Tag Archives: Pulses

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.

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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

Roast Vegetable Hummus and the Simplest Flat Bread Ever

Okay, it’s been a while and sadly I’m not about to regale you with fabulous tales of holidays and adventures that have filled my days. It’s just that Peter (the husband) is away in Antarctica for a few weeks and my life seems to be a hectic (read chaotic) combination of working all over the place at funny hours (a result of being freelance that I usually embrace) and farming Imi out to wonderfully supportive family, friends and neighbours (three cheers for “Spare Granny” Sasha) at both ends of the day.

The amazingly bright autumn weather (not today – the S.A.D. lamp is definitely on), a few trips to The Bristol Lido to swim outside and some very special one-to-one time with Imi have thankfully made the chaos pretty wonderful too. I feel so blessed living in Bristol where I took these pictures just 5 minutes walk from the house. Last Sunday, the 1st of November, just felt like a bonus, an almost summery day, before we hit the colder weather – everyone was out (and I remembered that I really, really need a dog).

One of my Autumn highlights has to be the day spent at Victoria Park Primary School, in Bristol, helping with their Healthy Schools Week. I was working with Ramona Andrews: a school Mum, food writer, social media guru, producer (she’s a talented lass) and we a ball (a tiring one, but oh so rewarding). The idea was to get kids cooking, tasting and experimenting with simple recipes that happened to be healthy too, rather than the didactic approach.

With over 30 kids at a time, in the school art room, it wasn’t going to be individual soufflés so we settled on flat breads and hummus. It was all about tasty, simple and accessible recipes that the kids would most likely eat too and with Halloween looming we thought we’d throw some roasted pumpkin into the hummus. The room was filled with great wafts of garlic, cumin, baking bread and lots of noise (good noise, enthusiastic, excited noise).

One thing that I’ve learnt about cooking with children is that everyone wants, and needs, to be busy for every available second (I so, so appreciate you school teachers – it’s knackering). We had plenty of grating going on to keep everyone gainfully employed and made a massive bowl of salad. Radishes, beetroot, carrots, cucumber, apples, pears, seeds, herbs, lemon zest – it all went in, and of course there were a few doubters (some rather more vociferous than others) but pretty much everybody tried the end result and, best of all, most of them loved it.

So here you have my recipes from the day and though I do admit to buying hummus sometimes, and pitta bread too, this reminded me how simple, cheap and adaptable they are to make. The children were amazed at how easy it is to prepare the basic flat breads with plenty of scope to play around sprinkling with different spices They’re ideal for baking with some eager little helpers but worth throwing some together for yourself too.

Halloween may be over, pumpkin fever a thing of the past, but there are plenty of squash around in the markets and shops to experiment with. The texture is fabulous in hummus and the slightly nutty, caramelised flavour works well with Middle Eastern spicing or you could try some rosemary instead. The children devoured this, one even suggested that it would be good for “dipping KFC chips in”! (you can’t win ’em all) but the best thing was the palpable excitement  at eating something they’d prepared.

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Hummus

1 x 400 g can of chickpeas, drained
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin (roast and grind your own if you have time)
juice of 1/2 -1 lemon
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt and ground black pepper

Whizz up the the chickpeas in a food processor with the garlic, the juice of 1/2 the lemon and most of the cumin.

Blend for a moment or two before adding the olive oil. If the hummus is very stiff you can add 1-2 tablespoons of water. Blend again until you have a nicely textured, rather than smooth, paste.

Season with the black pepper. Have a taste and decide whether you want to add more lemon juice.

Coriander or parsley are great stirred in at the last moment (no earlier or your hummus will look a murky khaki colour.

Roasted Vegetable Hummus

600 g carrots or pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
1 x hummus recipe above

Pre heat the oven to 200ºC, fan oven 180ºC, gas mark 6

Put the carrot or pumpkin pieces into a roasting tin and add the olive oil, tossing to coat the vegetables and sprinkling with a little salt. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until they’re beginning to brown and caramelise.

