Tag Archives: Lentils

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. 

Chassignolles and Simple Puy Lentil Salad

Jenny Chandler at ChassignollesI’ll try not to allow this post to sound like some completely over the top advert for a quite impossibly perfect place to go on holiday BUT, to be quite honest, our three night honeymoon (apparently rather nauseatingly known nowadays as a “minimoon”) was just heaven. We went to the Auberge de Cassignolles in the Auvergne, a small hotel with eight rooms and, most importantly, an utterly amazing restaurant.

I simply loved everything about the place: the jar of wild roses and blackberries by the bed, the crispy white bed linen, the shuttered windows opening out onto the village square with its medieval church (along with very loud bells), the fabulous art on the walls. It’s almost impossible not to bang on about it all but I’ll hold back and let Peter’s pictures ( well, I might have taken a couple) do the talking.

And, as to the food, it just couldn’t have been better. Peter Taylor (previously of The Riverstation, Bristol) owns and runs the show with his incredibly resourceful chef, Matt Robertson (American… Arkansas in fact, been cheffing in Paris and all over the place for years including Chez Panisse). The auberge vegetable patch provides most of the fresh produce along with eggs, goat’s milk (for the cheese, ice cream etc) lamb and pork. Unpasteurised cow’s milk comes from just down the road, as do all the amazing local cheeses, charcuterie is all made in-house (Peter visibly winced as I asked him if the veal boudin blanc was homemade – of course it was) so are all the fabulous jams. Breakfast is perfect, dinner is even better (sorry, I did tell you that I was going to go overboard in my excitement).

Every night Peter serves a five course meal (an absolute bargain at 25 euros) of the most stunningly balanced food, it’s all obviously so gloriously fresh and as he says “it’s what Matt doesn’t do to it”. Locals book tables for the upcoming evenings without even inquiring what will be on the menu; the blackboard goes up just before dinner.

Our first night will stay with me as one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever eaten- a citrus scented pumpkin soup, a fresh goat’s cheese salad with grilled courgettes and shaved radishes, then roast lamb with fresh chard, tomatoes and the creamiest flageolet beans, followed by local cheese and leaves from the garden and finishing up with a strawberry frangipane tart with incredible buttery pastry. It sounds as if we would need to have been stretchered off to bed but, incredibly, the plates were so carefully measured that I felt beautifully satisfied rather than stuffed.That’s the thing about a chef’s menu, as Sally Clarke’s been demonstrating for decades in London, they think about the balance so much better than we do when we select our favourites from a menu. So basically, if you love food just get to Chassignolles; it’s simply no wonder that it was recently listed by The Times in their Top Foodie Hotels of Europe 

A rather miraculous side to our trip was the lack of hang-overs or the slightest hint of an early morning fuzzy head – even if Mr Bassett does look as if he’s getting pretty pie-eyed on the Negronis. This has to come down to the natural wines that Peter serves, he’s brilliant too when it comes to introducing you to what is, for most of us, pretty new territory. SO, a gushing review about, what does just happen to be, some friends of our’s hotel but I’d like to add that it doesn’t make the positive report predictable at all, I have to admit that it makes me quite nervous going to a friend’s joint, it’s that awful feeling that you might NOT like it…. then silence is the only way.

We didn’t spend every waking hour eating and drinking at Chassignolles, we headed out in our diddy hire car to the market in Langeac – one of those proper French markets with producers bringing their own small selection of cheeses, charcuterie, fruit or veg. I came away with a few saucissons (finished last for lunch today) and some Mirabelles jam.

We pottered down country roads, got lost (I was map reading – more about my navigational skills later) but did find the lentil Mecca of Le Puy en Velay.  The volcanic landscape was stunning but not a lentil in sight (all harvested in August) but we still managed  to slip in a lentil salad for a light lunch beside the Cathedral.

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It’s so tempting to digress into talk of pilgrims, the trail to Santiago de Compostela, winding medieval steps trodden over centuries but I do need to get down to giving you a lentil salad recipe. I’m sure that you get the picture from Peter’s photos & I’m definitely getting back to Le Puy in lentil season next year, so more on that at a later date.

The salad recipe is as simple and straightforward as they come, all about quality ingredients and perfect seasoning; a lesson learnt in Chassignolles.

Simple Lentil Salad Serves 4
No photo I’m afraid – you’ve had more than the usual ration and I want to get this post out before the auberge closes for the winter. If you’re in Bristol then you’re in luck, as it seems that Peter and Max’s Bar Buvette is set to “pop up” again in the coming months. I’ll keep you posted.

250 g/9 oz Puy or Castellucio lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 small red onion , finely sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt and black pepper
4 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

Place the lentils in a pan with the bay leaf and cover with cold water by about 5 cm/ 2 inches . Bring them up to the boil and then simmer for about 20-30 minutes until tender but still just intact (don’t leave them like little pebbles, or you’ll have a lot of fun digesting them)

Meanwhile pour the vinegar over the onion and leave to soak, red onion will turn fuschia pink and become softer in both texture and flavour.

Drain the lentils, reserving their cooking liquid, and whilst still warm add the vinegar, olive oil and season well with salt and black pepper, allowing the tastes to marry.

Once cool stir in the chopped parsley and add a little cooking water if the salad seems dry.

