Archive for the 'Beans and pulses' Category

Chickpeas and spinach with honeyed sweet potato

April 15, 2010

 

I imagine if someone ever decided to conduct a scientific study into recipe reading habits, I would make a good subject. I’m sure that there are areas of my brain that light up when I come across certain words. If there was a graph of my brainwaves, there would be peaks whenever I register them, a conditioned response, and the words would most definitely include ‘chickpeas’, ‘honey’ and the combination of ‘sweet’ and ‘potato’. It’s probable that reading three of more of these words in one recipe title sets off some unconscious brain trigger that makes it impossible for me not to make said item.

So, yes, I couldn’t resist this. The first sentence of its introduction in the book is “Don’t be put of by what may seem like a carbohydrate overkill”. As if! I think I may also have a Pavlovian response to excessive carbohydrate, because I ate this with bread.

Chickpeas and spinach with honeyed sweet potato  Serves 2-4

Despite referring to it as a vegetarian main course, the original recipe states that it serves 6-8, which is clearly madness. I’d say it serves two if that’s all there is, or 4 as a side dish.

200g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked for about 1 hour (or use a standard 400g tin)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
100g baby spinach leaves (or use 200g frozen leaf spinach, defrosted)
10g coriander leaves, for garnish
salt and pepper

For the sweet potato:
500g sweet potatoes (about 2 medium-large)
700ml water
50g unsalted butter
4 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt

For the yoghurt sauce:
100g Greek yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
1-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried mint

Slice the sweet potatoes into 2.5cm pieces. You can peel them first, but I didn’t bother. Put them in a saucepan with the remaining sweet potato ingredients. Don’t worry if it seems like a lot of butter, as most of it will stay in the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Most of the liquid should have been absorbed, though I found I had quite a lot left. You can add some into the tomato sauce if you like.

While the sweet potatoes are simmering, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the onion, cumin seeds and coriander seeds. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato puree, cook for a minute, stirring, then add the tin of tomatoes, the ground cumin and the sugar. You may want to add half the sugar at first and taste – I think mine was a little too sweet with the full teaspoon. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes over a medium heat and then season to taste.

Stir the spinach and chickpeas (drained and rinsed if you used a tin) into the tomato sauce. Cook for a further 5 minutes and check the seasoning again.

Make the yoghurt sauce by whisking together all of the ingredients and seasoning with salt and pepper. Use as much olive oil as you think it needs – I didn’t go for the full 3 tbsp and I also held back on the lemon a bit.

To serve, spoon the warm chickpeas into a serving dish, arrange the sweet potato slices on top and garnish with the coriander leaves. Spoon the yoghurt sauce on top or serve on the side. You may be able to spot my mistakes from the photo – sweet potato on the bottom and I left my yoghurt in the fridge and completely forgot to serve it at all. Don’t do this.

From Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s ‘Ottolenghi’.

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Pasta e ceci

April 7, 2010

I’m back from Edinburgh, where the weather was surprisingly nice, actually, and the food was a bit hit and miss, though we were staying on the same street as a cheese shop which went some way to remedying that. We ate the most amazing nutty goat’s cheese but carelessly forgot to remember what it was called, so all we know is that it comes in black wax and is a bit like gouda. Next to the cheese shop was a shop selling strange alcoholic substances in giant tanks and we went in and asked them to decant us some somerset pomona and an elderberry and port liqueur. “Is this a present for someone who likes cheese, by any chance?” the shop lady asked. Er, yes. Us.

I also got quite excited in a shop called ‘I Heart Candy’ which had an entire display table dedicated to licorice. And we managed to spend over £7 on four marinated artichoke hearts in the Valvona & Crolla deli. Over seven whole pounds. On a small part of a vegetable. We savoured them later in Carlisle train station’s waiting room as we waited for our second crowded railway service replacement bus.

