Broad Bean Falafel

Every street food market up and down the country surely has a stall selling hot falafel. These mildly spiced deep fried vegan treats are so delicious. A former colleague of mine used to travel far and wide, always insisting on trying falafel wherever he went. When I worked in West London I would sometime treat myself to a falafel wrap from Portobello Road Market – the most fully loaded, heavy sandwich I have ever come across. Later, I started working out east and stumbled upon Pilpel. Wow.

The relative healthiness of pulses, herbs and spices is offset by the deep frying, making them the perfect balanced dish.

Every year I grow broad beans on the allotment. They are relatively easy and can be sown from November through to spring so you get a lot of beans if you plan your planting a little. The debate around skinning continues. For me it’s a case of what dish you are making, salads and other delicate dishes need the somewhat tough husks removed. Slow cooked stews are just fine using them whole. For this dish, I removed the skins. It takes a little time but is well worth it.

So on to the recipe

1x400g tin chickpeas – drained and rinsed
about the same of broad beans – use fresh if you can and pod them, boil for 5 minutes, cool and skin. Else use frozen and boil them and skin them
1 clove garlic
juice of half a lemon
parsley – roughly chopped
dill – roughly chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
sunflower oil for deep or shallow frying
pitta bread
natural yogurt or mayonnaise
gherkins
shredded lettuce
tomatoes
chili sauce

Put all ingredients down to and including the cumin in a food processor and pulse a few times until you have a grainy, lumpy paste of sorts. Divide into around 20 or so small balls and flatten each a little.

Heat the oil. When hot, if shallow frying, fry on one side for around 4 minutes then turn and do the same on the other side. If deep frying pop them carefully into hot oil and fry for around 5-6 minutes until golden.

Toast your pittas until they puff then serve the hot pitta, falafel and sundries so your guests can assemble how the like. Choose from the ingredients above but you can also include pickled turnips, fresh chilis, a few coriander leaves, cucumber, ketchup. Experiment. It’s fun…..

Broad Bean Stew

Spring is definitely on its way. The days are getting longer and milder, blossom is out, daffodils fill the grass verges, I am about to become another year older and I have planted this year’s crop of broad beans. So it must be time I used up the remains of last year’s crop, carefully podded, bagged and stored safely in the freezer.

This broad bean stew hits the spot. Balanced sweet and sour tastes from the addition of pomegranate molasses and lime juice. Just put everything in the pot and forget about it for half an hour or so.

This made enough to feed four with the rice.

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion – finely chopped
1 stick celery – finely chopped
1 carrot – finely diced
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 teaspoon each of whole fenugreek seeds, paprika powder, ground turmeric
2 mugs of shelled broad beans – fresh or frozen
2-3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Juice of half a lime
Vegetable stock – enough to cover the vegetables
Fresh mint and parsley – roughly chopped
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan – one that has a lid.

When hot, add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and gently fry until tender. Add the spices, stir then add the beans. Stir gently to cover the beans with the other vegetables then cover with stock and add the tomato puree. Add the pomegranate molasses, stir, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for around 30 minutes, checking from time to time to ensure it hasn’t dried out. Add a little water if it starts to look dry.

Remove the lid and add the lime juice and chopped herbs. Stir and serve with rice or flatbreads.

Note: If you prefer a moorish flavour, leave out the pomegranate molasses and lime juice and add half a finely chopped preserved lemon at the same time as adding the stock. This will make it more like a tagine dish.

Courgette and Cheese Tart with Beetroot and Bulgur Wheat Salad

I’ve always struggled to build the right kind of relationship with courgettes. They are so easy to grow provided you have sufficient space. However some late summer they produce so many that it becomes a struggle knowing quite what to do with them all. On a good day I can pick 6 to 8 of them, only to find another crop just a few days later.

We recently had our first frost as winter starts to show its face and with that the courgette plants wither and start the process of becoming next year’s compost. Funny thing is, I miss them. I miss being able to pick my own and I refuse to buy them from the supermarket out of season. However if you are more relaxed about your courgette relationship you could try this tart

This is like a quiche but made with puff pastry rather than shortcrust. Despite blind baking to restrict the amount of rise in the pastry, it still takes on a life of its own. Very different to a traditional quiche or tart.

