Archive for the ‘pulses’ Category

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Baked beans, baby!

April 11, 2011

You may recall that following our highway harvesting a couple of weeks ago I found myself with a kilo of fresh borlotti beans and no idea what to do with them. Until I asked good old Twitter for ideas (so useful for a quick shout-out, that place) and @BZB suggested Boston baked beans – bingo!

For years I’ve seen gorgeous-looking recipes for luscious, caramelly Boston baked beans and always wanted to try them, but had never gotten around to it. So this time I did, and now I’m addicted. I even love canned baked beans as an instant comfort food, but as we try to avoid packaged and processed stuff as much as possible these days, so I haven’t eaten them in years.

A quick trawl for real baked bean recipes showed that most traditional recipes seem to use treacle, and lots include some form of smoked pork. I wanted to do this quickly, and without having to shop for strange ingredients (can’t see myself using treacle much round here ….) so I did the usual kinds of kitchen substitutions and ended up with my own quickish and easy version. I’ve made these baked beans twice now, once with the fresh borlottis and once with dried white beans. The picture here is with the white beans, and as they’re more usually to hand, so is this recipe.

With our lovely fresh roadside borlottis (pictured podded here) there was no soaking involved, obviously. In fact despite being a bit unsure of what to do, I just tossed them uncooked into the saucy mix and baked them for several hours – while I was off attending a pro-carbon tax rally, to be precise. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like a bit of good old-fashioned sign-waving, foot-stomping, slogan-shouting protesting for working up an appetite for these babies! (and no, I won’t be sullying this blog with the gags about gases and emissions that are just begging to be made right here; you’ll have to enjoy those in the privacy of your own home…!)

Back to the recipe. I began with Maggie Beer, as I so often do, and her recipe for Boston baked beans from Maggie’s Kitchenthe same recipe is conveniently provided on her website here. I’ve always found Maggie’s recipes work perfectly, so am sure this one would do as well, but as I was improvising with stuff to hand, my baked beans are a little different. First, as I said, I skipped the treacle and instead used a combination of maple syrup and honey. I also used ordinary (but scrumptious free range) bacon instead of smoked pork belly or speck, and my beans didn’t take as long to cook as indicated in her recipe. Otherwise, it’s really very much the same. Here’s what I did. The cloves and bay leaves are especially essential.

Ingredients

  • 500g dried white beans
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 100g smoky bacon
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt & pepper

Method

1. Soak the beans overnight (these days I add a few spoonsful of natural yoghurt to the soaking water, as recommended by Zoe, the Bean Queen, who knows stuff about stuff and tells me the enzymes rolling about in this process aids with alleviation of the aforementioned gaseous emissions! Am yet to try adding kombu, which is even better, apparently – care to elaborate, Ms Zoe?). Discard the water and rinse.

2. Place the beans in a heavy pan, cover with water and slowly bring to the boil. Simmer gently over low heat for around half an hour; drain and leave to cool.

3. Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

3. In a bowl combine the mustard, honey and maple syrup.

4. Insert 1 clove into each onion half, then toss over a high heat for a few minutes in a large, ovenproof heavy-based saucepan, casserole or deep-frying pan with the bacon and bay leaves and a splash of oil.

5. Add tomatoes, beans and the mustard mix, stir and cover.

6. Bake in the oven for anything up to four hours, checking every 30 minutes or so to see how tender the beans are and adding water if it gets too dry.

7. For the last half hour, remove the lid, add the vinegar and cook uncovered.

8. When beans are as tender as you like them, check seasoning – adjusting the sweetness to taste – and serve. These are fantastic with poached eggs for a hearty weekend breakfast, or on their own in a small bowl for a workday lunch.

Now – much as I love these, I would also love your version. Anybody made them? What’s your twist?


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A cool change: heatwave cooking

February 17, 2011

Well, the first real heatwave of the summer hit us with full force on the first weekend in February. I have never felt so hot in my life as I was that Saturday, when the temperature where we were, at beautiful Killcare just north of Sydney, reached 42 degrees Celsius (that’s over 107 F) for most of the day. According to the weather boffins, it was the sixth successive day that the Sydney area had reached sweltering 30-plus temperatures, representing the hottest week in 150 years. Pheeeew….

