Year (music and all ), which just happens to be Jamshid, Sally’s Iranian husband’s birthday too. Both the wheatgrass and the fish are meant to represent the new life and prosperity that everyone hopes for in the months ahead.

I sipped fragrant cardamom tea from the samovar, and managed to devour an entire plate of traditional pastries too, before setting off around the shop. The place is packed with all those fabulous Middle Eastern treats such as sumac, dried barberries and plums,  lurid-green nibbed pistachios, Turkish delight and pomegranates. The shopping experience is further enhanced by Mrs Shopkeeper’s labels around the shelves, along with her advice and incredible insight into the  life and food of Persia.

My Peckham pilgrimage was a wonderful one (just a 20 minute bus ride from Victoria on the 436 or 36) and I left with a great stash of goodies to cook with. Better still, when I dive into my copy of Snackistan (or the equally inspiring Veggiestan) I can now picture Sally writing in her chaotic office at the back of the shop and celebrate the idea that at least one person in this world ( and a fabulously creative one at that) has a messier desk than I do.

Spinach with Rhubarb, Chickpeas and Pomegranate
Esfanj va Rivas

“Snack lunch for 1 hungry shopkeeper” – it fed 2 of us at suppertime with some rice.

This recipe is taken from Snackistan- Sally gives you plenty of extra info’ in her inimitable, witty style but you’ll need to buy the book for that (you won’t regret it). Her inspiration for this was a dish that contains chicken too, so do feel free to experiment. I’d love this alongside lamb or in a very non-PC (when it comes to Persian New Year) way with some juicy belly pork.DSC_9501_2

2-3 spring onions
Sunflower oil for frying
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 garlic clove, chopped
A big handful of both mint and parsley, chopped
1 glass of water
1/2 of a 400g can of chickpeas, drained
2-3 sticks of rhubarb
1 tsp sugar
1/2 a bunch (I used 2 large handfuls) spinach, washed and roughly shredded
Juice 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp Pomegranate molasses
Salt, black pepper (and sugar too, if necessary)
Fresh pomegranate to garnish

Fry the onions in a splash of oil and then, once soft, you can add the turmeric and garlic, followed by the herbs. After 5 minutes, stirring well, add the water and bring up to the boil.
Throw in the chickpeas, rhubarb and sugar and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the spinach, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses and cook until the spinach has just wilted.
Season well and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

I do have a bit of a rhubarb fixation as you may well have noticed on my blog. If you are up for some more rhubarb trivia you could go to my post on the Borough Market Blog or consult either/both of these fabulous little books  The Great Book of Rhubarb by Elaine Lemm or Rhubarbaria by Mary Prior.

Tracking down your pulses

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

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.

Buy British

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

Hodmedod’s British Black Badger Peas

Now your help please, if you know of some fantastic supplier that I’ve left out.

Pulse – a sneaky preview

I promised you a few images from the book, so here they are. I hope they’ll give you the gist of what this latest tome is all about. I want to share my love for legumes, I really do think that they’re one of the most satisfying and delicious ingredients in the kitchen. It’s not about persuading you to eat them because they are incredibly healthy, economical, sustainable, easy to cook and infinitely versatile (obviously quite a few bonus points too) it’s all about how very, very tasty they are. Pulses have at last emerged from their tie-dye teepee, so ditch all those hippy preconceptions and dive in.

I can think of nothing better than tucking into a slow-roasted shoulder of lamb with flageolet beans or some roasted autumnal roots with chickpeas and pomegranate molasses. Yes, it’s all about comfort today; it’s peed with rain all afternoon, I’ve had my SAD lamp on next to the desk it’s been so dark and desperate.

Tarka Dal - Pulse

Dahl is one of my favourite simple supper dishes. You can serve it alongside a curry but I’m just as happy to eat it alone with a bowl of rice or an Indian flat bread. Stir a spicy Tarka and a few spinach leaves into the dahl at the last minute and it’s fabulous. I’m not a veggie but I could happily eat this at least once a week.

Black Bean QuesadillaBlack bean quesadillas are really quick to make especially if you use tinned black beans but I must encourage you to boil up a big pot of beans and then use them for a selection of recipes, vary the dishes enough and no one will ever notice that they’ve eaten the same bean three times in one week ( you can freeze any left over beans too). So take black beans for example: you could have Mexican quesadillas on monday, followed by black bean, squash and sweetcorn soup on wednesday and indulge yourself by making black bean brownies for the weekend.

