Braised Broad Beans with Lemon and Dill

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Some dishes just aren’t work the effort. And in hindsight I was very foolish with this dish.

I’ve been looking forward to cooking with Fresh Broad Beans for months. I was naive to assume that you could buy them podded. I was even more naive to assume that podding was quick. Top of the naivety pile was that podding wasn’t the end of it – you have to peel them as well.

It took Freya and myself almost 2 hours to pod and peel two bags of Broad Beans. 1.5 kilograms of broad beans ended up as less than 350g of podded and peeled broad beans. In that time we watched Kill Bill Volume 2. It took that long.

Suffice to say that by the end of it all there was very little enthusiasm to eat. It was just too late – and I felt I knew each broad bean too personally to then cook and eat them!

Anyway back to the recipe: don’t bother – go hungry and save yourself two hours. You’ll lose weight too and your fingers won’t be sore!

But seriously: once you’ve podded the peas, add them to some softened garlic, red onion, sugar and sea salt. Add some stock and cook for 20 minutes – until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in some dill and lemon juice and serve.

This recipe looks so quick and simple when you are flicking through a cookbook – but getting stung with pea podding and peeling (how many times have I whinged about this now?) means it’ll take you a good couple of hours (and that’s if you have a willing partner who will suffer with you while you pod).

I’ll try this recipe again with frozen and defrosted broad beans. It will probably be fine. But this isn’t a recipe that sets my world on fire. It just didn’t have the excitement and the flavour I was expecting.

Sorry Maria, this is one recipe from ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ that I just didn’t enjoy making.

 

 

 

Rosemary Popcorn

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Is popcorn cooking? probably not. Although you can burn it and it might not pop if you do it wrong!

This recipe came from Maria Ella’s – The Modern Vegetarian. It’s not really a recipe when you say ‘pop some corn’ – much like another cookbook I have where they tell you how to make a shandy by pouring lemonade onto a beer.

We have bucket loads of popcorn kernels. When you visit a health food shop and see ‘Buy one get one half price’ you really do believe that ‘yeh I will eat that much popcorn’. Trust me you won’t!

A 1 kilogram bag of popcorn will feed a small country for about 20 years. So be prepared to have your spare bag of popcorn move house with you – much like the unused ‘fenugreek seeds’ and all the other Bart spices that you thought were a good idea at the time!

True story: when Freya moved in with me in Gamlingay, we sorted through my kitchen supplies and she found a Schwartz tub of Hot Chilli Powder that was older than she was! I bought it from Costco when I moved out of home in the 80s – thinking giant tubs of spices were great value for money – and it has taken up space in my kitchen cupboards for over 20 years!

Anyway – back to the popcorn! All you have to do here is melt some butter, or oil in a pan with some chopped up small rosemary. It’s probably a good idea to have a lid on your pan or you’ll be making a bit of a mess. It’s also a good idea to have a heavy based pan or it’s going to blacken and burn. I have cast iron Le Creuset pans – which are more than heavy enough !

Get the pan hot – add a layer of popcorn kernels (which really isn’t a lot at all) and put the lid on. It’ll pop in less than a minute. Once the popping abates turn off the heat – and let the remaining kernels pop. Take then out of the pan – put them in a bag with some sea salt and shake it. Job done!

Whatever you do – don’t be impatient. Take that lid off too early and those kernels are gonna be all over your floor.

I made three pans worth – about the size of a large freezer bag – and we couldn’t eat it all. I ended up feeding the left overs to the ducks!

Textures of Beetroot

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Anyone that follows what I eat knows that I eat a lot of beetroot. I love the stuff. Not that awful prepackaged stuff – or the stuff that comes in a jar pickled in vinegar – but proper raw beetroot.

Roast it yourself (I always do mine in a halogen oven) and all the flavour just comes out – yummy. The books always tell you to wrap them in tin foil but I never do. They seem to come out just as well whether you wrap them up or not.

One big issue with this though is your cooking time – and the time it takes to get the food on the plate is increased by at least an hour. You can’t really roast a raw beetroot in less than an hour – and once you’ve waited for it to cool down so that you can peel the skin off, you are looking at 90 minutes before you’ve even started with the fun stuff.

Thinking a little outside the box I’ve started roasting my beetroots in the morning. Just stick them in the halogen oven for an hour and the oven turns itself off, the beetroots go cold while you’re at work – and presto – you come home and you’ve saved yourself 90 minutes!