Sharing a beach house with some friends would appear to be the best thing to do on such a weekend, but that Saturday even the sea breezes worked like an oven’s fan. We swam, once or twice, but the sand was so hot the only way to deal with it was to run, full-pelt, with shoes on, to the water’s edge or risk significant burns to the feet. Then it was a matter of staying in the water for as long as possible, then doing the bolt back across the sand to the car. Our strategy for the rest of the day was to lie around in our bathers, periodically standing under a cold shower and not drying off until the heat forced us back into the shower.

At one stage we were forced to dress and visit the very sweet Hardys Bay RSL club for their air-conditioning, and though the aircon was struggling mightily, it helped for a couple of hours – despite even the club’s fridges breaking down because of the heat, they made do with buckets of ice for drinks.  When we eventually made for home at around 6.30pm the car’s thermometer reported the air temp as a deliciously cool 37 degrees C!

Needless to say, not a lot of cooking took place that day. Luckily, very early that morning before things went crazyhot I had made a pea, cucumber, leek and mint soup, and left it chilling all day. We ate it late that night with cold cooked prawns plonked on top. I think it was possibly the only thing we could have eaten that day with any pleasure.

Not long afterwards, all four of us dragged mattresses and cushions outside to the wooden deck of our little house, doused ourselves from head to toe in mosquito repellent, set up two electric fans and pointed them at ourselves, and tried to sleep. Quite an adventure, and we provided much amusement for passing neighbours the next morning with our little war hospital on the front deck.

Then later that day, a cool change came gusting gloriously in, and we were saved.

What did you eat, if you were in similarly overheated dire straits that weekend? Or if you’re elsewhere in freezing climes, what have you cooked to fight the cold? Love to hear your extreme temp cooking stories.

Meanwhile, here’s the soup – try it next time it’s stinking hot.

Chilled leek, pea & cucumber soup with prawns

A cooling summer lunch or light supper. Unlike many cucumber soups, this one contains no cream but is quite filling. Serves 4

Ingredients

Olive oil

2 leeks, finely chopped

8 Lebanese cucumbers, peeled, seeded & chopped

½ bunch dill, chopped

1 litre chicken stock

½ can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed

1 cup frozen green peas

1 tablespoon chopped mint

12 cooked prawns, peeled (tails left on if desired)

Pepper & salt

Method

  1. Fry leeks gently in olive oil till softened.
  2. Add cucumber & dill and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are very soft.
  4. Remove from heat, add frozen peas – they will quickly soften & help cool the soup.
  5. Add cannellini beans.
  6. Puree soup with a stick blender or in food processor until smooth or desired consistency – can be rustically thick.
  7. Check seasoning – depending on the saltiness of the stock, salt may not be required.
  8. Cool and then chill in refrigerator for several hours. Can be served at room temperature, but is best served quite cold.
  9. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, top with three prawns per bowl and scatter chopped mint over the dish.

To make this for Vegos, obviously, just skip the prawns and use veg instead of chicken stock. Very refreshing.

 

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Leek chic

September 21, 2010

When Senor came home from a garage sale one day grinning and brandishing a battered copy of this book, I cheered. It’s a classic, as many of you well know, but one I had never gotten round to looking at. It went on the cookbook shelf – and was promptly forgotten, till last night, when I finally dipped in.

I had a hankering for something spicy and easy and lentilish for dinner, and became very taken with the sound of Charmaine’s Sri Lankan Paripoo, which is a lot less rude than it sounds. Basically, this is red lentils cooked in coconut milk with lemongrass,  spices (turmeric, cinnamon, dried chilli) and loads of almost black-fried onion, plus some pounded dried shrimp in place of the Maldive fish, which I didn’t have and in fact till that moment had never heard of. Luckily, our freezer yielded some dried shrimp (triple-bagged) and I used Persian red lentils in place of Asian ones. The Persians are lovely – a tawny pink version that otherwise in shape and size look very like the French-style blue lentils I use in almost all other dishes. I  am sure Sri Lankan purists would paripoo-pooh my choice of pulse, but phooey to them. It was grand.

Now the lentils were very fine indeed, but what really rocked my world was this easy leek accompaniment. I don’t know how it works, but this really simple dish gave the lentils – and the accompanying rice pilau from the Pakistan pages of the book (just to show what a complete cultural philistine I am) – an amazing zing.

