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.

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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Borlotti Beans with Spring Greens and Grilled Cheese

The weather may be summer like but the end of my borlotti beans on the allotment tells me it’s definitely autumn and time to start clearing and preparing the plot for the colder, shorter days. Borlottis are the only beans I grow now. In fact they are one of the very few successes this year. The young beans can be eaten pod and all like a runner bean, but without the occasional dodgy stringy one that ruins the entire meal. Later in the year as the pods turn a beautiful dark red the beans can be prised from their pods and used in soups, stews and even burgers.

This dish is made in three parts but none of them take long. The quantities should feed four with a bit of nice bread on the side.

Start with the beans.

approx 300g fresh borlotti beans (or a drained 400g tin if you can’t get fresh)
3-4 ripe tomatoes – chopped
1x400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2-3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 medium onion – chopped
olive oil – about 4 tablespoons
handful of parsley – coursely chopped
salt and pepper

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan or frying pan, but use one that has a lid. Fry the garlic and onion gently until softened then add the beans and tomatoes. Cover a simmer gently for about 40 minutes. Add the parsley, salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the remainder of the oil and leave to one side with the lid on.

Take 2-3 heads of spring greens. Slice finely and drop into boiling water for 10-12 minutes until tender. Drain, season and add a splash of chili infused oil – or olive oil if you aren’t into heat. Cover and set to one side.

Take 1 250g pack of halloumi, cut into four slices and place under the grill, turning once. When and brown, remove from the heat and now plate up the dish.

Start by dividing the greens between the four plates, making a small crater in the middle of each pile. Fill the crater with the beans then place a slice of halloumi on top. Finish with a drizzle of oilive oil or chili oil.

Chinese Vegetable and Tofu Stew

An early celebration of Chinese New Year. Inspired by (and almost copied from) Ken Hom.

100g or so of each of the following
– trimmed whole mange tout
– shredded savoy cabbage
– finely sliced red pepper
– sliced courgette
– mushrooms – halved of quartered depending on their size
– broccoli – cut into small florets
1 block firm tofu cut into cubes – I used Dragonfly’s deep fried tofu
600ml water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons black bean and chili sauce
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt

Take a large saucepan and pour in the water. Add the soy, hoisin and black bean and chili sauces. Bring to the boil. Now add the broccoli and cabbage. bring to boil then add the red pepper and mushrooms. bring back to the boil and add the courgettes, mange tout and tofu. Simmer for about 4 minutes then add the salt and sesame oil. Stir and serve with sticky rice and a side dish of pak choi stir fried with garlic, chili, spring onion and sesame seeds.

Root Vegetable and Bean Tagine with Saffron Couscous

Possibly the greatest tasting dish I have ever eaten was a broad bean tagine several years ago at the fantastic and very popular Al Fassia in Windsor. I asked the waitress how the chef had made it, but her description was a little vague. Having had several failed attempts at making something similar I now think I have cracked it with this – a root vegetable and bean tagine based loosely on Leith’s tagine recipe but with a few changes and additions. Whatever you do do not leave out the preserved lemon. It is this that transforms the dish from a fairly bland root vegetable and bean stew into a completely different eating experience.

What you end up with is a sweetness from the root vegetables but a slight acidity from the lemon, ending with a tingling from the spiciness of the chilis – I left the seeds in to give it a little extra kick. The vegetables and beans are beautifully soft and, like many dishes, this one tastes even better the day after.

The problem is getting across the taste in a photo – particularly when the dish is somewhat brown in colour

For the tagine (feeds about six)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion – finely chopped
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
2 green chilis – finely chopped
1 carrot – peeled and diced
3 medium sized turnips – peeled and diced
3 medium sized turnips – peeled and diced
4 tomatoes – chopped
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
500 ml vegetable stock
400g borlotti, cannellini, broad or butter beans (I used borlottis I’d grown on the allotment and frozen, but tinned is just fine
2 courgettes – cut into half round chunks
1 preserved lemon – finely chopped
good bunch of chopped fresh coriander
salt and black pepper

Take a large casserole or a tagine if you have one. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat then add the onion. Fry gently for 7-10 minutes until soft. While the onion is softening, turn the oven on to 180C. now add the chili, garlic and ground cumin to the onion. Fry for a minute or so then add the carrots, turnips, potatoes, tomatoes and beans (drained if using tinned).

Add the coriander and stock, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to boil. Remove from heat, place the lid on pop it in the oven for an hour.

After an hour, take the tagine out of the oven, add the courgettes and preserved lemon, replace the lid and pop back in the oven for a further 20 -30 minutes until everything is tender.

The couscous is really quick. Take a couple of good handfuls of couscous and place in a smallish saucepan. Add a few strands of saffron and a good pinch of salt. Cover with boiling water from the kettle, put the lid on and leave for about 4-5 minutes until the water has gone and the couscous is soft. Give it a good stir.

Serve with a little extra chopped fresh coriander and perhaps a blob or two of natural yogurt.

Sweet Potato and Three Bean Stew

This year I decided to break with the norm on our allotments and not grow runner beans. Instead I’ve been growing borlottis, and two types of french – one purple and one green. This recipe uses all three though you could substitute runners or any tinned varieties.

A cross between a soup and a stew this is one of those few dishes I make that doesn’t have garlic or cheese (or both) in them. I ate this two days running. Day one as a stew with saffron infused basmati rice and day two as a soup with olive focaccia. My advice is to make too much as it tastes better if left in the fridge for a day.

3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
1 onion – finely chopped
2 sticks celery – finely chopped
½ yellow pepper – diced
½ red pepper – diced
1 sweet potato – peeled and diced
1 chilli – finely chopped – de-seeded if you don’t want it too hot
beans – I used about 40 french beans and the beans from about 20 borlottis
4-5 tomatoes – chopped
a tablespoon each of thyme, oregano and basil
vegetable stock
teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large casserole dish then fry the onion and celery until soft. Add the sweet potato, peppers, chili and herbs and continue to fry, stirring occasionally until the peppers soften. Add the tomatoes and beans, stir for a few minutes until the tomatoes start to break up then add enough stock to just come up to the same height as the vegetables. Put the lid on and transfer to the oven at 180C. Leave in the oven for about an hour. Remove and add salt as required.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

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From the wonderful World Food Cafe in Covent Garden.

I have only made this two times in the past 4 or 5 years since I was given the World Food Cafe cook book. I had the urge last night to make it again then took it over to a neighbours house to eat.

This made enough to feed 6-8 with rice and soured cream.

2x400g tins of black beans (or aduki) – drained
1 large red onion – chopped
4 cloves garlic – finely chopped
3 red chilis – finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
knob of butter
450g sweet potatoes – peeled and cubed
1 small squash – I had a red kuri squash from the allotment which I peeled, seeded and cubed
2 carrots – peeled and cubed
1 red pepper – cubed
1x400g tin chopped tomatoes
vegetable stock – about 300ml
lots of coriander and parsley – chopped
2 bay leaves
salt and black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan then fry the onion, garlic and chili until soft. Add the drained beans, then the tomatoes and stock. Simmer gently.

In a large frying pan, heat the butter then fry the sweet potatoes, squash, carrot and pepper until they start to soften. Add to the beans, then top up with stock if needed. Simmer until everything soft. Then add the coriander and parsley and season with salt and pepper.