Real good ‘baked’ beans

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Foxtel, no doubt facing somewhat stiffer competition and in a bid to lessen customer leakage, has loosened things up a bit.

So what for many years has been, for us, a basic + sport package is now a basic + sport + just-about-everything-else-except-movies.

Truth to tell we’re not that impressed – if anything, the increase of futile channel surfing may actually push us closer to pulling the plug.

And the food line-up seems particularly awful at the moment.

But I did see one interesting bit at the weekend.

It was a show purportedly about British pub food but I wasn’t paying too much attention – book in hand, mute on, music playing.

And it stayed that way even when the dude started making baked beans.

I could see what he was up to, though, and thought: “Hey, I can do that!”

I’ve attempted baked beans in the past with no great success – the outcomes have been quite edible but have been more like a bean stew than your actual baked beans.

This one worked!

I made some changes – I used worcestershire sauce instead of red wine vinegar and I threw in a finely grated carrot.

When Bennie saw these in the pot, he said: “That looks weird!”

When he was eating them, he said: “Mmmm … these are good!”

A few days later, he was specifically requesting the frozen leftovers for dinner.

So from here on, in our home they’ll be referred to as “Bennie’s Beans”!

 

INGREDIENTS

2 cups dried cannellini beans (tinned beans are a shabby substitute).

3 rashers bacon

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 finely grated carrot

1 tablespoon worecestershire sauce

salt

pepper

 

METHOD

1. Soak beans overnight and cook next day in plenty of water until done; drain and set aside.

2. Finely chop bacon and fry off in plenty of oil.

3. Lower heat and throw in finely copped onion and finely chopped or grated garlic; cook until tender.

4. Add tomatoes, 1 can of water, tomato paste, worecestershire sauce, finely grated carrot, salt, pepper.

5. Stir until all the elements are blended in; cook on low heat for about half an hour.

6. Add beans and cook on low heat for another hour.

7. Serve on toasted good-quality sourdough.

8. Eat.

Lentils, rice, yum …

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khichdi3

Indian rice ‘n’ lentil khichdi

There are variations on this dish scattered through our various Indian cookbooks.

But I’ve never felt inspired to give any of them a go, mostly because they all seem quite complex.

Then I found this recipe at the wonderful blog Peri’s Spice Ladle, which I would describe as contemporary Indian with some American touches.

This khichdi is much more to our taste, more like the simple dals we prefer, very easy and enjoyable to make, and super healthy.

According to Peri, the consistency of this dish varies across India, but I already knew how we were going to like it … sloppy.

Like a very wet risotto.

Or a very thick congee.

Or like grits minus the monumental boredom factor.

And I reckon this would work wonders with young children normally suspicious of anything Indian, let alone anything even a little weird.

The range of vegetables you can add is pretty much unlimited, but add things such as potato or carrot real early on and things such as our peas very late.

We halved the recipe for just us two – double up on everything for the full deal.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup basmati rice

1/2 cup moong dal

canola oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 garlic cloves

1 inch piece ginger

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons butter

1/2 cup frozen peas

METHOD

1. Rinse and soak lentils and rice together in 3 1/2 cups of water.

2. Finely chop garlic, grate ginger and pound or whizz them together into a wet paste.

4. Heat oil then fry paste, cumin seeds and turmeric for about a minute. Watch they don’t stick!

5. Add lentils, rice and water.

6. Mix together and bring to boil.

7. Lower heat, cover and cook for about 20-25 minutes.

8. Stir briskly a couple of times near the end of cooking time.

9. Add peas, salt and butter fives minutes before end of cooking time.

10. Eat.

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Chick pea ‘n’ bean salad with smoked paprika

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salad2

This was inspired by a dip I bought for an at-desk work lunch.

I quite liked the oily tomato-based dip with harissa and smashed beans and chick peas.

But it had a nasty edge – as so many store-bought dips do.

So my immediate thought was: “OK, I can do better than this at home.”

So I did.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup of cannellini beans and 1/2 cup of chick peas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender.

ripe tomatoes – quantity equal to the combined pulses. If you don’t have very ripe tomatoes, make something else, as the tom juice is crucial.

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped.

salt.

pepper.

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika. Don’t spoil the salad by overdoing it.

heaps of extra virgin olive oil.

juice of one lemon.

METHOD

1. Combine all ingredients in the order listed. It should be really gloopy – almost like a really thick soup. And if some of the pulses get smashed in the process, so much the better.