The finely chopped leeks are simply slowly sweated down in some oil with chilli powder, more pounded shrimp, salt and turmeric. That’s it – and yet, somehow, this all merges and melds into a sticky, slightly jammy, sweet, sharp and spicy little sambal that I think would go perfectly with many different kinds of curries & rice dishes.  Charmaine doesn’t call it a sambal, so it’s probably completely wrong to describe it like that. It’s simply called Leeks Fried with Chilli – or Leeks Mirisata – but its texture is so jammy that it’s almost like a chutney rather than a separate vegetable dish.  And because she emphasises using the green part of the leek as well as the white, it ends up a delicate pale lemony yellow. Beautiful!

Whatever it is, I am in love.  And I bet you will be too – the recipe is right here, just below the lentils. The quantity in the recipe seemed huge, so I halved it and that was plenty for the the two of us, with a goodly amount leftover for lunch too.

V: Interestingly, I had a little Twitter chat today about this with @KathrynElliott from the fab blog Limes & Lycopene, which our shucking pal Julie put me on to ages ago. Kathryn (who you’ll have met here in the comments sometimes) says Charmaine’s Complete Vegetarian book has a version of Leeks Mirisata  which simply leaves out the Maldive fish/shrimp. Then I recalled our Hamish’s suggestion that umeboshi plums could make a good substitute for anchovies. Kathryn thought this a fine idea, and then her pal Lucinda (from Nourish Me and – stay with me –  the other half of the very cool online mag An Honest Kitchen ) weighed in via Twitter (@LucyNourishMe) to say:  “A finely chopped piece of umeboshi, some garlic and shoyu is a grand anchovy sub. Stinky and rich enough.” So there you are – if I were doing this leeky thing veg style, I would definitely have a shot at getting that combo in somewhere. And shoyu, I learn, is similar to tamari.

Phew. Took longer to type that than make it. So go to it – happy eating!

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How to make a vegetarian smile, pt II

September 17, 2010

The last entirely vegetarian dinner party I cooked was a wintry little number, but very satisfying, with a few  nicely contrasting elements I think. The mainstay was a mushroom ragu served on creamy polenta, paired with a side dish of a punchy green salad with lentils & goat’s cheese.

There are a couple of things that made this work well. First, both the ragu and the lentils used  the roasted vegetable stock, as I described ages ago here. This time though, I took a leaf out of Skye Gyngell’s book – her secret flavour weapons often include tamari sauce and maple syrup, so I added a tablespoon of each to the reduced stock. I swear this little combo, while not leaping out as separate flavours, really gives a layered depth and complexity to the stock.

Next was the assortment of mushrooms. I used about 600g of combined chopped Portobello, field and Swiss brown mushrooms, and later added – importantly – a good tablespoon’s worth of dried porcinis to the mix. Again, this gives a big hit of rich flavour.

Mushroom ragu with creamy polenta

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 600g chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 x can peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup roasted vegetable stock
  • 10g dried porcini, rehydrated & chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • grated Parmesan, to serve
  1. Heat oil & add celery, carrot, onion, garlic and some sea salt, sauté until soft.
  2. Add a good big knob of butter & a little more oil, turn up the heat and – gradually, in batches – sauté the fresh mushrooms with the mirepoix over a high heat until the mushrooms lose most of their moisture and are nicely browned.
  3. Add wine, tomatoes, stock and herbs and bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer.
  4. Add the chopped porcini and liquid to the sauce.
  5. Stir, then simmer uncovered for around 30 minutes (or even up to an hour),  till the sauce has reduced and thickened, adding another good slug of oil if it looks too watery. Add stock or water if at any stage it becomes too thick.
  6. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Not long before you’re ready to serve, make the creamy polenta – this is dead simple, as described here, but does take a little time. Just do the onion & milk bit ahead of time, and if you need to, have your guests chat with you in the kitchen while you stir.

Spoon the polenta into shallow pasta bowls, and top with a heap of the mushroom ragu (add a tiny swizzle of olive oil at the last second, if you dare), and sprinkle with Parmesan at the table.

Green salad with lentils & goat’s cheese

This zingy little salad can be made completely ahead of time and simply dressed & tossed just before you eat.

1. Sling half a cup of puy lentils into a pan of hot vegetable stock, and simmer for 20 minutes or till tender. Drain and return to the pan with a splash of olive oil till ready to assemble the salad.