Maria Ella presents four beetroot recipes in her book ‘The Modern Vegetarian’. They can all be served together ‘meze’ style and they go together beautifully. The four dishes are:

  • Beetroot Tsatsizi
  • Spiced Caramelised Onion and Bulgar Wheat Pilau
  • Beetroot Keftedes
  • Greek Beetroot Salad

All are pretty simple. All I’ll discuss in separate posts.

The first time I made this I spattered the pages with oil – resulting in a ghastly PDF once I’d despined and scanned the book!

I’ve made this many times since, but computer screens are far more wipe free than the pages of a book – so no further incidents have occurred.

As a complete meal I can thoroughly recommend these four dishes together. It looks beautiful (my photo doesn’t do the meal justice) and there are such variety of textures and flavours. All from one purple root vegetable!

Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips

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Now here’s a wonderful find. I don’t think I’d have been drawn to these if it weren’t for the really good photo that accompanied the recipe in ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ by Maria Ella. Basically the chips were arranged in a kind of Jenga tower and they looked very impressive. As you can see I didn’t copy that presentation!

I’ve decided that keeping a packet of polenta in the cupboard is a good thing! I’ve only ever made one thing with polenta – Polenta and Sage Pizza – but this is far cooler. I think I could even convince my six year old daughter to eat these – she’d never know they weren’t potatoes.

Making these is pretty easy – but not necessarily quick. There’s not a lot of cooking time – just a lot of waiting time for things to cool.

Firstly you dice some butternut squash very small and boil it with some rosemary. Then you add polenta – and when it thickens you pour it out into a greased tray (or one lined with parchment) and allow it to cool. You really need to season polenta well as it is broadly tasteless. I pressed a load of sea salt and pepper into the top of my slab.

When it is cool enough to put it in the fridge, do so – or do what I did and whack it in the freezer. As you all know by now I eat at stupid o’clock most evenings – we ate these past 10pm again – so the freezer was the quickest way to get this nice and solid.

Once it’s set – turn it out. It’ll look like this:

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Cut it into chip sized errr chips, dust them lightly in plain flour and fry them.

I did mine in two different ways – in a halogen oven – and in a frying pan. It’s pretty hard to take a picture of the excitement inside a halogen oven – so here’s a picture of a frying pan!

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I have to say the crispier chips came from the halogen oven. And they stayed hotter for a lot longer.

Once they are nice and golden and done, take them out and roll them in some very finely grated parmesan cheese. If you have one of those fancy microplanes like I do this really does the trick beautifully.

I served Freya’s chips with mayonnaise and my own with ketchup. I think mayonnaise was the better option!

The book suggests swapping out the butternut squash for either peas or sweetcorn. Both of which I plan to try. I have to say I couldn’t taste the butternut squash, nor the rosemary. I think it would be better not to add the rosemary to the butternut squash when you are boiling it – I just think it ruins the herbs. It might be better to add it in when you are stirring the polenta – just to keep it fresher!

I really liked these – I could eat a bowl of these anytime – even if they are really just a side. The slab was big – so we had these again the next day as a ‘starter’ while I cooked up our next dinner!

Fresh Borlotti Bean Cassoulet

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Does anyone know where to get Fresh Borlotti Beans? I don’t so I couldn’t really make this as per the recipe. If I’m honest I only chose this recipe because I found a couple of tins of them whilst packing up our food as part of our house move and figured I could swap them out without much fuss.

This dish is also from Maria Ella’s ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ – and was pretty easy – and is really just one of those ‘throw it all in a pan’ affairs. The end result is ‘posh beans on toast’ (if you serve it with toast!).

This was nice and quick and took me less than 30 minutes to make – although the recipe suggests that the longer you leave this to infuse the more tasty it will become! We ate really late last Sunday (when I made this) so the flavours didn’t have a chance to infuse. That said the leftovers were definitely more tasty when we had them at work the following day.

To make this you simply fry celery, onion, carrot and garlic (all diced very small) into some olive oil. Once soft add bay leave, sage and oregano, the beans (I used two 400g tins), chopped fresh plum tomatoes (I had a lot of Heritage ones that were very very ripe so I favoured these) and cook.

Now ordinarily in the recipe you would add water to cover the beans and cook for 50 mins or so. But my beans were already cooked so I didn’t bother with this step. I just added enough water to keep the consistency of my beans similar to that of a tin of baked beans.

When it’s all ready you remove from the heat – add lemon zest and lemon juice and some basil and serve with some toasted bread.

As quick dishes go – this was very quick. But I did cheat. This would take far longer if you used fresh beans.