I served it with a salad made from raw beets, carrots and bulgur wheat.

To make the tart
1 onion – finely sliced
2 medium courgettes – sliced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
6 eggs
A splash of cream (optional)
1 pack of puff pastry – I use ready rolled for ease
150g crumbly cheese – Lancashire, Feta, Wensleydale all work well
salt and pepper

Put the oven onto 200C. Line a loose bottomed, metal tart tin with the pastry. This usually requires using two pieces of pastry so make sure there are no cracks in the join else the filling will leak through. Keep the off cuts for now. Pop a sheet of baking parchment over the base, fill with baking beans (or use dried beans or chick peas) to weigh it down, then bake for around 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard the parchment. Let the beans cool and store them for reuse.

Meanwhile you can make the filling. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the courgette slices over a high heat. You want a little colour to develop as this adds some flavour to the otherwise bland courgettes. When browned and a little charred on both sides, remove and allow to cool. Turn the heat down and fry the onion gently until browned and starting to caramelise. Add these to the courgettes and allow to cool.

Beat 6 eggs with the cream if using, season to taste then add the cooled courgettes and onions along the the crumbled cheese. Pour into your par-baked pastry case. If you like you can use the off cuts of pastry to make a lattice top as per the photo. Brush with a little milk then place in the oven for 35-45 minutes until browned and the egg filling has set. Remove from the oven and from the tin and serve with the salad.

For the salad
1 medium beetroot
1 medium carrot
100g bulgur wheat
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
A very large handful of Parsley
salt

Boil a kettle. Pop the wheat in a bowl. Just cover with boiling water and leave until all the water has been absorbed.

Take a large mixing bowl and grate the beetroot and carrot. Roughly chop the parsley and add this then add the other ingredients including the cooked bulgur wheat. Mix well and season to taste

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Spiralised Butternut Squash with Courgette Polpette in a Rich Tomato Sauce

At this time of year the harvest from the allotment is at its finest. I can pick courgettes every day and still they keep coming. 2016 has been a bumper year for tomatoes and I have found the best way to store them is to roast them, blitz with a hand blender then pour the hot, rich, sweet, deep red sauce into sterile jars and seal.

This is a variation on my original courgette ball recipe which you can find jere, this time using butternut squash in place of spaghetti and a jar of roasted cherry tomato sauce.

To serve 4

Make the courgette polpette as per the recipe here. For a gluten free version substitute gram flour for the flour.

Put to one side.

Take 2 butternut squashes, peel, cut into large sections, deseed then run through a spiraliser. You may find your spiraliser struggles to get through. Mne scored the veg and I had to carefully tease the strands from one another.

Next make the tomato sauce. Heat a pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic, fry for a few seconds until softened then add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes, a large jar of passata or, if using fresh, roast the tomatoes for 1 hour at 200C, blend then add to the garlic and oil. Simmer gently to thicken.

Place a large, deep frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the butternut. Stir gently and fry for around 7-8 minutes until starting to soften. Add the courgette polpette then the sauce. Stir gently over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until everything is hot.

Serve with a sprinkling of vegetarian Parmesan style cheese.

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Bean and Vegetable Lasagne (without the Lasagne)

OK so maybe it’s not really a lasagne as it doesn’t contain and pasta, but it’s just as tasty and, being low in wheat and carbs, it’s kind of healthy depending on how much cheese you put into your sauce.

Earlier in the year I thought it would be a good idea to plant some Swiss Chard. After a very slow start, it has taken off in abundance. The beautiful, bright stems glow in the autumn sunshine and they look almost too good to pick and eat. If you can’t get chard, use spinach leaves for the lasagne and diced carrot and celery instead of the stalks. Blanched savoy cabbage leaves may work too though their flavour is perhaps a little too strong.

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After several frittatas and quiches I fancied something a little different. It’s also quite hard to cook as the leaves wilt quite quickly whilst the stem takes much longer to soften. So how about removing the leaf from the stem and using as two separate ingredients. Use the stems as a vegetable in the ragout and the leaves make the perfect alternative to lasagne sheets. Add a few borlotti beans from the allotment to add protein and hey presto, a low carb version of one of my family’s favourite pasta dishes

I love borlottis but when they go this lovely deep red colour it means summer is well and truly over.