2. Have some slow-roasted tomatoes (scroll down on the Essential Ingredients page) ready to go.

3. When you’re ready to serve, toss some good green salad leaves (specially good with some texturally springy ones, like curly endive and radicchio as well as soft lettuce) together with the scattered lentils and tomatoes in a bowl with a dressing of three-parts good extra-virgin oil to one-part best-quality balsamic vinegar. Then tear up some marinated goat’s cheese  (or even better, your homemade labneh!) and toss it into the salad in chunks. Serve in a bowl at the table.

Sweet ending

For dessert, I can’t recommend this whole orange cake highly enough – and because it’s made with almond meal instead of flour, it gives your guests another dose of good nutty protein. Serve it with some more yoghurt or cream on the side. Another almondy option is a frangipane tart, and although I haven’t made this particular one, there is a beautiful-sounding recipe here. Otherwise, I’d go for some other fruit-based dessert.

So there you have it – a simple but I think nicely varied vegetarian dinner menu for four, with heaps of punchy flavour and texture, and also providing a reasonably diverse mix of protein, dairy, carbohydrate and lots of other goodies.

I would love to hear comment from our vegetarian visitors about how this combination might be improved – and as well, keep your ideas for zingy vego dinner party dishes coming.

V

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You borlotti beauty

August 8, 2010

At the risk of having to rename this blog Purely Pulses, I have to tell you about my first encounter with fresh borlotti beans. I am a big fan of the dried variety – and the canned – but until now I’ve never tried cooking fresh ones. But the other day I spied some in the grocery and couldn’t resist their splotchy raspberry-swirl stockings.

Today I did a test run at lunch with buddies – and am happy to say they made the grade and I officially declare them my New Favourite Thing in the World for this week.

After podding (or shucking! can we say that about beans?) the borlottis from their slinky pink sleeves, I chucked them into boiling water for about 20 minutes and drained them. Then, while they were still hot, I bashed them about a bit with a wooden spoon and then tossed them into a pan in which I had just crisped some exceptionally good bacon, plus a good handful of finely chopped parsley and a clove of minced garlic.

Into a bowl they went, with a generous slurp of Moon Over Martinborough‘s  luscious extra virgin olive oil (which I bought online from NZ after reading this lovely post here and am absolutely loving sloshing around in every veg dish I can at the moment), loads of sea salt and juice of about half a lemon.

Seriously good result. The fresh beans have a much nicer texture than the canned ones, which can be a bit sludgy, and I reckon the freshies have a beautifully delicate colour too (the canned ones do tend toward a depressingly old-ladies’-underwear hue, don’t you think?).

And if you think the finished dish rather resembles a great many other legume side dishes you’ve seen on this blog, well – you’re right. But it can’t be helped – too much legume love is never enough round these parts.

Now, while I’m here, I wish to draw your attention  to the lovely folk at Feather & Bone, providers of the above-mentioned free range bacon and lots of other meaty goodies we chomp our way through in this house.

Ever since I bought our divine Christmas ham from them last year on the recommendation of Empress Clifford-Smith, Feather & Bone have basically become the guardians of my conscience when it comes to eating animals.

Until I turn vegetarian (will that day ever come, I wonder) I try to do the next best thing, and support farmers who treat their animals as humanely as possible, as well as doing all they can to care for the land in a sustainable way. And what with the whole free-range/organic labelling confusion and misinformation that goes on, the only way I know that I am really doing the best I can by the creatures is to buy from Laura and Grant at Feather & Bone. They do all the research, all the inspecting of the farms and the buying of produce from very carefully selected farmers, based not only on the ethical treatment of animals but just as importantly, the quality and flavour of the meat – and believe me,  they know their stuff. To boot, the glorious goodies are delivered to your door if you wish. What’s not to love?

But you don’t just have to take my word for it – the great news is that just this month, Feather & Bone have been named Delicious magazine’s Outstanding Supplier of the Year. So congratulations to Grant & Laura from me and all who have dined on your efforts in this house. For readers living in Sydney, I can’t recommend F&B highly enough. And we shall be celebrating tomorrow night by roasting a couple of delectable Feather & Bone chooks for Senor’s birthday dinner. Cheers!

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A bit on the side: roast cauli & chickpea salad

July 21, 2010

The other day, with a whole heap of folks coming to dinner, I had one of those crises of confidence in which you are suddenly convinced there won’t be enough food.

