Tag Archives: Beans

A Summer Soup for Winter, Mostly From a Cupboard

Winter Vegetable Soupe au Pistou

A Staples Stand-By

The Big Guy has been worrying about our plants. More specifically, he has been fretting over a rather leggy basil plant, that really was on its last legs. After the third day of him agonising, I decided that we should use up the whole plant. Whilst mulling over winter uses of basil, I kept coming back to the thought of soupe au pistou; the Provençal summer soup.

Try as I might, I kept returning to the pistou, which is like pesto, but without the pine nuts. In fact, I couldn’t really think of anything else, so I gave in. Instead of courgettes and peas, it had to be about what I had knocking about. Between the fridge and the garden, I knew that I could come up with the goods.

Despite the name, the original recipe is more like a summer vegetable stew;  thick with beans, squash, tomatoes and alliums, as well as vermicelli. I could easily substitute most of these for suitable winter vegetables, so I went on a domestic forage.  As well as the basil, I grew thyme, garlic, carrots and cavalo nero (amongst other things), so these were definitely going in. The fridge yielded half a butternut squash, some aging tomatoes and a leek. If I didn’t have fresh tomatoes, I would have substituted these for half a tin of chopped tomatoes. That’s the brilliant thing about store cupboard soups – you use what you have.

I was also excited to experiment with cooking dried beans in my new pressure cooker. I’m dying to test the assertion that you can cook dried beans without a pre-soak, which will be amazing for someone who can forget to do the little things, like me. However, when I went to look, the cupboard was bare of dried beans, apart from some kidney beans I have, which wouldn’t have tasted right in this soup. I am still reluctant to forego the pre-soak for these beans, due to the toxins they contain. With a sigh, I added dried beans to my shopping list and went for tinned instead. I generally prefer dried beans for taste and texture, but I always have a tin or two on stand-by, because I am also a realist about my lack of foresight. Since this was a root-around, use-up, make-d0 type of soup, I wasn’t going to go shopping for beans, so I made use of what I had.

The classic soupe au pistou always contains starch. I used vermicelli, because I had some. Other pasta shapes (especially the small ones, such as ditolini, risoni, or stellini) are fine – or you could break up spaghetti into small bits and use those. You could add rice to this soup, in case you don’t have any pasta, or you can’t eat wheat. If you use rice you’ll need to add it much earlier than I suggest adding the pasta, or use pre-cooked rice.

This soup may be a winter version of a summer classic, but the intense smell as you mash the pistou is like a shot of glorious summer in a winter kitchen.

Since this is a winter warmer, and definitely comforting, I’m entering it into this month’s Cheese Please, over at Fromage Homage. There are some really great recipes there this month, so do come over and have a look.

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Recipe: Soupe au Pistou du Placard

Ingredients

For the Pistou:

1 fat garlic clove

A good pinch of salt

30 g basil leaves

About 60 ml extra virgin olive oil

About 40 g parmesan cheese, finely grated (or mature vegetarian cheddar, since parmesan is not vegetarian)

1 tomato, peeled and de-seeded (optional)

For the soup:

1 leek, washed and sliced

2 carrots, diced

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or ½ tsp dried thyme

1.5 l vegetable stock

400 g butternut squash, or pumpkin, diced

100 g cavalo nero

400 g can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 medium tomatoes, diced; or half a tin of chopped tomatoes

100 g vermicelli noodles, rice or any other small pasta shape

Method

Make the pistou. I like to use a pestle and mortar, but you can also use a small food processor. If you are using the food processor, either mince the garlic first with a chef’s knife and the salt, or grate it on a microplaner before adding it to the processor.

Whichever method you are using to make the pistou, add and blend the ingredients in this order: garlic and salt, basil, some of the oil and cheese. Be sparing with the both the oil and the cheese. You must taste as you add these, because all basil will vary. You want  fairly thick pesto, but it still needs to be flavoursome. Once the pistou is to your liking, stop adding things.