So, I’m back, and I was meant to be meeting friends for dinner at Jamie’s Italian tonight, but it got cancelled so I didn’t get to eat my favourite thing from the menu, which is the slow braised balsamic chickpeas. Instead I made this, and it should really come as no surprise that I liked it a lot. It’s somewhere between a soup and a stew, thick and rustic, and it’s the kind of simple tasting thing that you feel like you could happily carry on eating until you’re very, very full. It feels quite fortifying, as if you should be eating it after a bracing walk or when recovering from illness.  Even in good health, I’d rather have eaten this than several of the overpriced restaurant meals I ate last week, and I’d still have money left over for artichokes.

Pasta e ceci (pasta with chickpeas)  Serves 2-4

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
a sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped (I used thyme because I had it, but I love the combination of chickpeas and rosemary so can imagine it would be even better)
2 x 400g tins chickpeas
500ml chicken stock or vegetable stock
100g small pasta shapes (I used macaroni)
salt and pepper
small handful of basil or parsley, leaves picked and torn (optional)

Put the onion, celery, rosemary and garlic into a pan with a little olive oil over the lowest possible heat. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not coloured.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them to the pan. Pour on the stock and cook gently, covered, for half an hour. Remove half the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and set aside while you puree the remaining soup with a hand blender (or in a food processor if you don’t have a hand blender). Add the reserved chickpeas back to the pan with the pasta, season, and simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes until the pasta is cooked. Watch that the soup doesn’t start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add water if necessary to get the desired consistency – I didn’t add much as I like soup to be thick. Check the seasoning.

Serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with basil or parsley if you have it.

From Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Italy’.

Sussex pie

March 26, 2010

Sussex pie – which I’ll admit I’d never heard of – is a variant of shepherd’s pie where the meat is bulked out with lentils, but this is a vegetarian all-lentil version. In our house we had shepherd’s pie on a regular basis to use up the lamb after a roast, as is traditional. And while I do enjoy good shepherd’s pie once in a while, in order to really spend a week eating all of the things I used to eat when I was younger, I would have had to have eaten a lot of meat, and that’s just not how I roll these days. So, a compromise. This is super cheap, filling, and also pretty good for you. It’s not the most photogenic meal, but when spring gives you thunder and lightning storms you can be glad you’ve got a pie in the oven.

A further bonus is that this pie uses a small amount of beer, so you will be obliged to finish the rest of the can/bottle, which gives you something to do while it’s in the oven.

Sussex pie  Serves 2

If you’re not vegetarian, feel free to add any leftover meat to the recipe.

1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 sticks celery, finely sliced (too much, I’d say use 1 stick)
1 carrot, diced
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped (I used a thyme sprig)
100g lentils (the basic green ones are good for this)
500ml vegetable stock
150ml beer (preferably bitter)
350g potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with a little milk and butter

Heat the oil in a large pan. If you have a casserole dish that goes in the oven and on the hob, use that. Gently fry the onion, garlic, celery, carrot and thyme or rosemary until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the lentils and stir to mix. Pour in the stock and beer and leave at a low simmer for about 30 minutes. The lentils should be done, but if they’re not, you can always add a little more water. Season.

Arrange the mashed potato over the lentil mixture, transferring everything to an oven-proof dish if you need to. It’s good to use a fork for this, so you get those little fork-tine marks that go all crusty. If your mashed potato is recently made and still hot, you can just put the whole lot under the grill to brown the potato and eat straight away, otherwise heat the oven fairly hot, about 220c, and put the pie in until the top turns brown – about 20 minutes.

From Tom Norrington-Davies’ ‘Just Like Mother Used To Make’.

Gujarati dal

March 15, 2010

I realise that I have already probably far exceeded the normal quota of bean recipes in the short time that this blog’s been running, but I haven’t actually written up a straightforward dal. And this seems to me like an oversight. Dal is so good – just a big plateful on its own is a fantastic cheap dinner, with chappatis or rice, sometimes hard-boiled eggs, sometimes just yoghurt – but it’s also one of the best side dishes ever. Knowing that I have a tupperware of dal tucked away in the fridge makes me look forward to mealtimes more. I actually made this recipe twice this week, and apparently it serves 6-8 people, so that’s a potential 16 helpings of dal in total. And I only live with one other person (and a cat, but he prefers fish-shaped biscuits).