This is quite a nice go to dish if you’re short of time. And it is far better than a tin of baked beans!

 

 

Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

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It seems like ages since I posted something. I’ve been cooking – I just haven’t had the time to post the reviews!

Moving house and moving onto a boat all at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Especially challenging when you still have to go to work, and your new mooring is a very long way away from where you live. That said, only two weeks left and all these issues should be over!

Anyway – back to the cooking. This is another recipe from ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ by Maria Ella. I’ve made this before. I think in November last year and my memory of it made me want to make it again.

It’s not quite as spectacularly bright and colourful like the Spinach Pearl Barley Risotto I made some time ago – but it is as tasty.

One thing I noticed this time round is butternut squashes all look the same don’t they! But do they taste the same? To me, this risotto didn’t taste as ‘squashy’ as the one I made before. Maybe squashes aren’t really in season in May/June – and lack the taste of an autumn one.

One thing I’ve taken away from this recipe is ‘why use rice’. I’ve never found rice particularly fulfilling. You eat it – you get full – bloated in fact – you go do something and half an hour later you’re hungry again.  Barley is a super substitute. It has three times the carbs, five times the protein, three times the calories and a whopping ten times the fibre. Basically you’ll get more energy from it – and you it’s better for you !

There are many steps to this recipe – and it seems very long winded – but it isn’t – and it is worth it.

To make this you peel a butternut squash, and put the peelings with some onions (peel and all), garlic, carrot and water in a big pan and boil it up to a stock.

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Obviously you could cheat here and just use Bouillon or a vegetable stock – but for the effort, and the fact that you have the waste product anyway it seems silly not to. I think in hindsight here you could pep up your stock (if your squash isn’t that flavoursome) with something like that Knorr vegetable stock concentrate.

While that’s reducing down from something like 2 litres to 1 litre, you prep your squash. Dice and roast the end with the pulp with lots of olive oil. I did mine in a halogen oven (hence the round ring).

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Next, fry off the other end of the squash in a pan. I messed this up last time I made it by not reading the recipe properly – I ended up roasting the whole squash. To be honest I don’t think it makes the blindest bit of difference. You fry the squash with shallots (I used some left over spring onions) and some spices.

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Once you’ve done that – the prep is done.

From here on it’s all plain stirring. Fry the barley, some onion (I used red onions for added colour and the fried diced butternut squash and add some wine to get it going.

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Once the wine is absorbed, gradually add your butternut squash stock – risotto style – ladle at a time until each ladle is absorbed. This took around 30 minutes for me.

Once the barley is to your liking (I like mine to have some bite) add the roasted squash (which you need to puree first) – and then some parmesan cheese (how much is up to you!).

I think this is a yummy, filling, wholesome dish which fills you up and leaves you full. I didn’t go overboard with the cheese – but you could if you wanted to – depends on how you like your risotto. I like mine to be a little sloppy and still have some of the liquid unabsorbed.

As I already said this dish is a little more labour intensive but it is worth it. Give it a go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smashed Pea, Dill and Feta Crostini

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I love green food. I love peas. Fresh peas. And this dish from Maria Ella’s ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ caught my eye whilst I was shortlisting things to make this week.

If you leave out the bread, this is a raw dish. No cooking. Very very simple. Toasting bread isn’t cooking anyway – unless you are one of those toast burners out there. So this really is a no cook dish.

It was another quite late dinner for us as I foolishly placed an Ocado delivery for 8pm. I chose this recipe because it was the quickest and I was hungry. Very quick to make this one!

You can make this in less than 10 minutes. And here’s how:

  • smash some garlic in a pestle and mortar
  • smash some dill and salt into the garlic
  • smash some fresh peas into mix
  • add olive oil, keep smashing
  • add lemon juice keep smashing
  • add parmesan and smash a bit more
  • add crumbled feta – ease off on the smashing
  • toast some ciabatta – try not to smash it
  • serve with some pea shoots on top – if you can find them

You want a texture a bit like this – rather than a massive mush!

Smashed Peas

One thing you must be careful not to do is watch the last five minutes of Season 4 Episode 8 of Game of Thrones whilst doing all this smashing. It just doesn’t sit well !

This is a great simple easy dish – looks lovely – tastes amazing – and you can adjust the amount of parmesan (or leave it out all together) if it’s too cheesy for you.

This was supposed to be a starter for us – but it was filling enough that we didn’t need to eat anymore.

I’m sure this will be one of those go to dishes when I’m time starved or just want a quick bite.