Make a concasse of the tomato and stir it through the pistou. Traditionally soupe au pistou has tomato flesh gently crushed into the pistou with a pestle and mortar, which you can also do if you prefer. If you are using tinned tomatoes, omit the tomato from the pistou, or you risk diluting it too much.

Prepare all of the vegetables for the soup. I decided to cook the cavalo nero stalks separate to the leafy greens. So, I stripped the greens from the stalks, and sliced both. Slice the stalks into 1cm chunks, like the rest of the vegetables. Slice the greens thinly, and keep them separate.

Sweat  the leek, carrot and the bay leaf in the olive oil in a deep pan, until the leek turns a vibrant green. Add the garlic and thyme and sweat off for another minute or so.

Add the stock, and simmer for a few minutes, or none at all, if you prefer your carrots crunchy. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Add the pumpkin and cook until you can just pierce it with the point of your knife. The time required will depend on the size of your dice. It took me about 5 minutes, based on 1cm dice.

Chuck in the beans, chopped tomatoes, and cavalo nero stalks, and allow them to simmer for five minutes, before adding the vermicelli and the greens.

Allow the soupe to cook until the pasta is al dente. Check for seasoning, and serve in deep bowls, topped with a large dollop of the pistou.

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Asian Flavoured Beans: Not Just For The French

 

Asian Flavoured Beans

Beans and Buns – Getting Out Of A Glut Rut

Defrosting the freezer is often a boring, and much put-off task (although you should do it fairly regularly, to keep it running efficiently). I was forced into doing mine today. It was getting difficult to open the top drawer, and it had been jamming accusingly every time I went in there. There was definitely a sulky kind of Huh! noise when I tried to shove it back in. So I finally gave in to the nagging.

You may be wondering why I am boring you with all of this domestic drudgery (you never see Nigel Slater having to give that fridge with the camera in the back a good clean do you?).  Well, I found some hom bao lurking in there, and knew I had found lunch. These little buns freeze so well, and they really keep. Well worth making a batch when next the baking bug hits you, and freezing those that you can’t manage on the day.

As I wanted lunch to contain at least one of my five a day, I also wanted a suitable vegetable side dish. A quick ferret around in the fridge revealed a lot of unsuitable veg, and many of my home-grown runner beans, which are still coming thick and fast at the moment. I didn’t really fancy a stir fry of carrots, tomatoes and lettuce, so beans it was.

It’s funny how you can get a bit stuck into one or two ways to cook a particular vegetable. For me, runner beans are always about my ever-popular green bean chutney, or gently steamed and served with butter and black pepper. If I have to combine them with something, I go down the Lebanese route, and stew them in a garlicky tomato sauce (also very highly recommended). Something that I have never previously done with them is combine them with Asian flavours.

There are many Asian dishes that have beans in them, although they more commonly use french or yard-long beans. There is no reason that runners cannot shine just as well, especially if they are garden fresh. I wanted to stick with a vaguely Chinese style for these, since they were to accompany the Hom Bao.

This dish would also be great with a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over the top at the end. As it was a cleaning-out-the-cupboards kind of meal, and I didn’t have any sesame seeds, I just left them out. You can choose which one you prefer.

I was very happy with these beans, which took on the salt and spice brilliantly. It just goes to show that a lot of new possibilities can open up for you if you go a very small way outside your usual recipes. I’m very happy to have another way to use a seasonal glut of runner beans (although it really is never a problem, I love them).

Do you have a favourite runner bean recipe? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Recipe: Chinese-Style Runner Beans

Ingredients

About 400 g runner beans

1 tbsp sunflower oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste

½ cm fresh ginger, finely grated

2 tbsp soy sauce

½ tsp sesame oil

Method:

String the beans (or grow a stringless variety, and save yourself a bit of time). Slice them diagonally into 1 cm thick slices. Add to boiling water on the stove, and cook over a medium heat until the water comes back to the boil again. Do not salt the water,  it will make the beans grey and there will be plenty of salt from the soy in the finished dish.