I would normally fall back on Madhur Jaffrey for a recipe like this, and initially this dal seemed a little fussy with its giant list of ingredients (although it’s still essentially just boiling lentils and adding spices so it’s not exactly back-breaking work.)  Strangely, the first time I made it I used mung dal and thought it was okay, but the second time I was out of mung dal so I used toor dal and thought it was brilliant. I’m not sure if there was some magic scientific ratio of surface lentil size to spice absorption going on, or if it was just coincidence, but I thought I should pass it on.

Gujarati dal  Serves 6-8, or 3-4 if you eat it in the quantities I do

I halved the quantities of water asked for as I like my dal like I like my porridge: wallpaper paste thick. Add more if you prefer a soupy dal.

350g mung dal or toor dal
675ml water
1 tbsp sunflower oil or ghee
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp hing (asafoetida)
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp brown rice syrup
1 1/2 tsp lime or lemon juice
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

The book asks you to soak your mung for 2 hours, but I didn’t bother.

Heat the oil or ghee in a large saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the dal, water and all of the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and cook until the dal is soft and the liquid has reduced to the consistency you like – from around half an hour to an hour.

*Note: fine for all doshas.

Adapted from Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai’s ‘The Ayurvedic Cookbook’.

Ginger mung sprouts

March 10, 2010

I’m still very much in love with my ghee. It smells amazing – so much so that one of the first things I said to Tom when he walked through the door the other day was, “smell my ghee!” He thinks it smells like cake, and it does have a particularly entrancing caramelized sugar smell. I can’t wait to bake something with it.

But from butter to beansprouts we go (could this be the name of my first cookbook? From butter to beansprouts? On second thoughts, maybe it’s more of a sub-title). I’ve written before about sprouting your own mung beans, but I often find myself with more than I need and it pains me to see them wither having tended them so carefully over the course of days. The problem is, the slightly grassy fresh taste becomes a bit overwhelmingly roughage-like in large quantities.

I was vaguely aware that you could cook them, but never really considered it until I saw this recipe. Ayurveda is like the antithesis of the raw food movement – almost everything should be cooked; raw food is cooling in quality and can be difficult to digest (this is also held to be true in Traditional Chinese Medicine). This particular recipe also included ginger and almonds, two of my favourite ingredients. To make things even easier, my local farmer’s market was selling big packs of sprouted seeds, so I picked one up at the weekend and I was ready to go.

We had this with dal, rice and potatoes: a slightly odd contrast, but I liked it.

Ginger mung sprouts  Serves 4 as a side salad

1 400g bag of sprouted mung beans (or any other sprouted beans). About 50g dry beans will give you 400g when sprouted.
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp tamari/soy sauce
1 tbsp sunflower oil (I didn’t have any so used British rapeseed oil)
1 tsp honey
handful of almonds (you could also used flaked almonds and/or toast the almonds beforehand)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok. When hot, tip in the sprouts and ginger. Stir fry for 2 minutes over a medium-high heat. Pour over the soy sauce, mix well and add the almonds. Stir fry for a further minute. Take off the heat, stir through the honey, and serve.

*Note: this is fine for all doshas, though pitta should omit the honey.

From Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai’s ‘The Ayurvedic Cookbook’.

Falafel

January 27, 2010

Please excuse me, I haven’t introduced this week’s book yet. It’s not much of a looker, with its hideous seventies photography and odd choice of cover image, but I took pity on it in a book shop in Hay-on-Wye last year, because I was in a good mood and because middle eastern food is my favourite, so how exactly was I meant to resist a book called ‘The Complete Middle East Cookbook’? And it’s nothing if not ambitious, covering Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel and the Gulf States (that’s Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, thanks Wikipedia).

I started the week by making a huge batch of rice and lentils (a bit like this, but without the pasta). Then today, I made falafel, because I didn’t really feel like branching out into uncharted middle eastern food territory when I’m already pretty certain that falafel are one of the best culinary creations of all time. Of the several recipes for falafel (turns out a lot of those countries actually have quite similar diets) I went with the one from Israel, because it seemed the simplest. I had to adapt it to omit the bulgur wheat, because apparently I’d run out, but I can’t say I missed it. I also baked the falafel instead of deep frying them, because I don’t go in for unnecessary deep frying as a rule. It makes them a bit less authentic, but they get a nice crisp crust which I like.

