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.

Cookery School

I’ve been looking into ways to turn the Food From 4 idea into a business. Having toyed with branded items for sale and hosted dinner parties, I decided to have a go at a cookery school. I put the word out on various social media sites and soon had four willing volunteers to participate in a trial.

Having decided on a menu and the format, I then needed to sort out all the other logistical challenges. I opted for Indian inspired dishes – paneer skewers, vegetable samosas, aubergine and tomatoes cooked in whole spices, pilau rice and a cucumber raita. The plan was to spend 2½ hours preparing and cooking, then the final half hour we can eat lunch.

Do I have enough space for everyone to cook comfortably? Do I have enough equipment? What do I serve to drink with the food? How do I design the recipe cards? Does everyone need an apron?

I cleaned up my old two burner camping gaz, bought aprons online. Got dishes i use for photographing out of the loft. Hey presto, I had created a training kitchen.

I left the cooking to the students, lending a hand only when needed. There is nothing quite as frustrating as joining a cookery course only to spend hours watching the instructor cook. The only real way to learn is to do it yourself.

The morning was a success. Our dishes turned out well and we all enjoyed cooking, talking about ingredients, food, techniques. Keep an eye on this blog, my facebook page and instagram for details of the next one.

Here are a few photos of the day

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Mushroom Pie

A rich and satisfying puff pastry topped pie that makes a great centrepiece for a Sunday lunch or for Christmas Day with all the trimmings

This recipe will feed 5-6 people

1 tablespoon olive oil
A knob of butter or dairy free margarine/spread
1 onion – finely chopped
300g mushrooms – sliced
1x400g tin of green, brown or puy lentils or two generous handfuls of lentils boiled in water for 20 minutes
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 vegetable stock cube or 1 teaspoon of vegetable bouillon powder
1 teaspoon marmite
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 handful parsley – roughly chopped
1 pack of puff pastry
1 egg yolk or a splash of milk (dairy or non dairy)

Heat the oil and butter or spread in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry gently until translucent. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat and fry off until well cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan. Add the soy sauce and stir gently.

Now add the flour and stir well so the mushrooms are coated. Slowly add water, keeping the pan on a medium to high heat, stirring all the time, until you have a nice thick gravy. Now reduce the heat to low, drain and add the lentils, stir in the marmite and crushed stock cube or bouillon powder. Simmer gently for around 5 minutes then stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.

Take a 20cm pie dish and fill with the mushroom and lentil mixture. Brush a little egg or milk around the edge of the dish, then top with the pastry, pressing down gently and tucking into the sides of the dish. Trim the edges of the pastry. Now get creative and decorate the top with shapes from the pastry trimmings. I used Christmas trees as it was Christmas and trees are nice and easy to make.

Brush the whole thing with egg or milk and pop in the oven at 200C for around 45 minutes or until golden brown and pastry and your decorations ave puffed up.

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Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower has become the vegetable of 2016. So versatile it works well in curries, pies, as a low carb alternative to rice, as a pizza base and of course smothered in cheese sauce. However roasting the vegetable whole is a new experience and makes for a perfect sharing platter or a meat free alternative to a traditional Sunday roast dinner.

The number of servings depends on the size of cauliflower you are able to get your hands on. I think an average supermarket size cauli would probably serve 3-4 with all the extras with it. This recipe is for a basic roasted cauli. You can experiment with different flavours – thyme, oregano, paprika, sumac, tomato puree, soy sauce, the list of options is endless.

1 cauliflower – remove most of the leaves but leave a few around the base, trim them back if needed
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Large knob of butter – softened
3 cloves garlic – minced
Juice of half a lime
salt and pepper
Herbs for serving – parsley, coriander, mint – roughly chopped

Put the cauliflower in a large saucepan, cover with water then bring to the boil. Simmer for around 3-5 minutes depending on the size, then drain and leave to cool and dry out.

While the cauliflower is cooling, put the oven on to 180C

Put the cauliflower onto a baking tray. In a bowl, mix the butter, olive oil, garlic and lime juice to create a citrus garlic butter then rub this over the cauliflower. Pop it in the oven for 1 hour or so until browned and tender. I served mine with grilled asparagus, roasted new potatoes, natural yogurt and some sliced lettuce and radish.

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Green Shakshuka

Some might argue that this isn’t really a shakshuka, or what some call huevos rancheros. Both are made with tomatoes, chilis and onion and would normally be served looking something like this

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However, I thought I would experiment a little. This is a little like a cross between a traditional shakshuka and eggs florentine. It was also a great way of using up some leftover potato salad I had from the night before.

This serves 3-4 for breakfast or brunch.