Once the beans have come back up to the boil, drain them and set aside.

Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan or wok. Add the garlic and the ginger and cook until the fragrance of the ginger hits you. Add the beans and the soy sauce, and cook until the soy has thickened slightly.

Remove from the heat, and stir through the sesame oil and the seeds, if you are using them. Serve immediately.

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Making Plans with Nigel

Vegetable, Bean & Citrus Stew

Stew, Changed

(c) I. Nemes 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that a few fellow bloggers had, like me, received Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II. Like me, they had also read it cover to cover, and enjoyed it as much as his first diary (which I have also read; I’m afraid my shelf life is too short for 50 shades, when I can fill my head with the sights, sounds and smells of food). Unlike me, Janice and Susan decided to pay him homage by hosting the Dish of the Month in his honour. Obviously, I was keen to join in, whilst cursing the fact that I hadn’t thought of it first!

I decided to cook from both books, on alternate months. Originally, I had intended to cook things I haven’t tried before from each of the books in turn. However, I was cooking stew for my new team, because I could make it the night before. One of them professed a love for beans and chickens. And just like laid plans, and mice; my intentions gang aft agley.

Once I knew of these preferences, I had to cook the humbly-named Chicken Stew and Mash from Kitchen Diaries (p.79). It has become a favourite. Although it uses winter seasonal vegetables, it tastes a bit like summer.

Two of my team are vegetarian. And you know me, I had to make them  feel as welcome as the others. So I needed a veggie stew. But couldn’t get away from the thought that this stew was the one I wanted to make. So, I had to come up with a vegetable version that would still hit the citrus and savoury spot, but with the same depth of flavour as the meat version.

The depth came from caramelised onions. The bulk came from pumpkin, as being in season, and good with orange. And a few chickpeas, because I had some that I’d cooked and frozen previously.

What I ended up was reminiscent of the original stew, with the savoury, citrus, and sweet tones from the orange, herbs and balsamic vinegar; but by necessity was pretty different. Since Nigel himself says in the introduction to Kitchen Diaries II “neither am I someone who tries to dictate how something should be done, and I am never happier than when a reader simply uses my recipes as inspiration for their own”, I think he won’t mind too much, do you?

If you’d like to enter Dish of the Month, then you can find the full details over at Farmersgirl Kitchen or at a Little Bit Of Heaven On A Plate. Add your post to the linky there, so that we can all see what dish you’ve chosen.

Dish of the Month

Recipe: A Bright Vegetable Stew

Ingredients

100 g white beans,

100 g chickpeas

1 1/2 onions, sliced

2 tsp herbs de Provence

2 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic

Pared rind and juice of an orange

2 leeks, sliced into coins

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2-3 tbsp plain flour

1/2 butternut squash, diced

Vegetable stock 

Method

If you are using dried beans and chickpeas, soak them in plenty of cold water overnight. Cook them in fresh, unsalted water. They will cook further in the stew, so make sure they are not soft when you drain them. Nigel and I agree on about 40 minutes.

Some of the depth of flavour in Nigel’s version of this stew comes from the Maillard reaction that occurs as the meat browns. I had to replace this somehow, and probably the best way is to allow onions to caramelise really slowly until they are brown. As they started to turn golden, I added the herbs and the bay leaves.

As the onion reaches a deep brown, add the garlic cloves and the orange rind, and cook for a further minute. Add the flour, and mix it in well, followed by the juice of half an orange once you’ve cooked the flour through.

Add the squash and the beans to the a deep casserole dish with a lid, then add the cooked onion and flour mixture.

In the same pan as you browned the onion in, soften the leeks, being careful not to burn them. When you can separate the concentric rings, they are about ready. Add the juice from the rest of the orange, balsamic, and about 500 ml of veg stock to the softened leeks. You can also add a pinch more of the herbs de Provence too, if you feel it needs it. I did. Bring all of this to the boil, season generously with salt and pepper, and then pour this over the vegetables in the casserole dish. 