Add the vegetables (hot or cold, it doesn’t matter) to the food processor  (or whizz with a stick blender), purée until smooth and then stir in the hummus.

Tip: Try using other vegetables such as roasted peppers, onions or aubergines too.

Simple Flat Breads (12)

250 g self raising wholemeal flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
250 g natural yoghurt

Just mix everything together in a large bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Squash the dough around in the bowl with your hands until it feels smooth and then roll the ball in a little four to stop it sticking the bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate or tea towel for at least 20 minutes

Divide the dough into 10 (easiest to chop in half and then cut the halves into 5 each- get the Maths going) Roll out until they are the thickness of a pound coin and bake in the hottest oven possible or cook on a ridged griddle until baked through..

Brush with oil and herbs ( try za’atar : sumac, sesame, tried thyme and salt) or garlic butter and eat straight away.

Grated Fruit and Vegetable Salad

You don’t need a recipe really but here are a few suggestions – a great moment to empty the veg’ basket and fruit bowl. It’s a fab’ way to introduce new flavours to kids, pile in plenty of the familiar and then just a little of something new.

Dressing made with lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning1 apple/pear
1 beetroot red or golden or even candy-striped (the kids loved these)
2 carrots
1 -2 sticks of celery
Fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, dill or coriander.

Put your dressing into a bowl and grate the r fruit and vegetables into it (turning so that they don’t get a chance to brown)
Mix everything together ( it’s best to stir in beetroot at the very end or you will end up with a Barbie-pink salad – you may want to wear gloves whilst you are grating).

Taste and season , then add nuts, seeds, herbs whatever you fancy.

 

 

 

My Chickpea Love Affair and Perfect Hummus

Not all chickpeas are created equal

Chickpeas are perhaps my number one base ingredient, although they’re not often the star player in my favourite curries, salads and soups they add an earthy, nutty creaminess that I just can’t get enough of. There’s also the fantastic chickpea flour or “gram” flour that I use for making farinata and the odd bhaji – it’s ludicrously cheap, easy to use and great for all the gluten-free clan. Then a couple of weeks ago I came across frozen green chickpeas in one of  my favourite shops,  Sweetmart in Bristol.

I turned my “fresh” chickpeas into simple lunch with potatoes, spices and plenty of fresh coriander. I do admit that I got a bit taken in by the lush green peas on the packet- they were more khaki in reality and didn’t look that appetising, also the texture was a bit more mealy than I was expecting. All in all,  I have to be honest, I was rather disappointed – it seems to me that the chickpea, like so many things in life, benefits from a bit of ageing.

So, back to the dried chickpea (and it becomes more and more apparent that you really do get what you pay for – a can of supermarket chickpeas will be fine, but never sublime). The Spanish are serious legume lovers and have all sorts of different chickpea varieties on offer, whereas most of us Brit’s mistakenly think a chickpea is just a chickpea. I’d never seen a growing chickpea before spending some time in the beautiful Sierra de Francia, near Salamanca in Spain. The locals harvested their own crop and then had them drying out on mats in the street. I’ve thrown in a few gratuitous pic’s from Miranda del Castañar and the surrounding villages -it’s such a glorious part of Spain. You’re in Ibérico ham, cherry and legume land.

The caviar of chickpeas is , as far as I’m concerned,, the humungous blanco lechoso (the “milky white”) which has a fabulous sweet flavour and velvety texture. This is the perfect chickpea for making hummus – there must be equally delicious  Middle Eastern equivalents available out there  but I’ve yet to find them. Tinned chickpeas always seem to give a grainy textured hummus whereas these are silky smooth once puréed. My chickpeas are from a Spanish producer called Burcol and I tracked them down in the fabulous Papadeli in Bristol

I  doubt that you’ll be needing a hummus recipe but just in case here’s one from my book Pulse.