Served with rice and lentils from one of the Gulf States, yoghurt with cucumber and sultanas from Iran, and tahini sauce from Lebanon/Syria/Jordan. A Middle East feast.

Falafel  Makes about 14

One tin of chickpeas, or equivalent weight soaked and cooked dried chickpeas
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
black pepper

Heat the oven to 180c.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and mix until combined into a rough paste. Add a little water, just until the mixture is soft enough to be squeezed into a ball. Check the seasoning. Shape the mix into small balls each about the size of a walnut and place them on a baking tray drizzled with oil. Trickle a little more oil over the top and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. That’s it!

Adapted from Tess Mallos’ ‘The Complete Middle East Cookbook’ (that’s not the version I have, by the way, the photo on that cover is almost nice).

Corn, bean and pumpkin stew

January 20, 2010

This week, our featured book is ‘The Greens Cook Book’. Greens is a legendary (in the US, at least) vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco and one of the first things I noticed about the book, published in 1987, is that it really has dated extremely well. OK, there is one chapter on timbales. But apart from that, it heavily features pasta, pizza, mexican flavours, imaginative soups; there’s a lot of advice on vegetarian menu planning and matching wine with vegetarian food, hinting at a time when vegetarianism was still new and exciting, but none of the recipes would look out of place if the book were to be published today. It makes you wonder why mushroom risotto and goat’s cheese salad are still the default vegetarian options at many restaurants over 20 years later.

I once visited Greens. I was in San Francisco for work, and so my visit was somewhat hampered by the awkwardness of dining alone, but I do remember walking a really long way and eating the most heavenly vegan chocolate cake. It definitely involved caramel, or coconut, or both, but either way it’s not in the book.

So, in the absence of chocolate caramel coconut cake, I present you with this stew. Not quite the same, but it is probably much better for you. It’s big and hearty and designed for eating from large bowls, a cross between a soup and a stew. It’s almost sweet, a little bit spicy, a hearteningly colourful slurp of warmth. The first time, I ate it with a generous scattering of coriander, but for lunch today I stirred in a spoonful of babaghanoush, on a whim, and that really worked. Smokiness is good here. Next time, I’m looking forward to crumbling over some goat’s cheese feta I have in the fridge.

Corn, bean and pumpkin stew  Serves 4-6

I made this with one chilli and added in a bit of merken, which is a smoky, spicey mix I picked up in Chile. If you want the heat to be a bit more pronounced, use more chillies and/or add in cayenne pepper with the spices.

1 tin pinto beans (other beans would be fine: black-eyed, kidney, black beans etc.)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
300g frozen sweetcorn, defrosted, or 1 tin sweetcorn (or 3 ears fresh corn)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp oregano
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp paprika (I used regular, but I now think smoked would be good here)
500ml vegetable stock
1 winter squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (I have no idea what sort of squash mine was, but it weighed just over 1kg when peeled and deseeded)
1-2 chillies, seeded and finely chopped
coriander or parsley, for garnish

Toast the cumin seeds in a hot frying pan until they smell fragrant – watch to make sure they don’t burn. Add the oregano, stir for 5 seconds and transfer the spices to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the cloves and grind to a powder.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion over a high heat for 1 minute. Lower the heat, add the garlic, spices, paprika, cinnamon stick and salt. Here’s where you might want to add in your own choice of extra spices. Stir well to combine, then add 1/4 of the stock and cook until the onion is soft. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the squash and most of the rest of the stock. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is softened but not quite done.

Add the corn, beans and fresh chillies, and thin with more stock if necessary. Cook until the squash is tender. Mine was already falling apart at this point, so I left it there. Check the seasonings and serve with your choice of garnish.

Adapted from Deborah Madison’s ‘The Greens Cook Book: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine’.

Sweet yellow lentil dahl

January 19, 2010

Now, that might look like a picture of a bowl of soup. A pretty orangey coloured soup, butternut squash maybe, with a dollop of sour cream? No. What that is, in fact, is a sweet yellow lentil dahl. Yes, like the thing you get with your curry, but in dessert form. As someone who likes lentils very, very much, imagine how delighted I was to find the opportunity for another entire course of lentil. Very delighted, is the answer.