2 tablespoons olive oil
A small knob of butter
1 large onion – finely sliced
10 or so new potatoes
1 green chili – finely chopped
1 cup of frozen petit pois
500g spinach
4-8 eggs depending on the number of people you are serving
Salt and pepper to taste
A large handful each of parsley, mint, coriander, chives – all roughly chopped
1 tablespoon sumac

Start by boiling the potatoes in their skins until tender. the time depends on how large or small your potatoes are. When cooked, drain, cool then slice into 1cm slices.

Cook the spinach – either 2½ minutes in the microwave or cooked with a little water in a pan with the lid on until wilted. Drain, squeeze as much liquid out as you can then roughly chop.

Put your oven on to 180C.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan – you’ll need a pan without any plastic or wooden bits as it is going to go in the oven later. If you haven’t got one then you can pop a lid on instead.

Fry the onion and potatoes until they start to brown then add the chili, peas and spinach. Fry this off, stirring from time to time until the spinach has wilted and the peas are cooked. Season with salt and pepper and half the herbs.

Take a wooden spoon and make wells in the mix. You’ll need a well for each egg. Gently crack an egg into each well then pop into the oven for 10 minutes or so until the eggs have set. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the remaining herbs over the top and scatter the sumac. Serve with toast, natural yogurt or hummus.

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Sweet Potato, Leek and Gruyere Tart

It was Bruce Feirstein who wrote Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. So this, rather than being a quiche, is a tart.

This should be enough to feed four or five people depending on what you serve with it

375g pack of shortcrust pastry – I used to make my own but bought pastry is pretty cheap and pretty good
1 knob of butter and a splash of olive oil
2 small leeks – cut in half lengthwise then sliced into thin half rounds
1 medium sweet potato – peeled and diced quite small
150g gruyere cheese (or some other strong cheese) – grated
4 large eggs
a good pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and black pepper

Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and add the leeks and sweet potato. Fry gently for 15 minutes or so until the potato is soft – the exact time will depend on how big or small you like your dicing to be.

While that is going on, put the oven on at 200C. Line a 20cm loose bottom tart tin with the pastry. The ready rolled stuff is great, but they always make it too narrow so you have to patch it up a little. Make sure it is all well sealed then blind bake with some baking beans and greaseproof paper for around 15 minutes.

Let the leek and potato mixture cool a little, then add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Take a large bowl and best the eggs with the grated cheese. You can add a splash of milk or cream if you like but that’s not necessary and doesn’t add much to the dish. Now stir in the leek and sweet potato mixture. Tip into the part-baked pastry case and return to the oven for 25 minutes until the filling has set and the top is beautifully browned

Serve with a salads, or new potatoes, or both.

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Beetroot, Chick Pea and Quinoa Burgers

I now realise you can make burgers from pretty much anything provided you follow a few basic principles. You need something dry, something sticky to bind it together and lots of flavours. The dry part tends to be oats, or breadcrumbs, or nuts. The sticky comes from eggs, cheese or mashed pulses.

This came about as a somewhat random recipe. made from the sort of things I have lying about the kitchen. A few vegetables, a pulse I can mash to get the stickiness and some quinoa – yeh I know quinoa is becoming all a little bit too 2015, but it adds a wonderful nutty flavour to the dish and, when the burgers are fried, it’s the quinoa that gives it it’s crispy exterior, without the need to roll the burgers in breadcrumbs or the like. Apart from the quinoa, everything else is used raw until you cook the burgers themselves.

This made four large burgers – though I think dividing it into six would be more elegant perhaps

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 medium beetroot – peeled and grated
1 medium carrot – peeled and grated
2 clove garlic – roughly chopped
1x400g tin chick peas – drained
a handful of fresh parsley leaves and stalks
1 teaspoon paprika powder
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons tahini
a splash of tabasco
juice of half a lime
a handful or so of rolled oats
olive oil for frying

Put the quinoa and water in a pan, bring to the boil, cover then simmer for 10 minutes. Leave the lid on and allow to cool.

Put the chick peas, garlic and tahini in a food processor and blitz to a rough mixture, a little bit like crunchy peanut butter. Add the grated carrot and beetroot, the parsley, paprika and oregano. Whiz for few seconds, then add the lime juice, tabasco, salt, pepper. Whiz again briefly then slowly add the oats and cooked quinoa with a quick pulse in between, until you have a firm, but still a little moist mix.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Divide the mixture into six (or 4, or even 8!). Roll each into a ball, squash into a flattish disc and fry gently in the oil for 7-9 minutes on each side. The top and bottom should be browned and crispy and the middle nice and hot.

I served mine with a red cabbage, carrot and chili slaw and a jacket potato. How are you having yours?

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