Perfect Hummus - Jenny Chandler

 

Hummus Bi Tahini

300 g/10 oz home- cooked chick peas or 1 x 400 g/ 14 oz tin of well rinsed chick peas
juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4-6 tbsp tahini paste
salt and black pepper or cayenne pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Place most of the chick peas (keeping a few aside for the traditional garnish) in a food processor with the lemon juice and garlic. Give the tahini a good stir and then add 4 tbsp along with 2 tbsp of water (preferably the cooking water if they are home cooked),

Blend until the mixture is really smooth and then add more water to thin it down if necessary. Season. You will need some salt, you can zip the dish up with cayenne or just use black pepper; to enrich the purée , add more tahini; or lift the purée with more lemon juice.

Serve in a wide bowl. Swirl extra virgin olive oil over the surface of the hummus. Sprinkle over the reserved chickpeas.

Try garnishing with:
Pomegranate seeds and coriander
Toasted pine kernels and long, slow-cooked caramelised onions

As always I’ve cooked up a large pot and plan to use the rest of the chickpeas in a salad tomorrow with left over roast chicken, roast pumpkin, rosemary, salad leaves and plenty of parmesan. The rest of the pot will probably be made into soup – I’ll give you the recipe v. soon, it’s sooo quick…. chicken stock from the carcass, lots of garlic, mint and chilli peppers and chickpeas of course.

AND For those of you in The West Country…. ……….It’s only a couple of weeks until the 2nd Bristol Food Connections festival – take a look at what’s on

1428593255086 On May 2nd Lou Marchionne and I will be giving a Pulse demo at the Better Food Company  as part of the Bristol Food Connections Festival. It’s all about how to enjoy plenty of legumes in your diet, the health benefits and the tasty factor too. It’s a freebie – do come along – you can book tickets here

I’ll also be joining a panel of illustrious writers, earlier in the day at
The Business of Pleasure – Stem Rooms, At-Bristol, Anchor Road, Harbourside, Bristol
12.30 – 1.30: How to be a food writer/blogger: making your way in these parlous days of publishing, and how to diversify to best use your skills. With Xanthe Clay, Fiona Beckett, Claire Thomson, Sarah Lavelle, Jenny Chandler and Martin Booth. You can book here 

 

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.

Spilling the beans and a Greek Fava puree

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 split peas

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

Greek Fava puree

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.

PULSE photographs by Clare Winfield

 

 

 

 

 

A British Celebration – Cloisters and Black Badgers

The sky feels heavy, the daylight lamp’s on and I’ve got a hot water bottle on my lap to keep warm at my desk. I’ve already drunk my daily coffee quota ( I’m trying to switch to green tea but  it’s just not happening) and I’m meant to be sorting my accounts. These are the days that I suddenly find a mound of washing to do, decide to clip the guinea pig’s nails or, once I’m finally at the computer, do a bit of “surfing”. Some masochistic streak always seems to pull me towards a blog called Manger. Envy isn’t a pretty thing to admit to, but hell, it’s unavoidable. The writer, the super-modelesque Mimi Thorenssen (oh yes, she has an unbelievably exotic name too), gazes out of the glorious pictures taken by her uber-talented photographer husband. There are teams of dreamy children, hounds to die for (I so want a dog) and the most incredible images of the rural Médoc. Even the recipes are inspiring, fabulous, and really work too. Take a peek. You’ll no doubt feel an urgent need to trade in your Tupperware for Terracotta and your M&S for Missoni, but there’s no denying it, Manger is a work of art.

But now’s the moment to get a grip. The huge basket of Seville oranges are waiting to fill the house with their fabulous wintery scent when I put on the marmalade later today. The hellebore buds in the garden are just days off bursting into flower. I’m beginning to reminisce about our fabulous visit to Lacock  in the sunshine last week and all of a sudden there seems plenty to get excited about. Right now I’m determined to celebrate all things British and where better to start than The National Trust and a bowlful of Black Badger Peas?