2. Let sit for  couple of hours.

3. Gently re-mix and add even more olive oil

4. Eat.

We had this by itself as a light dinner with lavash bread.

But I reckon it’d be good with snags or grilled meat or fish.

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Shorbat adas

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Based on numerous comments on previous posts, I know there are pulse fans among the regular visitors to Consider The Sauce.

And among those, there are those who have their favourite uses for red lentils – be they dals or soups.

Well listen up – I hope you all try this killer recipe.

It may not supplant your favourite recipe(s), but it’ll impress everyone for sure.

Like everything I’m cooking at the moment, this recipe – slightly customised – comes from Nawal Nasrallah’s awesome Irqai cookbook, Delights From The Garden Of Eden.

She calls this lentil brew “the mother of all soups”, and it’s the bestest, tastiest lentil soup recipe I’ve ever cooked.

Funny thing – I used to be a bit sniffy about using curry powder. Too many lingering memories from childhood (sausages and sultanas), I suppose.

These days, I’m much more relaxed about using good-quality curry powders sourced from any of the many Indian grocers in our world.

In this case, the small amount of powder used means the soup does not taste of curry – or curry powder.

Rather, in combination with the other seasonings, it imparts a deep, rich and rather mysterious earthiness.

The addition of flour after frying the onions is the direct opposite of what I’m used to when cooking New Orleans or cajun dishes, in which a usually very dark roux is made and the vegetables then added.

No matter – the effect is similar, although that step could be omitted entirely as not a lot of flour is used.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups red lentils

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 noodle nests or equivalent amount of broken-up pasta

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 heaping teaspoon plain or wholemeal flour

1/4 cup lemon juice

chopped parsley

METHOD

1. Wash lentils and place in pot with 10 cups of water. Bring to boil and cook until done – about 30-45 minutes. Don’t worry, it’s pretty much impossible to overcook them – you’ll just end up with a different texture, that’s all.

2. When lentils are close to fully cooked, heat oil to low-medium and fry onions until a deep golden brown. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Stir frequently.

3. As onions are cooking, add to the lentils the pepper, salt, tomato paste, turmeric and curry powder. Keep on a very low heat and stir gently until the paste and seasonings are well integrated.

4. Also crunch/crumble noodle nests into the soup – doing this feels really cool!

5. Cook soup for about another 15 minutes or until noodles are soft.

6. About five minutes before noodles are soft, add flour to onions and continue to cook over a low-medium heat, stirring often. Cook for about five minutes or until flour is the same golden colour as the onions.

7. Slop a couple of ladles of soup mixture into onion pan, swirl around to loosen all the flour and return pan contents to soup.

8. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.

9. Add lemon juice, mix in.

10. Place soup in bowls, garnish with parsley.

11. Inhale.

Chick pea salad

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Like most folks, I’d normally use chorizo sausage when making this sort of salad.

But I just happened to have a segment of the superb Polish sausage available at Slavonija Continental Butchers in St Albans, so …

As with so many dishes, this can be made ahead of time. In fact, it needs some time – a few hours at least – for the flavours to combine properly.

But avoid refrigerating unless saving leftovers for the next day.

INGREDIENTS

About half a cup of dried chick peas, soaked overnight

Sausage – chorizo or Polish

Two small tomatoes

Small Lebanese cucumber

About a quarter of a small red onion

Flat-leaf parsley

Small amount of lemon zest

Lemon juice

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

METHOD

1. Boil chick peas until soft; drain and let cool at least a bit.

2. Slice and fry sausage in a little olive oil. Later use pan juices to fry pita bread for eating with salad.

3. Put sausage in with chick peas in a bowl.

4. Slice and chop cucumber, chop tomatoes, add both to the salad. Best to find a balance in which the pieces are a bit bigger than the chick peas – but not too much bigger.

5. Slice slivers of red onion and place in salad.

6. Roughly chop about a quarter of a cup of parsley and throw in salad.

7. Season with salt, pepper, lemon zest.

8. Dress with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. This salad requires a lot of dressing.

9. Let stand for at least a couple of hours.

10. Eat with pan-fried pita bread.

11. Try to avoid getting sausage grease on computer keyboard.

Minestrone

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It’s winter for sure.

The freezer is more or less empty.

It’s time for a great big pot of goodness called minestrone.

Bennie’s not a fan, but I sure am.

Oddly, this Italian soup’s ingredients overlap with a variety of other dishes we make at home, but it is quite different from them all.

