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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Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Herbs

100g puy or green lentils
1 bay leaf
200g of your favourite grain (bulgur, millet, farro, quinoa, pearl barley)
1 smallish cauliflower of half a large one
half a teaspoon each of ground cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, salt
a handful of cherry tomatoes – halved
half a cucumber – diced
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic – minced
2-3 large handfuls of herbs (parsley, mint)
pomegranate seeds

Start by cooking the lentils in a pan of water with the bay leaf. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for around 20 minutes until tender but holding their shape. Drain, rinse under cold water, discard the bay leaf and leave to one side.

Cook your grains as per the instructions. If in a hurry use bulgur as they don’t need cooking, just soaking in boiling water for 20-25 minutes. Once cooked, drain and allow to cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. Cur the cauliflower into smallish florets then fry in the oil over a medium to high heat, stirring occasionally. Fry for 10 minutes until starting to brown. Add the ground spices and a splash of water, stir well until the cauliflower is coated with the spice mixture, cover with a lid and allow to steam for a further 4 minutes until tender then allow to cool.

Take a large bowl and add the remaining olive oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper. Mix well then add the cooked grains, cauliflower, tomatoes and cucumber. Roughly chop the herbs and add them too. Mix well then transfer to a nice serving dish. Finally, scatter the pomegranate seeds over and serve with flat breads and natural soya or dairy yogurt.

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Persian Fava and Tofu Stew

Growing up as the child of German immigrants, I never saw much of my extended family. Grandparents, an aunt and uncle and cousins in West Germany, A grandmother in the East who was not allowed out to visit (and it was rather uncomfortable going to visist: something I only did once), and an aunt in Los Angeles. When my parents arrived and rented a room in West London, they made friends with a young couple, an Englishman and his Persian wife. I had the honour of her becoming my Godmother and she became an aunt to me and my brother, a true part of the family.

It was her who taught me mother, who subsequently taught me, how to cook the perfect rice. Her nephews and nieces brought back exotic ingredients from Iran: Pistachio nuts, pomegranate syrup, dates. Things that are widely available in independent shops and in supermarkets.

This is my variation of Lee Watson’s Persian Fava Bean, Seitan and Green Herb Stew with a little influence from Sally Butcher and her Mung Bean Casserole. The smells and flavours remind me of having dinner at my godmother’s house. Happy days.

Serves 4
1 medium red onion – cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
200g firm tofu – well drained and cut into 1cm cubes
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 red chili – finely chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons za’atar
A pinch of ground cinnamon
1 preserved lemon – drained and finely chopped
1 carrot – peeled and diced
6-8 radishes – quartered
5 garlic cloves – peeled but left whole
150ml white wine
2 tablespoons tomato puree
6 mushrooms – quartered
1x400g tin of fava beans/ful medames – the ones in water not already prepared
vegetable stock – enough to fill the empty bean tin
a large handful each of parsley and dill – roughly chopped
150g spinach – finely sliced
Pomegranate molasses

Take a large(ish) casserole (one with a lid). Heat the oil then add the onion, tofu, carrot and radish. Fry until the tofu and onions start to brown then add the chili, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, bayleaf, cinnamon and preserved lemon. Continue to fry, stirring gently for about 5 minutes. Now add the white wine and let it simmer down a little to reduce. Add the mushrooms, fava, whole garlic cloves and tomato puree followed by the stock. Stir then cover and pop in the oven at 180C. After 45 minutes, take the lid off, stir in the spinach and herbs and the za’atar, cover and return to the oven for a further 20-30 minutes).

Stir and season before serving then drizzle a little of the pomegranate molasses over the top. I served mine with Persian rice and potatoes, chili sauce and a little natural yogurt.

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