Flat bean and cous cous salad
There were quite a few leftover flat beans after last Friday’s then last Monday’s delivery runs so we’ve been having them every which way since then. Steamed  with a drizzle of olive oil, steamed and smothered with garlic butter (nom!), raw and chopped up small and tossed into salads with toasted seeds, with noodles and Parmesan for a mega quick dinner, Asian style with ginger dressings…. All good but this week’s recipe is still one of my favourite ways to eat them – in a  cous cous salad with some pan fried chorizo, a couple of handfuls of chickpeas, a really big handful of flatleaf parsley and, optionally, some crumbled feta.  It’s a dish that makes perfect sense to me, everything complements everything else and the result is so satisfying.
Toasted cous cous salad with flat beans, chickpeas and chorizoYou’ll need:280gr-300gr flat beans (about what you have in your bag this week) topped and tailed1 cup cous cous

1 onion finely chopped

A piece of chorizo 3 inches long

1/2 tin (a large handful) chickpeas)

A bunch flat leaf parsley

Olive oil

Lemon juice

Red wine vinegar

Begin by cooking your beans. Cut them in three so you have pieces about an inch and a half long. Drop into boiling water and cook until tender. Drain, rinse under cold water and set aside.

Prepare 1 cup of cous cous. My method involves toasting the grains on a dry (i.e.. no oil) frying pan over a medium heat and this gives them a lovely nutty flavour which adds to your final dish. When they start to turn golden add 2 cups of hot water, turn off the heat and stir until all the water is absorbed and the cous cous is cooked adding more water if necessary. If you find the grains are still undercooked simply turn on the heat again, add more water and cook until absorbed and the grains are done.

Add the chickpeas and onion and mix through the still warm cous cous. Season and set aside.

Roughly chop the chorizo and gently sauté in a little olive oil for a few minutes before adding the beans. Toss everything over a medium heat for another minute then mix into the cous cous making sure to get as much of the chorizo oil from the pan as possible. Dress with a little olive oil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar to taste.

Just before serving roughly chop the parsley and add that in. This dish is great on it’s own is also beautiful served with fish or eggs (I’m thinking omelettes and quiches rather than sunny side up though!)

Enjoy,

Sarah

Chicken with spinach

Absolutely everyone loves a curry. It’s weird -people who won’t eat local food in places like Spain and Portugal will all eat curry. In our house anything curried goes down a storm even with the kids who moan about the tiniest bit of ginger making their juice “too spicy!”. And it doesn’t have to be fancy either. Got loads of random stuff at the back of the fridge and don’t fancy soup? Make curry instead. Now, I’m no expert and most of my curries are, shall we say, on the not very authentic side but somehow they always seem turn out ok.

From some cooking I did alongside an Indian girl in Barcelona I know that a good way to start is with lots of slowcooked onions which is pretty much how I start most dishes. I sweat these in plenty of rapeseed or coconut oil over a low heat til they start to go mushy then throw in lots of garlic (not only because it tastes good but because it’s so good for you). Keeping cooking until the garlic softens then add a pre-mixed curry powder (I’m currently working my way through a tin of Madras but it’s whatever you fancy) along with a little chilli for extra fire. Normally I then throw in a few chopped tomatoes (a tin will also work fine) and cook these down a bit before adding some coconut milk (told you this wasn’t kosher!)

While all this is going on, I’m furiously peeling and chopping what, in any other dish would be a waaaay too random selection of veg – parsnip, carrot,cabbage (red, white and green) celery, fennel, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, spuds……pretty much anything works. In they go and I’m onto rinsing a tin of chickpeas. These get thrown in with some water or stock then it’s sit back and let things cook. If I’m using greens, they go in at the end as do courgettes and broccoli (they go to mush otherwise) and I’m also partial to a handful of sultanas at this stage. Serve with rice and some chutney and pickles – we’re enjoying a lime one from M&S at the moment that one of you recommended (thanks Penelope). Easy, peasy, lasts well in the fridge and it rocks the next day for lunch with flatbread.

When it comes to the real thing, I’ve always found Indian food to be such a complex mix of spices and flavours that unless I pay very close attention to a recipe book I usually don’t have a clue where to start so I tend not to bother with it unless I’ve got lots of time (so that means never at the moment). Plus, there are usually so many spices required that I’m frustrated before I start (when I’m ready to cook, I’m ready to cook). Paul is the one with the patience/OCD tendencies for all that assembling of ingredients and precision grinding of spices. He also does a mean matchstick of pretty much any root veg but I warn you – bring snacks because dinner’s at midnight.

Recently, Indian cooking guru MadhurJaffrey completely changed this for good when she brought out Curry Easy, a book that seeks to do the previously unthinkable – simplify and speed up Indian cooking. She says herself that over the years (she’s now in her seventies) her cooking had changed and that some of the processes she’d previously considered essential she has recently discovered can be done in different ways. So, instead of cooking for hours  there’s lots of marinating to really let the flavours sink in before you even start. There are also fewer spices (well, usually 6 or 7 but not the 10 -15 that you find in her other books) so there’s less faffing around. I feel like I’m starting to understand how to build Indian flavours without a recipe and I find myself using more in other cooking.