Minestrone is minestrone and they’re not.

I’m sometimes tempted to order minestrone when out and about.

But mine is better.

If there’s one Italian dish I do that could be called authentic, this is it.

Anyone who makes this soup knows that it’s better allowed to cool and then reheated. It’s even better the next day.

And, somewhat surprisingly, it does freeze well. Just leave out the pasta and be gentle in the reheating and it’s fine.

Many recipes tell cooks to use stock. Go ahead. I don’t bother with it these days – unless there’s some already at hand. Certainly, don’t buy stock. Water is fine!

Flicking through the various Italian cookbooks I use, pondering which minestrone recipe to follow, I finally say to myself: “This is ridiculous – I know how to cook this!”

So I do!

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil

1 large onion

1 large carrot

2 celery sticks, leaves and all

flat-leaf parsley for cooking

2 courgettes (I have decided to use this term from here on in, because I can never remember how to spell zuch … whatever …)

1 good handful of green beans

1/2 small savoy cabbage

2 medium spuds

1/2 can cannellini beans, or 1/2 cup dry beans soaked overnight.

1 can tinned tomatoes

1 stubby dried-up heel of grana padano or parmesan

Salt

Pepper

1 small handful of short pasta or broken up bits of long pasta

Parsley for serving

Extra virgin olive oil for serving

Padano/parmesan cheese for serving

Good bread for serving

METHOD

1. Chop onion, carrot, celery and parsley – not too big, not too small. Throw in pot with plenty of olive oil and cook on medium heat until wilted.

2. Add spuds, courgettes, green beans – chopped likewise.

3. Add beans and chopped up tin tomatoes and their juices. These beans had been soaked overnight but not cooked before being added to the soup. They cook fine and tender in the time it takes for the whole soup to come together.

4. Add cheese heel.

5. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Add enough water/stock to cover by about an inch.

7. Cover and cook on a slow simmer for about an hour or an hour and a half.

8. Turn heat off and let soup cool for several hours if you have them available.

9. Reheat gently.

10. Add pasta 10 minutes or so before serving.

11. When pasta is cooked, ladle into bowls.

12. Garnish with more chopped parsley, drizzle with virgin olive oil and grate cheese over all if using.

13. Serve with some great bread on the side, grilled/toasted if you prefer.

Chick pea stew

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This unusual dish is a slightly tweaked version of the recipe found in Michele Sicolone’s 1,000 Italian Recipes.

Sadly, she doesn’t say where it comes from – it has all the hallmarks of some sort of regional food.

You could call such a dish homely or rustic.

You could also call it unappealing or even ugly.

I’ve found with such dishes that the trimmings – some chopped parsley, grated Italian cheese, VOO drizzled when the stew is in the bowl, good bread on the side – make all the difference.

Of course, it tastes better than it looks.

Plain but yummy …

INGREDIENTS

2 cups chick peas,

1 head silverbeet

1 onion

1 clove garlic

salt

pepper

virgin olive oil

parsley

METHOD

1. Soak chick peas over night

2. Next day, boil chick peas in enough water to cover until cooked, drain but keep cooking water.

3. Strip silverbeet leaves from stems.

At this point, the recipe is unclear whether, when it comes time to cooking the silverbeet,  it should be dry or still holding water from being rinsed.

In this case, the silverbeet is definitely gritty and in need of a wash, so … water it is.

4. Chop onion semi-finely. Peel garlic but do not chop.

5. Fry onion and garlic until golden – about 10 minutes.

6. Add shredded silverbeet and cook for 10 minutes until wilted.

7. Add chick peas and enough of the cooking to cover and then a bit more.

8. Add salt, pepper.

9. Cook and cover for 30 minutes.

10. By this time, some of the chick peas will have started to disintegrate. Mash some more of them with your wooden spoon against the side of the pot.

10. Throw in chopped parsley, turn off the heat and let the stew rest for five minutes

11. Place in bowls and drizzle with olive oil.

12. Eat.

Sadly, unlike many of the other pulse dishes we cook, this one doesn’t freeze well at all.

As we eat, I can tell Bennie isn’t digging on this – I presume because it isn’t the most kid-friendly stew going around.

“In actual fact,” he says, “it’s because I’m not exactly keen on chick peas …”

Sheesh – and here’s me thinking I know my own kid!

I dunno – maybe he did and now he doesn’t.

He does, however, dig on the fact it doesn’t freeze well!