For the less lentil enthused, I argue thus: here is where the blandness of the lentil really works in its favour. It provides a formless, starchy mush, which may not sound appealing, but basically it’s exactly the same job that rice plays in rice pudding only it’s nicely pastel hued. It’s the kind of food you might feel like giving to invalids. There’s a whisper of cardamom, but the great sticky hit of condensed milk prevents it from being in any way elegant. The yoghurt is for contrast – trust me, on first bite it might not seem that sweet, but a few mouthfuls in and – ah, there you go.

Sweet yellow lentil dhal  Serves 4

A quick note about lentilly things: I used the tiny yellow moong dal here, the split and hulled version of a mung bean. It mushes down well, I find, because of its diminutive size. However, I feel that the recipe may have had a larger legume in mind because the quantities of water given were far too much and took ages to absorb. I’d say start with a ratio of twice as much water to lentil and top up if necessary.  

I halved these quantities, which you may do also, if you want to use the other half of the condensed milk to make baked yoghurt.

1 mug of yellow lentils
2-5 mugs water
6 whole cardamom pods
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp sultanas
1 x 397g tin condensed milk
natural yoghurt, to serve

Place the lentils, water, cardamom and ginger in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 50 minutes with the lid off. The time may vary depending on your lentils, but all the water should be absorbed and the lentils should be soft to the bite. The recipe instructs you here to mash them so the lentils are half-pureed, but mine were really soft, not mashable, more like a savoury dahl.

Add the sultanas and condensed milk and warm for a further 10 minutes on a low heat. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt.

Adapted from Rosie Lovell’s ‘Spooning With Rosie’.

Spiced lentil dinner

January 5, 2010

I have not been feeling very adventurous of late. In a food sense, I mean. There were many things I could have made from this book: piroshki, blintzes, and, I even wrote this one on my list, ‘eggplant rollatini’, a dish consisting of aubergine slices with a mushroom and tahini sauce among other things. But what has actually been made have been variations on common themes around here: baked beans with rum and molasses (not as nice as it sounded; too sickly), tofu with sesame noodles (OK). What’s more, Tom had to make them as I was cruelly struck down with a cold that left me desperately clutching a tissue in my champagne-less hand on New Year’s Eve and too self-pitying and weak to do anything much for a few days after. Also, my sense of smell, and hence taste, had deserted me so eating wasn’t much fun anyway.

When I was feeling a bit perkier, yesterday, I suggested making Mollie’s Spiced Lentil Dinner. Oh, predictable me. It has date and orange chutney, I informed Tom. ‘Ew’ he said. Or something more eloquent. It has apple in it too.  ‘Middle class curry!’  he exclaimed in horror. He has been irrevocably scarred by early curry experiences involving fruit. I ignored him, but it was for his own good. He had seconds, and he particularly liked the chutney. Oh yes. In no way is this an authentic Indian dish, no dispute about that, but in its own strange way it is damn tasty.

Spiced lentil dinner  Serves 4-6

There’s also a raita included in Mollie’s dinner (with bell pepper in it, for some reason). I had some red cabbage to use up, so I shredded that with some grated carrot, toasted almonds and a dressing made with sour cream and olive oil. It used up a few odds and ends, but a proper raita with thick yoghurt, chopped cucumber and mint might be nice here.

For the date and orange chutney:
1 orange, peeled and chopped quite small
1 x 250g pack dates, pitted and chopped
1 heaped tsp finely chopped ginger
100ml water
100ml cider vinegar
(optional: raisins and cayenne pepper – I didn’t bother)

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Partially cover and cook over a medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Cool and refrigerate (keeps for several weeks).

For the chappatis:
140g plain flour
140g wholewheat flour (I used chappati flour, because I had some)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp poppyseeds (I substituted black sesame seeds)
150ml water (perhaps a bit less, as this is a conversion from cup measurements)
melted butter, to serve (optional)

Set aside a quarter of the white flour. Combine the remaining flour with the salt and seeds in a bowl and stir to mix. Add the water and stir until it’s absorbed and a dough is formed. Turn it out onto a surface dusted with the set aside flour and knead for 5 minutes, using more of the reserved flour as necessary.