You want the liquid in the pan to come about three-quarters of the way up the vegetables, bearing in mind that the veg themselves will give off extra liquid as they cook. If you need more liquid, add more vegetable stock.

Cook for 40 mins to an hour at 180°C, until the butternut is tender, but still holds its shape. The flour that you have added should have thickened the sauce somewhat, but if you want to thicken it further, slake a little cornflour in a few drops of cold water, and mix that in. Return it to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until it has thickened up. If you are gluten intolerant, skip the flour at the beginning, and just do this step instead (you’ll need about a tablespoon if you are not using flour, then slake and add as instructed)

I return to Nigel’s instructions, and recommend that this is also served with a big pile of creamy mash  – potatoes, or a mix of potato and celariac – so that the juices can form little puddles in the mash.

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Of Seeds, Stories,Swapping, and Soup

Zaad Ruilen

On Your Marks, Get Set, Swap

(c) A. Doherty 2012

Well, what a week it’s been. I have been busy with a lot of networking, about which I hope to be able to bring you more later. Today, I am on my way to the Food Guerrilla event in Rotterdam, which I

The week started (or last week ended, depending on your viewpoint) with the Seedy Penpals, Cityplot and Mediamatic Zaadruilen (Seed exchange) on Sunday. The day started out bright and crisp, a great day for a seed swap. We headed over to the Mediamatic Fabriek with bags full of seeds, and the hope that there would be enough variety to share.

Unfortunately for us, the heavens opened just before 2.00, when the swap was due to start. Although I was inside, and couldn’t see out, I knew from the sound that it was raining cats, dogs, and probably a few farm animals as well. I am sure that this put many people off, as the mediamatic events are usually very well attended. Nevertheless, quite a few intrepid people did make it, and brought a lot of seed to boot. It was great to make connections wit more people who want to grow and share seed, and to find out about all the initiatives that there are in town, or that people want to get off the ground.

ASEED were also there. They brought seeds, and they also gave a workshop on seed saving, and the importance of maintaining plant varieties that are being lost as we see more and more of our plants (particularly food) being grown from fewer varieties that are bred to look good or last well on our supermarket shelves, or be resistant to pesticides etc.

This issue is becoming increasingly more important as we see more and more laws passed globally that try to restrict the distribution of seeds, and concentrate it in the hands of a few companies, instead of using traditional methods of saving a portion of the harvest to grow the following year. This weekend in Vienna,  a group of NGOs are getting together to discuss proposed legislation in the EU that would become even more restrictive on the sharing and saving of seeds, and the issue of owning “intellectual property” of seed varieties and genetic strains. I think that it is important to push back about this, for many reasons, and look forward to being able to do a small part in the push to amend this legislation, and make it possible to continue to grow, save and share my own seed.

People came with their own seeds, some that they had bought, but many that they had saved themselves. I took a lot of seeds, but my favourite was the runner beans that I have grown from seeds that my Dad gave me. I love to share that story, and many people were interested, and took some for themselves. I also learned a few of the stories that other people told along with their seeds too.

Making the Rangoli

Seeds of Something Beautiful

As we were doing the event along with Mediamatic, we also included an artistic element. We made a beautiful rangoli from pulses. A rangoli are colourful Indian artworks usually made from seeds, coloured flour, rice or sand traditionally made by Hindu women to use as decorations at festivals. I also learned that the form has been used to plot out a farm and the rotation system, so that you had a visual representation of what should be planted where, that is easy to follow, even if you may not read. I think that is a lovely idea.

Rangoli made with pulses

Edible Art

Since they were edibles, we thought that we would share them with the people who came to swap seeds, so we made a Souper Seed Mix. We gave packages with beans or lentils, that we used in the rangoli, plus a spice mix. Obviously, there was no way that I was going to waste all that good seed. I figured that people could then choose to plant them, or eat them.