Try stirring in a teaspoon of Dijon mustard & serve with cold ham or a good pork pie.
Use as a base for any winter salads with roast vegetables and goat’s cheese.

Recipe from my book Pulse
Most of the pic’s by Peter Bassett – my husband!.

Oh, and just one word on my navigational skills, or travel planning. It’s wise to check maps and distances carefully on the internet. It transpired that Chassignolles is indeed just an hour from Limoges airport, just not the Chassignolles that we were going to…….. could have been the first marital bust up after 4 hours in the car BUT thankfully Peter was swept away by the auberge’s charms too.

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

Bristol

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.

Bath

– 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.

Roasted Quince with Bath Blue Cheese & Lentil Salad

Last year I spotted a quince tree, laden with fruit in a Bristol garden as I parked up my car. Quinces are mysterious things; they’re too hard and too sour to consider eating raw. You can’t even whip up a tart or a crumble as you might with an apple because the flesh takes so much longer to soften and mellow. So, many a forgotten quince languishes, unloved on a tree in this country until it rots and drops. I posted a note through the door of the house where I’d eyed them up, offering some cash and even a good slice of membrillo, but never heard a thing.  This year I got a message from some wonderful friends Mike and Viv in Bishopston who offered me a few of theirs. I jumped at the chance, grabbed my basket, slipped on my quince-yellow top (who can miss a photo opportunity?) and set off.

Mike was ridiculously generous and I finished up with at least a dozen quinces. They’ve been sitting in a bowl filling the kitchen with their unforgettable perfume and looking so beautiful that I could barely bring myself to cook them. You can see why they are reputed to be the original golden love apple of Aphrodite.
I’m going to make some membrillo (the solid quince paste that the Spanish love to eat with cheese – particularly Manchego) later in the week, but yesterday I baked a few of the fruit until deep coppery red and as  tender as a canned pear.Quinces perfuming the kitchen

Baked Quinces

100 g butter
4 heaped tbsp of soft brown sugar
4 medium quinces
1 stick of cinnamon.

Now these really couldn’t be simpler. Pre-heat the oven to a medium temperature around about 170º C. Place a heatproof dish in the oven with the butter and sugar just to melt and dissolve a little.
Meanwhile peel and quarter the quinces (unless they are very tiny and you might like to leave them in halves) I used my trusty melon-baller to remove the cores but you could just use a knife.

Take the dish from the oven and roll the fruit around in the sugary butter. Add a stick of cinnamon  and then cover tightly with foil. Put back in the oven for 2-3 hours until the fruit is really tender and a deep brick-red. It’s wise to take a peek at hourly intervals just to check that there’s a bit of moisture in the dish, your packaging may not be as steam-tight as you think. Just add a slosh of water (or wine/Masala) if it’s looking rather sticky and dry – you musn’t let those precious juices burn.

Eat warm or cold.

Baked quince with cinn

And what to do with those baked quinces:

I would always recommend baking a few quinces at a time and then using them in all sorts of different ways. Play around with the flavours adding any, but not all, of the following : vanilla, star anise, wine, port, Creme de cassis, honey or maple syrup.

*Serve warm with clotted cream, Greek honey with yoghurt, vanilla ice cream or rice pudding.
*Add some cooked quince to an apple pie or crumble – about 1/5 quince to 4/5 apple (it’s quite a strong flavour)
*Stir into a simple lamb tagine instead of apricots – I’ll type up my favourite recipe sometime but here’s one to keep you going from Jill Dupleix. Just add roasted rather than poached quinces.
* Serve with a blue cheese and lentil salad as I did at The Great Bath Feast.

Baked Quince, Bath Blue and Lentil Salad (serves 4)

1 x simple lentil salad (below)
1 baked quince ( as above), diced into 1 cm squares
200 g Bath Blue cheese, or any creamy cow’s milk blue
1 handful of walnut halves
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
100 g watercress

Carefully stir about 2/3rd of your quince, blue cheese, walnuts, celery and watercress into the lentils. Be gentle you don’t want the cheese to collapse and make the entire salad look milky.

Spoon onto individual plates or onto a large serving platter and sprinkle over the remaining ingredients.

The Basic Lentil Salad (from my new book PULSE)

250 g/9 oz Puy, Castellucio lentils, or other tiny green lentils – rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 small red onion
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt and black pepper
4 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
Place the lentils in a pan with the bay leaf and cover with cold water by about 5 cm/ 2 inches . Bring them up to the boil and then simmer for about 20-30 minutes until tender but still intact.

Pour the vinegar over the red  onion and leave to soak. The onion will turn fuschia pink and become softer in both texture and flavour.

Drain the lentils, reserving their cooking liquid, and whilst still warm add the vinegar, olive oil and season well with salt and black pepper. Once cool stir in the chopped parsley and add a little cooking water if the salad seems dry.

And -you can of course use this basic lentil salad as the base of dozens of variations eg beetroot and feta, chicken and avocado, Piquillo pepper and Montenebro goat’s cheese. The best place to look for these ideas is without a doubt (you guessed it) my new book!

If you came to my demo on Sunday in the great Bath Feast Pavilion then you may be wondering about the chickpeas too. You can go to the fabulous Borough Market blog (I teach there too) and just add a bit of Orchard Pig cider to this recipe.

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.

Rhubarb and Lentil Curry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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