Divide the dough into 8 round balls (Mollie suggests 10 for smaller, but I think they’re better quite big).  Roll each ball out on the floured surface, making them very thin. You can refrigerate them now until time to eat, if you like – I suggest putting greaseproof paper between each one so they don’t stick, although generally my dough was quite well behaved.

To cook the chappatis, heat a large frying pan and lay in each chappati in turn, cooking for about a minute on each side. When done, brown spots should appear. You can also use a wad of kitchen paper to press down on the dough and make it puff up. Brush the cooked chapattis with melted butter, if you like. You can keep the chappatis warm wrapped in a tea towel or in a low oven until ready to serve.

For the spiced lentils:
300g lentils (I used toor dal, just because)
2 tbsp butter
2 large clove of garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tsp salt
200g desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
black pepper
juice from 1 large lemon
2 apples, chopped
cayenne pepper, to taste

Cook the lentils in 500ml water in a covered pan until tender. You may need to add more water if they start to boil dry before they’re done. Cooking time depends on what sort of lentil or pulse you use, but generally about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put everything else except for the apples in a large frying pan and stir until tender, adding water if necessary to stop it sticking.

Add the apples to frying pan and cook for 10 more minutes, covered, and then tip the whole lot into the lentil pan (or vice versa). Mix and keep warm in the oven if necessary.

Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s ‘The Enchanted Broccoli Forest: And Other Timeless Delicacies’.

Baked beans with Nigerian seasonings

December 16, 2009

I finish work on Friday, and I’m counting down to the hour, if not the minute, the second, the millisecond. Anyone would think I wasn’t coming back again two weeks later – from where I stand, January is a foreign country. And I have now officially eaten my first turkey of the year, in the form of bacon-wrapped turkey escalopes at our annual Christmas lunch in the canteen today, so let the festivities begin! However, exciting as this all may be, a girl can’t eat party food all the time. And what’s less party like, in the nicest sense, than baked beans?

There are three recipes for baked beans in ‘World Vegetarian’: two Greek in origin, and this one, which I like because it has peanut butter in it.  Although I think I’ve probably made them all at one time or another, because you can’t go wrong with baked beans. Of course, this is not a substitute for opening a tin of beans for beans on toast (I like the Whole Earth ones for that), it’s an entirely different beast – not to say that you couldn’t pile these on toast. It will take several hours of your time, but it’s not actually very labour intensive, you just have to be around. It will make your kitchen nice and warm for you and you can potter off and do some yoga, or prepare nibbles for people coming over for Christmas drinks, or crack on with that Christmas baking.

Baked beans with Nigerian seasonings  Serves 4, with sides

I picked up a handy tip in the section of this book entitled ‘dried beans, dried peas, lentils and nuts’. That is, if you forget to soak your dried beans overnight, you can use the quick-soak method: put the beans in a pan, cover them with cold water (it should be 13cm deep if you want to be precise) and bring to the boil. Boil for two minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit for at least an hour, or as long as you have. You can then proceed with the recipe.

190g dried cannellini or haricot beans, or any other medium-sized white beans, soaked overnight or using the quick-soak method above
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, halved and finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp curry powder (any one you like)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
1 1/4 tsp salt
black pepper

Put the soaked beans in a pan with 1 1/2 pints water and bring to the boil. Partly cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are just tender.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a casserole dish – one that can go on the hob and in the oven – over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the curry powder. Now add the tomatoes and simmer for 7-10 minutes. Take off the heat until the beans are ready.

Preheat the oven to 170c.

When the beans are done, remove about 6 tbsp of their cooking liquid and mix it with the peanut butter in a small cup or bowl. Empty this into the casserole with the beans and any remaining cooking liquid. Stir in the salt and lots of black pepper. Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours – the recipe tells you to leave it uncovered, but mine dried out a bit, so bear this in mind depending on how much liquid was left in your beans.

Serve with bread, salads and cheese.

Adapted from ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian’.