I tested this recipie first, using home grown Harlequin potatoes, but you could use any firm-fleshed potato. It turned out that the potato was the only seed of all of the ingredients that I used that did not appear at the swap, but I expect that this was more due to the time of year.

So, here is my Rangoli Soup. A few people from the swap have already tried this, and the reports have been good so far. It seems it id good, with or without the art!

Rangoli Soup

Seeds to Form a Souper Mix

Recipe: Rangoli Soup

Ingredients:

100 g dried beans, split peas or lentils

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp mustard seed

½ tsp nigella seed

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp tomato puree

Pinch chilli powder

1 clove garlic, grated

3cm piece root ginger, grated

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

2 bay leaves

2 sticks celery, diced

350 g potatoes, diced

2 carrots, sliced

250 g pumpkin, diced

300 ml vegetable stock

1 tin crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Chopped parsley or coriander

Method:

Soak the beans in cold water overnight. If you have lentils or split peas, you skip the soaking stage. In fresh, cold water, bring the beans up to the boil and then simmer until tender. This may take between 40 minutes and an hour, depending on the type of bean. Once they are cooked, drain the water off, and set aside.

In a dry pan, toast the spice seed mix, until they brown, and the mustard seeds start to pop. Grind them to a powder.

Make a paste with the seed powder, turmeric, chilli powder, garlic, ginger and tomato purée.

Gently fry the onion,celery and bay leaves in the oil, until they are translucent.

Add the paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring well so that the spices don’t burn.

Add the carrot, potato, pumpkin, the cooked beans,  stock and tomatoes, and cook until the vegetables are tender – about 10 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with some chopped coriander or parsley sprinkled over the top.

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Green Bean Chutney: A Taste of My Childhood

Runner Beans, Unknown var

From One Generation to the Next

Every year I grow runner beans in my garden. I don’t know what variety they are, they were originally given to me by my father from seed that he saved from his garden. I have never bought runner beans, and subsequent generations of dad’s seeds have grown successfully across four different gardens/climates and in two different countries.

We always had runner beans, fresh from the garden, throughout the summer and early autumn months. I used to take them for granted, since they always came, no matter what the weather or growing conditions that year.

After I moved out of home, I only really got runner beans if I was visiting my parents. Back then, I tended to shop in supermarkets, and runner beans were not a popular supermarket choice, maybe because it is hard to get them to be completely uniform, like the Stepford style apples and tomatoes that they prefer to sell.

When I first started to get a veg box, I got some runners, to my delight. Just like Mum used to, I settled in to string and slice them. I was jolted by a powerful memory of Mum doing this, often in front of Last of the Summer Wine on a Sunday evening.

When large amounts of beans were being prepared, I always got a bit excited, because I knew that the next day she would make Green Bean Chutney.

Just as my Dad always grew our vegetables, Mum always made a lot of our food from scratch. Chutneys, pickles and jams were no exception. In fact, I didn’t have factory produced jam until I left home; and frankly, I found it wanting.

I have always loved Green Bean Chutney. I used to have it every day at school, and all of the other kids would say stuff like “eurgh, that’s gross” and “Why do you always have that yellow stuff in your sandwiches?”. I would smile at them, safe in the knowledge that they didn’t know what they were missing, and if they didn’t want to try any, then Mum would be less tempted to give some away.

Jars of Green Bean Chutney

Sandwich Filler

Now I am older, I make Green Bean Chutney for myself. The Big Guy is a total convert as well.

As you may have seen, I am a bit of a preserving addict, so I am always giving them as gifts to friends and relatives. Despite the fact that we grow extra runner beans, so that we can make this chutney, the Big Guy still severely rations the Green Bean, in order to keep more for himself.

If I am honest, I am a little loathe to give it away, too!

So, I thought that I would share the recipe for Green Bean Chutney with you, in the hope that you can make it for yourselves, and I get to keep all of the jars that I make!

So, here is my Mum’s Green Bean Chutney. She gave it to me, but I am not really sure where she got it from originally. Maybe she can let you know, by leaving her first ever blog comment – over to you Mum?