I’m ashamed to admit that a National Trust Membership did seem a rather middle-aged birthday present (I’m in denial), from my sister last year  but I’m loving it. The West Country is just packed with magical buildings and parks to visit, so last weekend with a clear blue sky calling we leapt into the car, proudly bearing our badge, and whistled off to Lacock Abbey (I’ve not got as far as packing the thermos and sandwiches yet, but just give me time). There’s no need for the tour guide bit now, you can find all that on the Lacock link. I’ll just say that it’s right up there with spots that I’ve traversed oceans and trekked up mountains to experience. The tythe barn, the abbey cloisters, early snowdrops and ploughman’s lunch in the pub. It’s a great reminder to celebrate what you’ve got in your own back yard.

And now to some other rather unlikely British stars – Black Badger Peas; you’ve probably never heard of them, I hadn’t until a few months ago. The fascinating thing is that we’ve been growing them in this country, along with fava beans, for hundreds of years. I came across the Black Badgers via Hodmedods, growers and purveyors of Great British peas and beans, whilst I was researching my book. Hodmedods, who are based in Norfolk, are doing a fabulous job of re-igniting our national appetite for beans. It’s easy to forget how big a role legumes have played in our national diet (think “pease pudding cold, pease pudding hot…….”). It seems bonkers that most of us are unaware that we’ve been exporting tons,  around 500, 000 tons a year I’m told, of beans to The Middle East for decades. At last we can eat British Baked Beans (yes, they even sell them by the can) along with local favas,  marrowfat peas and the evocatively named Black Badger pea. Black Badgers are also known as Carlin or Maple peas in the North of England or somewhat less glamourously as Grey Peas in the Black Country  (try the accent and they sound even more appetising!)

Hodmedod's British Black Badger Peas

I cooked up the Badgers on a particularly dismal day last week. I’d soaked them overnight and then cooked them for about 4o minutes (remarkably quick compared to most dried peas in my experience). After a bit of an Old Mother Hubbard moment  I reverted to my default way with legumes. It’s great to have a recipe up your sleeve that doesn’t usually require a trip to the shops. So here you have a simple adaptation of the Syrian lentils from my book Pulse.

Syrian-style Black Badgers

2-3 brown onions, sliced finely
4 tbsp olive oil
400 g cooked black badger peas ( cooked fava beans, cooked brown lentils would also work well)
1-2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and then ground
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 pinch of chilli flakes or better still 2 tsp of sweet Aleppo pepper flakes
1 small bunch fresh coriander, parsley or a few mint leaves, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

Begin by frying the onion in the olive oil in a large saucepan, you could use a frying pan and then transfer them but I prefer to keep this as a one pot dish. Keep the temperature fairly low and allow the onions to soften, sweeten and turn gold, this may take about 20 minutes. Be patient.

Set aside half of the onions from the pan, turn up the heat and throw in the garlic, cumin and chilli. Stir and, as soon as you can really smell the garlic, add the peas and a couple of ladles of their cooking water.

Simmer for about 10 minutes, enough for the flavours to marry, stirring from time to time.
Have a taste and season with salt, pepper and enough lemon juice to really zip everything up. Add the rest of the onions and plenty of herbs.  I used mint as we had some rather moth-eaten leaves left in the garden (come on spring I need some fresh herbs) but coriander or parsley are fab’ too.

We ate our Badgers with sourdough and a squeeze of blood orange juice but they would be equally good with toasted pitta or lavash and a dollop of creamy Greek yoghurt.


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Peter has eaten ALOT of pulses over the years, as I experimented and tested my way through recipes, and he pronounced the Black Badger “one of his top three”(other winners to be revealed in later posts). I do agree that the entire dish was comforting and suprisingly nutty, without feeling too worthy or wholesome. Just give the Grey Pea a chance, it might not look much but it’s deeply satisfying.

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.

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.