Smoked mackerel., grapefruit and lentil salad

I prepare lentil salads year-round, you can top them with whatever’s in season. This smoked mackerel, grapefruit and lentil salad is a wonderful, zippy winter salad. It’s great when your feeling a bit sloth-like and sluggish because it’s packed with vital vitamins and omega 3. There are plenty of other legumey salads as well. They’re particularly good for lunch boxes; where a leafy salad wilts a pulse just soaks up the juices and develops in flavour.

Moroccan chickpeas with meatballs

These Moroccan chickpeas with meat balls are a family hit and a great reminder to all those doubting carnivores that legume dishes don’t necessarily have to be vegetarian. Cassoulet, Chilli con carne and Boston baked beans are all classics but there are plenty of other dishes such as Pot roast pheasant with prunes and lentils to get your teeth into too.

Now I do promise that you’ll have a recipe in my next post, I have a tray of figs lurking downstairs and a wonderful recipe to prepare. Meanwhile I hope you’ll enjoy Clare Winfield’s amazing photography and excuse me for banging on about my book yet again.

Spilling the beans – Pulse is out!

It’s here, it’s arrived and now you can hear me telling you all about PULSE.
I’m feverishly baking black bean brownies this morning ready for tomorrow’s launch, I’ll let you know all about it later in the week.

I have loads of extra legume recipes that just didn’t fit in the book, so be prepared for some pulsating weeks ahead (and I promise to stop the puns right there – oops just noticed that I’ve called the video “spilling the beans”)

If you’d like a copy it would be great to support your local shops. Three independents that I simply love, where I know you will find Pulse, are Books for Cooks in London, Topping and Company in Bath and Papadeli in Bristol. And, of course, you can find Pulse on Amazon too.

Chickpea, Egg and Potato salad with Salsa Verde

It’s been so hot over the last few days that I’ve had to rig up a sunshade over the guinea-pig hutch and seem to spend my life watering the tomatoes. I usually become mildly panicked when it’s sunny, incase I miss any opportunity to be outside, but now I’m relaxing into the seemingly endless warmth. Lunch in the garden feels almost normal and I’m rediscovering lots of great salads.

Parsley may not be as punchy as coriander, mint or basil but I love its summery freshness and there’s nothing like a good bunch to spruce up my Calabrian cockerel. I do try to reign myself in and stick to white china, so much better for photography, but can’t resist a bit of gaudy kitsch when it comes along.

Calabrian Cockerel with Parsley

But back to the parsley. I abandoned the curly English stuff years ago, you have to chop it so finely (otherwise it’s like eating sawdust) that it becomes a faff. Childhood memories of the rather gloopy parsley sauce that always accompanied the home-cooked ham, and the ever present garnish on the pub plate, didn’t hold much promise either. It wasn’t until I experienced Mediterranean ways with parsley such as Middle Eastern tabbouleh, the Spanish picada  or Italian salsa verde that I was really smitten.

Salsa verde is loaded with fresh parsley, salty anchovies, feisty garlic, acidic lemon juice or vinegar, slightly bitter capers, pungent mustard and rich extra virgin olive oil. It’s the perfect balance of piquancy, leafiness and oily richness that breathes new life into simple ingredients such as my chickpea and potato salad. Salsa verde is traditionally eaten with bollito misto (boiled meats) but it’s good with roast lamb, salmon and with the crispy, parmesan-fried chicken that I’ll have to share with you at a later date.

Salsa Verde

A large handful of parsley, roughly chopped
2 ½  tablespoons of capers
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbs of red wine vinegar or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
6-8 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper

Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you have a rough pesto consistency. Now taste and balance with more salty anchovy, oil or acidity as necessary.

I sometimes play around with the herbs in the sauce by adding a little basil, mint, chives or rosemary but always keep the parsley as the main player. You can, of course, just leave out the anchovy for a veggie version and add a bit of extra salt.

Chicpea, potato and egg salad with Salsa VerdeChickpea, Egg and Potato Salad with Salsa Verde

The salsa verde’s punchy flavours really give this salad some punch. I adore the potato/chickpea combination. It’s worth splashing out on a good salad potato- the knobbly Pink Fir Apple, the nutty Anya and, of course, Jersey Royals when they’re around.
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

350 g/ 12 oz small waxy potatoes
500 g/ 1lb 2 oz home cooked or 2 x 400 g /14 oz tins of chickpeas, drained
100 g tender, green salad such as lamb’s lettuce or spinach
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 eggs, hard boiled (7-8 minutes on a rolling boil will give you a just-set egg yolk)
1 x Salsa Verde recipe

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, drain and place in a large serving bowl with the chickpeas.
Add the salad leaves keeping about a dozen for garnish. Stir through the olive oil to coat.
Spoon over the Salsa Verde, allowing the potatoes and chickpeas to peep through in places.
Peel and quarter the eggs and lay over the top of the salad with the remaining leaves.