You can  also use French Beans in this recipe, or a mixture of both French and Runners. Next year, thanks to my Seedy Penpal, Charlotte, I am going to grow a few yard long beans too, so I shall be experimenting with those as well.

My bean harvest was a little late getting going this year, but hopefully you will still be able to find some beans to try it yourself.

Do  you have any food that evokes such strong childhood memories? I’d love to hear about them.

Green Bean Chutney, Cheese and Crackers

Super Match

Recipe: Green Bean Chutney

Ingredients

I have converted this recipe from imperial to metric

3-4 jam jars

700 g runner beans (or French or other green beans, or a mixture)

1 kg  onions

Cold water to cover

1 dstsp salt

350 g demerara sugar

600 ml malt vinegar (I can;t get malt vinegar over here, so I use 500 ml white wine vinegar and 100 ml balsamic)

1 dstsp turmeric

1 dstsp powdered English mustard

1 tbsp cornflour

Method

Sterilise the jam jars in a dishwasher, or wash them in hot water, dry them and leave them in a low oven while you make the chutney. Either way, they will need to be hot when you put the chutney in it.

String and slice the beans (or use a stringless variety), making sure that they are roughly the same size – this is especially important if you use a mix of bean varieties.

Peel and thinly slice the onions. Add them to a preserving pan (or a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan) with the beans, cover them in water, and add the salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender.

Strain the water, and return the vegetables to the pan. Add half of the vinegar and the sugar. Cook for a further 10 minutes.

Mix together the cornflour, spices and the rest of the vinegar, and mix to make sure there are no lumps. Pour this into the pan, with the vegetables.

Bring the chutney back up to the boil, and hold it there for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens. You need some liquid though, because this will stop it drying out in the jars.

Fill the hot jars with the chutney. Then distribute the liquid between the jars, so that they are full to about 3 mm from the top.

Put a wax disc, wax side down, over the chutney, and seal it with cellophane. Don’t use a lid, the vinegar will corrode the metal, and may leave you exposed to some nasty microbial activity.

Don’t discard any excess liquid, it is great in salad dressings.

You need to leave the chutney for a week to allow it to meld and mellow.

This is a brilliant accompaniment to cheese, cold meats, salads, and is a particular marvel with jacket potatoes, and bubble and squeak.

UPDATE: In a very timely way, I found out that Susan at A Little Bit of Heaven on A Plate is running a Home Made and Well Preserved competition. So I thought that I would share my lovely childhood chutney there too, and maybe win some spices (fingers crossed).

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Salad Daze

Boiled Egg and Salad

Salad as Protein

Obviously, we are now at the height of the salad season. I have an abundance of rocket, leaf salads, radishes, cress, mustard greens and more. And yet, I am about to do a post that focuses largely on the less usual salads and ingredients that I have been having since last I updated you on the 52 week Salad challenge.

Chickweed Stellaria media

Salad as Easy

I remain loyal to chickweed, and luckily it seems to remain loyal to me. I have been eating it for what seems like months now. I remember that I lamented the lack of chickweed back in the spring, and thought that the conditions in the Netherlands were not suitable. It turns out that I was wrong. Chickweed loves the growing conditions here, but it does appear about 6 weeks after it would in the UK. It has kept me and the guinea pigs happy for quite a while. I have no idea why people write this off as a weed, I think it is delicious.

Mixed Salad with Broad Bean Tips

Salad as a New Kind of Shoot

Back in June, I was also including broad bean tips to my salads. These really are the gardener’s treat, as they don’t keep well, so must be used fresh from the plant. This year, I was also fortuitous in that I hadn’t quite got round to eating my dock and digging it up. I have discovered that blackfly love dock much more than my beans, so they remained pretty free from these sap suckers. Since dock is edible, and has proven to be so effective, I shall probably not be so hasty to remove it all in future, as long as it stays out of my raised beds.