We’ve been cooking our way through this book for a while and everything we’ve made has been amazing. First of all, we tried the Chicken Karhai with Mint which involved marinating everything overnight then simply frying it up and it was superb. We served it alongside Aubergines with Tomatoes which were also great. After that we were hooked. Standouts so far have been Chicken with apricots, Masala fish steaks and the green lamb curry.

spinach leaves

I have earmarked this week’s spinach in from Denis Healy in Wicklow for one our favourite dishes from the book which I’m going to share with you –  Chicken with spinach.  I haven’t changed anything except lower the quantity of oil used. It’s very quick and fantastically moreish.This recipe feeds 2 with leftovers.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Chicken with Spinach

3 chicken legs separated into drumsticks and thighs weighing about 1k in total

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium onion roughly chopped

2.5cm/1 inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 tablespoon sweet red paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons olive/ rapeseed oil

1 x 5cm/2 inch cinnamon

4 cardamom pods

150g/ 5 oz spinach, chopped

Spread out the chicken pieces and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and lots of black pepper on both sides

Put the onions, garlic, ginger, paprika and cayenne in the food processor and chop all the ingredients as finely as possible taking care not to allow things to go to mush.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok. Add the cinnamon and cardamon letting them sizzle for a few seconds before adding as much of the chicken as will fit in a single layer. Brown the chicken pieces on both sides then remove to a bowl leaving the spices behind. When all the chicken is cooked add the onion mix to the pan and fry for about 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated taking care to stir as you go so thing don’t stick and burn. Add the spinach and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the chicken, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 12oml/4 fl oz water. Bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat then gently simmer for about 30 minutes. Any excess fat can be removed before serving with boiled basmati and nan bread

Enjoy!

This week  there’s also celery in our selections and I notice how Guardian columnist Yotan Ottolenghi has been using the leaves and inner tender stalks for salads a lot recently. Last Saturday’s Avocado, radish and celery salad with spiced croutons and lime is on my to-make list for this week – sounds fab right? Our larger bags have radishes from the Healys and I’m hoping to secure enough for all our bags next week.

Have a brilliant week,

Sarah

We’re into September and it’s that  in-between time vegwise. There are still lots of courgettes, tomatoes and peppers around but the earthier varieties are starting to appear. New season carrots, butternuts and this week parsnips. The weather’s a bit in-betweeny aswell. One minute splitting the stones, the next blustery with showers. You don’t know whether to fire up the barbecue or make soup! I’m not ready for soup, it’d be like admitting what’s to come and I’m still in denial. 

This week’s salad is with ramiro pepper (soon to be a thing of seasons past) and parsnips (a definite taste of things to come). I roasted both then tossed them with chickpeas and added a dash of vinegar to give a little bite to all that sweetness. The pesto with some parsley, garlic and pinenuts was really just a kind of a kind of chunky dressing. I ate mine with cous cous but I think rice would work and it’s a dish that’s crying out to be served with lamb……..

A salad of roast parsnips, red peppers and chickpeas with a garlic and parsley pesto

You’ll need:

700gr parsnips

1 red pepper (ramiro or bell)

1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds

Olive oil

A handful chickpeas (about 100gr)

Red wine vinegar

The pesto:

A large handful parsley destemmed and roughly chopped

1 fat clove garlic roughly chopped

8(ish) tablespoons olive oil

1 heaped tablespoon pinenuts

A generous pinch Maldon salt crushed

Begin by slicing the pepper into strips. Toss them into a roasting dish with some olive oil and then into a medium oven (Gas mark 5) for about 30 minutes. Peel the parsnips and cut to the size of chunky chips. Bring to the boil, drain then toss in olive oil in a second dish along with the cumin. Put the parsnips into the oven alongside the peppers. Roast the lot for another half an hour. You can get on with the pesto by either blasting all the ingredients in a small blender or pounding everything with a morter and pestle.You don’t want it too smooth so doing it by hand works well.

When the 30 minutes are up check the veg. The peppers will definitely be ready but if the parsnips haven’t changed colour give them a few more minutes to turn a nice golden brown. When they’re ready toss with the peppers and chickpeas. Dress with some crushed Maldon and a little red wine vinegar. You don’t need oil as there’s already some on them from the roasting.

To serve either mix the pesto through the salad or serve it alongside as I did.

Apart from beetroot (which most most people come round to when they learn how good it is  roasted) celery is possibly one of the least loved of all the veggies we (very occasionally!!) put in our bags. While it does make good soup (amazing with Cashel Blue toasts) salads and can be braised (in white wine with a Gruyere topping) to very good effect it really prefers to take a back seat in the kitchen. Celery, you see,  is what’s called a flavour builder.  Used, a stick or two at a time, it gives depth to pretty much any sauce, soup or stew. In France, along with onion and carrot it’s part of the holy trinity known as Mirepoix- diced up and fried in butter (what else?) it’s the starting point of a millon dishes. They do the same in Italy although they saute in olive oil and in the markets it’s very common to see sticks of celery for sale instead whole heads and this makes a lot of sense because generally that’s all you really need. Luckily it lasts well so as long as you don’t forget it’s in the fridge you can use it up over time. Try adding it to any dishes you’re cooking over the next while and see if you notice a difference… Read the rest of this entry »

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