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.


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.

Blue Cheese with Puy Lentils and Broad Beans

I’m getting quite excited now at the prospect of meeting the legendary Yottam Ottolenghi next month. I’ve been lucky enough to get onto one of his courses at the Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath.

Having spent the bank holiday weekend clearing the allotment, I had one last serving of broad beans and thought they would go well combined with Ottolenghi’s Castelluccio lentils with tomatoes and Gorgonzola. Here is my version which in the most part is identical.

Start by making the slow roasted tomatoes which can be made well in advance and stored in sealed jars.
approx 400g small plum of cherry tomatoes
glug of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano

Heat the oven to 120C. Cut the tomatoes in half. Place in an oven proof dish then add the olive oil, balsamic and herbs. Mix gently, sprinkle with salt then place in the oven for about 2 hours. Discard the thyme then while still hot spoon into warm, sterile jars, put the lid on tightly and allow to cool. These will keep for months.

1 smallish red onion – finely sliced
2 large handfuls of puy lentils
2 large handfuls of podded broad beans
1 tablespoon sherry or white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic – crushed
handful of parsley and dill – finely chopped
100g creamy mild blue cheese – Dolcelatte or Gorgonzola
salt and pepper

Take two pans, Place lentils in one and cover with water. Take the other and add a couple of litres of water. Place both on the heat. When the lentils start to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook gently for around 20 minutes until tender but still holding their shape. When the water in the other pan boils, add the broad beans, bring back to the boil then simmer for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Put the sliced onion and vinegar in a bowl. Then add the cooked broad beans (I prefer to remove the outer skins too). Drain and add the lentils. Leave to cool.

Now add the garlic, herbs, olive oil and cubed cheese. Mix in a few of the tomatoes, season with black pepper and serve with bread for a complete and hearty meal for 3 or 4 depending on how greedy you are.

Patatas Bravas (without the patatas)

I made up a spicy tomato sauce to go with tonight’s Tapas inspired party at a neighbours.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion – finely chopped
2 fat cloves garlic – finely chopped or mashed
1 stick celery – finely chopped
2 roasted red peppers – finely chopped
2 red chilis – finely chopped
1 dried red chili – crumbled
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 litre passata

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and celery. Fry gently until softened then add the peppers, fresh and dried chilis, paprika powder, sugar and salt. Stir well then add the passata, simmer gently with the lid off until reduced by about a third.

Serve warm with fried potatoes or quite nice smeared onto toast with cream cheese.

Taze Fasulye

I got back last week from a week away on holiday. A quick visit to the allotment on Friday evening and I came home with vast numbers of runner beans – a whole carrier bag full. Now don’t get me wrong, I love runner beans, but they are hardly the most versatile of beans. Slice them, boil them, then serve as they are or with a little garlic and butter. I tend not to grow many as the occasional and seemingly unavoidable stringy one that gets caught in the back of the throat or between my molars puts me off whatever I am eating. Then I thought back to my holiday in Turkey a few years ago and the long afternoons spent at a lovely family run restaurant in Gumusluk. This Turkish green bean dish is usually made from the long flat beans available from Turkish and Middle Eastern stores, but works just great with runners too. It sounds simple and boring but give it a go – it’ll make you say “Wow!”

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400g prepared runner beans or french beans
2 small onions – finely chopped – or you can finely slice them into half rings if you prefer
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 ripe tomatoes – quartered (if you don’t have fresh tomatoes use about half a tin of chopped

Bring a pan of water to the boil then add the beans and boil for about 5-10 minutes until tender. Drain.

Take a large frying pan and heat the oil. Add the garlic and onion and fry gently until soft. Then add the beans, tomatoes and some salt to taste. Cover and cook slowly for 30-40 minutes until everything is tender and the tomatoes have fallen apart.

Serve hot or at room temperature with breads.

Zucchini Parmigiana

A courgette based version of my Aubergine Parmigiana. Simple to prepare and a tasty way of getting through that glut.

3-4 medium courgettes – sliced
1 onion – finely chopped
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
1x400g tin chopped tomatoes
a good wedge of sharp cheese such as cheddar and a ball of mozzarella
A few glugs of olive oil
A selection of seeds – sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, pine nuts

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. When hot add the sliced courgettes and fry, stirring and turning from time to time until nicely browned, charred slightly even. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a dish – one that you will later put in the oven – then add a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Now add the onion and garlic to the remaining oil and fry until softened. Tip this over the courgettes.

Cover the courgettes and onions with the tinned tomatoes, then top with the cheese. Scatter over the seeds then place in the oven at 200C for 25 minutes or so until browned and bubbling. Serve with green leafy salad, or garlic bread, or both.

Aubergine Charlotte

I’ve been meaning to make these for a long time, but have been going through a long phase of not having anyone round for dinner. Adapted from The Gate’s cookbook using garlic and herb Boursin cheese in place of the goat’s cheese custard.

Baking the aubergine rather than frying gives them that same melt in the mouth silky smooth texture but without absorbing quite so much oil.

Makes 4 Charlottes – 1 per person

2 aubergines – cut into 1cm slices
a good few mushrooms – I used 6-8 normal ones and a couple of large field mushrooms – finely chopped
4 shallots (or a small onion) – finely chopped
a few dried wild mushrooms
1 clove of garlic – finely chopped
a selection of herbs – chopped
8 slow roasted or sun blushed tomatoes
8 basil leaves
1 round of Boursin
Lots of olive oil

Heat the oven to 220C.

Place the aubergine slices on a baking sheet, brush liberally with olive oil then bake in the oven until soft and starting to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Now make the mushroom filling. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. When hot fry the shallots and garlic until softened then add the fresh mushrooms. Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water until tender. Chop and add them with the mushroom stock to the pan. Add some chopped herbs – oregano, parsley, thyme are all good, season well then fry until all the liquid has gone. Turn off the heat and set to one side.

To make the Charlottes take 4 individual pudding basins. Line each with tin foil then line the foil with slices of aubergine. Add enough mushroom mixture to fill each basin up to around two thirds. Place two tomato pieces on top the mushroom mixture (I used a jar of tomatoes in oil which I found at my local supermarket. You can use the remaining tomatoes in a salad to serve with these) then lay two basil leaves on top of the tomatoes. Top with a generous slab of Boursin and cover with any remaining aubergine slices.

Bake in the oven at 200C for about 15-20 minutes. Then turn them out onto plates.

I served these to my guests with saffron mash and mixed salad leaves. I think new potatoes would go well with them too. If serving mash it looks great it you put it in the pudding basin first then turn it onto the plate next to the Charlotte.