Salmon Fishckes, collaboration salad, Taboulleh & Sauce Grib-ish

Salad as Leftovers

This past month, herbs have also featured heavily. I am finding that herb fennel, dill, mint, basil, and parsley have become a regular addition to my salads, as well as providing me with lots of tabbouleh, and sauces.  I have also been adding herbs to salad dressings. I’ve always used thyme, of course but lately, my oregano has gone crazy, so I have been looking for recipes to use it in. I found this lovely oregano, mint and lime dressing by Laura of How to Cook Good Food. It was an entry in Karen’s Herbs on Saturday Challenge, and has been on heavy rotation in our house since I came across it. It is really a salad dressing for summer.

Mixed Family Salad

Salad as a Family Affair

Back when it was my Mum’s birthday, I made a lovely collaborative salad of leaf lettuce from my sister’s garden, fennel, mint and chives from my mum’s garden, and foraged chickweed. I also added carrot and radish leaves, and was very happy when it all went at her birthday barbecue. I also livened up a simple pasta and chive salad, by mixing in a separated chive flower. I think I converted one of Mum’s friends, who was pretty amazed when she found what it was. She didn’t know chive flowers were edible, but said she would try them from now on.

Summer Vegetable Nage

Salad as Soup

Another herb that has been featuring in my cooking of late is chervil. Although you rarely see chervil in the shops it is really easy to grow, and I have many pots and planters with it. I love this delicate little herb, and it makes a great addition to any salad. It goes so well with broad beans and peas too, as you can see from this vegetable nage I made a while ago.

Something else I really love, especially when the weather is a little too cold for salad is to braise lettuce, beans and peas in a good stock. A dish that is made even better by the addition of a little chervil just before serving.

Braised Salad, Beans & Peas

Salad as a Side Dish

(c) P. Caspar 2012

Recipe: Braised Lettuce, Beans and Peas

Ingredients

This will serve four people as a side dish

100 g podded weight broad beans

100 g shelled weight fresh peas

2-3 Little Gem lettuce, depending on size. This dish also works well with Witloof chicory, and other firm hearted salads

400 ml chicken or vegetable stock

Small bunch chervil, finely chopped

Method

Briefly cook the beans and peas in unsalted boiling water. You can use the same pan, but the beans will need 3-5 minutes, depending on size, and the peas will need 1-2, so add the peas to the pan after the beans have had a couple of minutes. Once they are cooked, drain and refresh in cold or iced water.

Double pod the beans.

Halve and rinse the little gems. You need to keep the stalk, so that the lettuce stays together during the cooking.

In a sauté pan, heat a little oil. Once hot, add the lettuce and cook briefly. You want a little colour on the leaves, but be careful, as they will burn easily. Turn them once to get similar colour on each side. If you prefer a thicker sauce, you could stir in about a tbsp. of flour at this point, and cook it out briefly. I don’t often bother with this stage, unless I am going to use this as a soup.

Add the stock, and cover. Bring to the boil then simmer for about five minutes. Add the peas and beans and heat through for another minute or so. Just before you serve, season a little, if needed and stir through the chervil.

This makes a great accompaniment for most main courses, or you can shred the lettuce a little when it is cooked, stir through a little cream, and serve as a light soup.

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Beans, Beans are good for your …Burgers!

Bulgur & Bean Veggie Burger

Barbecues – Not Just for Carnivores

You may have gathered by now that I like to barbecue. We don’t have a fancy grill or gas burner, and rely on simple charcoal. I don’t really see the point in lighting up a barbie if it is only going to be the two of us, so I tend to supersize mine, and invite loads of people. I’m pretty well-practiced at it now, and can happily cope with 20-30 guests.

We fill a baby bath with ice, for the drinks to chill in, and I set about making the things that will go onto it, with various salads, and dips. There are a few things that must feature – ribs, sausages, vegetable skewers, and of course burgers. I make my own meat burgers, and I don’t leave out veggie friends.