One-pot Chorizo Supper and The Meat Course

I’ve always been a serious chorizo fan. The cured Spanish sausage, seasoned with paprika and garlic, can transform a pot of beans or lentils like nothing else. I have to say that I’m more excited about today’s chorizo than ever because I actually made it myself (but more of that later). Pete’s relieved that the sausages are finally in the fridge after virtually garotting himself on the makeshift curing line. Imi and I rather enjoyed having to limbo our way out of the front door.Chorizo at Plum Cooking

I’ve now got enough sausage for a number of dishes, since a little chorizo does go a very long way. I prefer using the soft cooking chorizo although after 6 days of curing my sausages are on the firmer side. I’m not too distraught as I’m sure that there must be some region of Spain where my chorizo would be considered true perfection. There is no single, truly authentic chorizo: some that come in strings can be as soft as a British butcher’s sausage, others come as firm, semi-cured horseshoes whilst you can also buy fully-cured versions to eat like salami. There are probably as many types of chorizo as there are cathedrals in Spain. So, my only words of wisdom: reserve the fully-cured for charcuterie platters or sarnies, chop the firm semi- cured versions into tiny dice for cooking (or it’s like eating leather) and keep the soft cooking chorizo in juicy hunks.

So here’s a basic recipe that appeared in my first book The Food of Northern Spain (I included another version using beans instead of chickpeas in my second, The Real Taste of Spain ). It’s best made a day ahead so that the flavours develop and the chickpeas (or whatever pulse you’re using) drink up the juices. You can obviously play around, it’s a what-you’ve-got-in-store type of a dish.

One-pot Chorizo Supper
Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
250 g/ 9 oz chorizo, hot or sweet, sliced
500 g/ just over 1lb of freshly cooked or 2 x 400 g/14 oz cans of chickpeas
1 x 400 g/ 14 oz can of chopped plum tomatoes
2 tbsp sultanas
juice of ½ lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp toasted pine kernels
1 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Fry the onions in a large pan until they soften and then add the garlic and the chorizo. Once the pan is swirling with the smoky, red chorizo fat then tip in the chickpeas, stirring to cover them in the delicious oil.

Add the tomatoes and the sultanas and cook until everything is heated through.

Taste, I usually find that the chickpeas need a little lemon juice to liven them up and a bit of salt and pepper. Now sprinkle with pine kernels, parsley and a dash of extra virgin olive oil.

How about?
Using beans such as butter beans, cannellini, borlotti or black beans instead of the chickpeas.
Adding diced vegetables such as carrot, celery or red pepper to fry up with the onion.
Try stirring in some fresh spinach, right at the end, just until it wilts.

& for an instant Tapas nibble
Just try placing some chunks of sliced chorizo in a clay cazuela or oven-proof dish. Cover with red wine or dry cider and place in a hot oven for about 15 – 20 minutes until the fat just begins to glisten on the surface. Serve with great bread for dunking.

And now to the source of my fabulous chorizo: The Meat Course at Trealy Farm

Last weekend I went on a course run by Ruth Tudor and James Swift at their  Monmouthshire farm. I felt, like most of us, that I’d lost connection with where our meat comes from (horsemeat?!) and although I’m already very choosy when I’m shopping I just wanted to understand a bit more about the reality of rearing animals for meat, the slaughter, butchery and then some charcuterie too.

I hope that the pictures can begin to convey the bucolic setting (oh what a classroom, looking out over the Welsh countryside). My only regret is that I didn’t take any pictures of the amazing food that Nicky cooked all weekend, I was just too busy eating!

The animals were beautiful: I’m in love with Gwenlas the cow, failed to take any pictures of the pigs as I was having such a great time scratching their backs and discovered that sheep, depending on their breed, can be very different, and sometimes very endearing characters. Ruth chatted to us about the running of the farm, the constant decisions, obstacles, compromises and whilst I’m not about to run a small holding, I do feel that I’ve got more of a grasp of the differences between and the consequences of organic, natural and more industrialised farming.

I was definitely feeling pretty emotional and reluctant about the slaughtering of the sheep, but it was actually fascinating, and seeing the humane way in which an animal can be killed has made me even more determined to eat meat from animals that have been properly cared for.

Trealy Farm Charcuterie has been lauded by countless chefs and food writers as the best in the land so Sunday with James was an absolute treat. We kicked off with an English breakfast, some very, very good black pudding playing the starring role. We learned to butcher a sheep and a pig, talked about cuts and cooking methods and then finally, after a superlative charcuterie fest’ of a lunch, made our own bacon and chorizo. What a weekend; I might even pop back over the Severn Bridge and buy half a pig I feel so inspired.