In our case this is almost always wrong (as indeed it turned out to be this time), but nevertheless the point came during the afternoon before a biggish gathering when Senor and I stood together peering into a huge pot (of Neil Perry’s cinnamon lamb) and asked each other, ‘Do you think there’ll be enough?’

Of course there was. But during that moment of doubt I recalled that in the fridge were a cauliflower and half a bunch of spinach, and the cupboard always has chickpeas. And I had for weeks wanted to try making a version of a delectable simple chickpea, silverbeet & cauliflower number I’d eaten twice now at Bodega (the Surry Hills tapas restaurant which I reckon must have some of the most blindingly delicious and original food in Sydney).

So I gave a version of this salad a try, as a little side dish to go with the tagine and the couscous, and it was not half bad. Next time I’d make the cauliflower florets larger as mine became a little too soft (and the Bodega cauli is deep-fried, I think, rather than roasted), but I have to say the flavour and texture was quite delicious. It’s a perfect quick side dish and chock full of goodness.

Roast cauliflower, spinach & chickpea salad

  • olive oil
  • ½ bunch English spinach, stems finely chopped & leaves roughly torn
  • ½ head cauliflower, broken into smallish florets
  • 1 cans chickpeas, very well drained
  • salt
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • tsp cumin
  • juice 1 lemon
  • few sprigs coriander, to garnish
  1. Break cauliflower into small florets, toss in a bowl with a good few glugs of olive oil till well coated, then spread over a baking tray and roast in a hot oven for around 30 mins or until golden brown.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over high heat and add drained chickpeas. Add salt & agitate in the pan until the chickpeas are well coated and begin to turn golden.
  3. Remove chickpeas with a slotted spoon to kitchen paper.
  4. Finely chop the spinach stems and add to the hot oil, fry till the pieces begin to crisp. Turn off the heat and add the leaves until they wilt.
  5. Gently mix the chickpeas, roasted cauliflower and spinach with the garlic  in a bowl. Add the lemon juice and cumin, adjusting to taste.
  6. Serve with a little chopped coriander to garnish.

And now, friends of the oyster, I am taking a fortnight away from blogging – am off to a writing retreat to try to finish my novel. See you soon!

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A paean to the pea

July 6, 2010

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I am an avid fan of the legume (see here, here, here and here, just for a few examples).

And those of us who love the legume have good reason. The Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition points out here that a diet high in legumes, indeed, is “the most protective dietary predictor of survival amongst the elderly, regardless of their ethnicity.”

This same study goes on to report that:

“the significance of legumes persisted even after controlling for age at enrolment (in 5-year intervals), gender, and smoking. Legumes have been associated with long-lived food cultures such as the Japanese (soy, tofu, natto, miso), the Swedes (brown beans, peas), and the Mediterranean people (lentils, chickpeas, white beans).”

Given all this and the fact that my (cough) birthday is around the corner, I think the time is right to declare my adoration for the humble frozen pea.

What’s not to love about this little green baby? It’s virtually instant food, packed with nutritional goodness (unlike soggy, sodden canned ones – ugh), and so versatile. Chuck half a cupful into soups and curries, mash them up with a little with olive oil and prawns in linguine,  puree with roasted garlic to serve under pan-fried fish, mix steamed peas with chopped bacon or pancetta,  mash peas with some pecorino and olive oil (and broad beans!) and pepper to serve on toast.

I know you legume-lovers must have your own ideas of pea perfection, so do share … Meanwhile, here is a very simple minted pea and lettuce soup I made on the weekend. The flavour is sweet and fresh, the texture velvety, the colour is gorgeous and (perhaps because the pea, I believe, is a complex carbohydrate?)  this soup is surprisingly filling.

Minted pea soup

Serves 4-6

  • olive oil
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 baby cos lettuce, thoroughly washed & roughly chopped
  • 400-500g frozen peas
  • pinch sugar
  • 1½ cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • ½ bunch mint
  • salt & pepper
  • dash cream, to serve
  1. Sauté leek &  garlic till soft.
  2. Add shredded lettuce & peas to the pan with sugar and a little of the stock.
  3. When lettuce and peas are soft, remove to a food processor and puree till smooth, adding mint and as much stock as needed for a smooth mixture.
  4. Return mixture to pan and gradually add the remainder of the stock until the soup is the thickness you like (as water if still too thick) and season to taste.
  5. To serve, add a spoonful of cream to the base of each bowl, then add the soup and swirl cream through.