BBQ used as heat for guests

Burn All The Things

Of course, as is tradition, I do all the prep work, and step back to let the Big Guy get the glory, as he (and often a few other grill kings/ queens) ‘caramelises’ my food.

I am not a fan of fake meats. I know that they have saved many a vegetarian at a barbecue, but they just aren’t for me. These vegan burgers are not pretending to be meaty, I think that their flavour and texture is good enough to speak for themselves. And they are great in a bun!

The recipe is a good basis for a veggie burger. From here, you can change the spice mix, substitute coriander for the parsley, use fresh chilli instead of the cayenne pepper, or add nuts or some other vegetables to the mix. I have made a few variations myself. I’d love to hear your variations, and maybe steal them give them a try.

These burgers keep well in the fridge or freezer, and you can cook them in a frying pan too, if you don’t have enough people round light the barbecue.

You may have noticed that a lot of my recipes have been veggie or vegan lately. This is because a friend recently cycled the Dunwich Dynamo, and I agreed to “sponsor” him by signing up to reduce my carbon through Do-Nation. This is a great way of getting people to do a few simple green actions for a short period of time, to see how they get on. It is also a lovely way to help people to feel involved in supporting your event without asking them to donate money, which can be a little awkward in these straightened times. The actions themselves are not too difficult to achieve, and it may get a few people to continue to do them, after all it is supposed to take 30 days to form a habit, so after 2 months it may be second nature.

Peter managed to smash the carbon target that he set himself at the start. I chose the Veg Out option. I really don’t eat all that much meat, so for two months, I have pledged to cut it even further, and also to go vegan a couple of days a week.

The Dunwich Dynamo took place over the weekend, and so far reports are that my friend is very happy, and a little sore, but I expect that there will be no lasting problems. Congratulations Pete, on getting your friends to take some small carbon friendly actions, and for the epic ride!

Bulgur & Bean Burgers Ready to Grill

Grill Ready

Ingredients

200 g dried beans, or one can. I usually use kidney or brown beans here, but the variety is really up to you.

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp cayenne pepper

100 g bulgur wheat

400 ml vegetable stock

1 tbsp soy sauce

Good bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Method

If you are using dried beans, soak them for a few hours. Drain then bring them to the boil in fresh, unsalted water. Cook until they are tender. You’ll probably need at least 40 mins for this, but it depends on the age of the beans. Don’t be tempted to salt the beans, or you will make the skins tough.

If you are using tinned beans, drain and rinse them, and heat them in fresh, unsalted water.

It is best to work with warm ingredients, as they bind a bit better, so try to get all the ingredients cooked at roughly the same time. If you are using dried beans, they will need to be started first, if you are using tinned, they should be warmed through as you come to the end of the bulgur preparation.

In a dry pan, toast the cumin seeds until they give off their characteristic scent. Keep them moving, as they will catch quickly. Once they are done, remove immediately to a mortar or a spice grinder.

Add a little oil to the warm pan, and sweat the onion on a gentle heat. You don’t want to colour the onion.

Meanwhile, grind up the cumin, and add the cayenne and garlic, and grind up to a paste. Add to the translucent onion, and fry until the aroma begins to waft.

Add the bulgur and stir to coat all of the grains in the onion and spice and oil. Add the stock, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the stock has been absorbed.

When the beans are done, drain, but don’t discard the cooking water. If the burger mix is too crumbly, you can add a bit of this to help it to bind.

Mix the soy, beans and parsley into the bulgur mix. Use the stalks of the herb too, as they pack loads of flavour. Set aside about a quarter of the mixture, and then pulse the rest in a blender until it is comes together. You want it to be sticky, but not a paste.

Add the reserved mixture from earlier, for texture and stir well.

Make patties by rolling lumps into balls in your hands, and then flattening on a board to make the burger. They will look surprisingly round. This is normal.

Chill for at least an hour before you grill them, to help them retain their shape. Grill or fry on either side over low coals. Preferably on a summer’s day. You may be able to make great burgers, but you can’t control the weather!

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