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This makes enough to feed 3-4 adults

A splash of olive oil
1 Onion – chopped
1 clove garlic – chopped or crushed
1 red of green pepper – diced
1 can passata
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt and black pepper
The stems of 5-6 chards – sliced about 1cm wide
1 x 400g tin borlotti beans or equivalent fresh (If using fresh you must boil them first for around 30 minutes to remove toxins)
The leaves of said chard
large knob of butter
2-3 tablespoons plain white flour
1 teaspoon English mustard
Somewhere between 250 and 400 ml milk – depends on the size of your dish
Strong cheese – Gruyere is perfect, or very strong cheddar. About 150g or so

Heat the oil in a pan then ad the garlic and onion and cook gently for a few minutes. Now add the pepper and chard stems. Stir a little then add the oregano and cooked beans. If using tinned, drain and rinse to remove the nasty tinny taste.

Cook for around 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, over a medium heat. Now add the tomato passata and bring to a gentle simmer for around 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make a roux based white sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan and add a tiny splash of olive oil. Then add the flour and mustard and whisk gently until combined. Continue to cook for 1 minute then slowly add the milk, trying not to get any lumps. If you do get lumps, whisk like crazy until they have gone. Continue to heat gently, stirring all the time to prevent burning. When the sauce thickens, add the cheese and stir until melted and you have a smooth sauce.

Now you are ready to assemble. Put the oven on – 180C should do it.

Take an ovenproof dish and put some of the ragout in the bottom – just enough to cover the base. Add a layer of chard leaves, then cover with more reagout, then leaves, etc ending up with a layer of leaves. Pour the sauce over the top layer of leaves. Then bake in the oven for at least half an hour until the topping is brown and bubbly.

This one smelled so nice it was half gone before I had a chance to get the camera ready..

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A cake for late summer

I’m not one for cakes, but having had a bumper crop of raspberries this year I am running out of ideas. I’ve got jars and jars of jam, litres of raspberry vodka waiting patiently for Christmas to arrive and a freezer full of whole raspberries and coulis.

This is a very simple sponge recipe – the same one as in my apple cake – dolloped over late summer berries. In this version I used raspberries and blackberries, but you could use one or the other, or redcurrants, blueberries or even gooseberries.

Put the oven on to 180C and line the bottom of a 20″ – 24″ spring form cake tin with greaseproof paper or parchment. Scatter enough berries to cover the base of the tin. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of demerera sugar over and the tiniest of splashes of vanilla essence.

Blend together 130g caster sugar and softened butter until pale and fluffy. Now beat in two medium free range eggs, then add 130g self raising flour and a teaspoon of baking powder for extra lift. if the mix is a little dry add a tiny splash of milk.

Spread the cake mixture carefully over the berries, then bake for 45-55 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the tin then turn out upside down on a plate. Alternatively you could serve warm with custard.

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Crispy Cavalo Nero

The allotment is a little bare during the winter months. Only Brussels Sprouts and Cavalo Nero remain. Bored of bubble & squeak, and soups I thought I’d try the Cavalo Nero deep fried which concentrates the flavour whilst retaining the beautiful dark green colour. Cavalo Nero is packed full of vitamins A, C, E and K. These essential vitamins are retained through such quick cooking so this is arguably one of the healthiest deep fried foods you can eat.

Cavalo Nero can be difficult to find in the shops. If you can’t find it, use curly kale instead.

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Take 5-8 leaves and remove the tough, woody stalks. Then slice thinly across the leaves.

Take a saucepan and fill a third to half full with sunflower oil. Heat slowly. Test the heat by dropping one shred of Cavalo Nero into the hot oil. if it sizzles, you can add the rest though stand well back as the water in the leaves tend to make to oil bubble up for a few seconds. Fry until the sizzling noise stops, then drain and sprinkle with a little salt and caster sugar. Mix gently before serving.

Serve as an accompaniment to Chinese dishes or like this, piled high on top of a slice of pumpernickel, smothered with creamy, tangy blue cheese.

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