Monthly Archives: November 2012

Pindi Channa – Chickpeas and Pomegranate


I first ate this dish sitting on rooftop in Jodphur in Rajastan, India.

I was blown away by the fresh sweet explosions of the pomegranate seeds served on top of the chickpea dal, it looked amazing too. The bright pink jewel like pomegranate seeds glistening on top of the brown chickpea stew, It certainly elevates what can look like – we’re not talking taste here – a rather pedestrian looking dish to something that’s quite exotic. The chickpeas are cooked with tomatoes and tamarind and the tamarind gives a lovely sour twist, the perfect complement to the pomegranate seedsImage

It’s pomegranate season now and the pomegranate sitting in our fruit basket inspired tonights dinner. It is so easy to make and quite a taste sensation. We ate it with basmati rice, tomato and red onions, sliced, and seasoned with a little salt and lemon juice and some thick creamy yoghurt. Yum!

Pindi Channa

500g cooked chickpeas or 2 cans rinsed and drained

1 tsp tamarind concemtrate

100mls hot water

25mls vegetable oil

250g onions, peeled and chopped

5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

25g fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 tsp turmeric

1-2 chillie, chopped

1 can tomatoes, chopped

1 heaped tsp toasted cummin seeds

1 heaped tsp garam masala

1 pomegranate

a handful of fresh coriander

Put the teaspoon of tamarind concentrate into 100mls of hot water and stir until it has dissolved.

Put a small dry pan on the heat and gently toast the cummin seeds until they lightly brown and become aromatic. Put aside to cool.

Heat a saucepan and add the vegetable oil and the chopped onions, season with a little salt and cook without browning for about ten minutes. Stir in the chopped garlic, chilli and ginger. Cook gently for a few minutes then stir in the turmeric. Add in the can of tomatoes, the toasted cummin seeds and the tamarind juice, mix everything together and cook for fifteen minutes. Just before serving stir in the garam masala and add more salt if needed. Roll the pomegranate around on the table or a chopping board, using a little pressure with the palm of your hand to loosen the seeds then cut it in half and tip the seeds out into a sieve. pick out any bits of menmbrane and drain off excess juice – you can drink the juice. Serve the dal with the pomegranate seeds and chopped coriander on top.


A Large Lunch

We often have a large lunch on a Sunday. We eat it very late. It’s a bit of a throw back to when we had the restaurant and we used to sit down and eat the ‘scraps’ when all the customers had left.

Sunday lunch for us never begins before five and can be as late as six or seven by the time guest arrive and we sit down. Technically it could be called dinner but we still call it lunch as we operate a two meal only policy on Sundays. A large breakfast and a large lunch.

Yesterdays lunch was big on root vegetables and pumpkins.

We started off with roasted pumpkin on grilled polenta and salad leaves with borlotti beans and toasted pumpkin seeds with a pumpkin seed oil and a pomegranate  dressing. The dressing was divine. We were given a bottle of the most amazing toasted pumpkin oil from Austria by one of our woofas last summer (thank-you Lucas) and I whisked that together with white balsamic vinegar and the juice from the pomegranate.

The second course was a beetroot risotto. I love beetroot risotto, the wacky colour alone brings a smile to everyones faces.We ate it with roasted parsnips and carrots.We have discovered that we have enormous parsnips in our garden so I roasted some of those along with some carrots and dressed them with a little maple syrup when they came out of the oven. The earthy sweetness of the beetroot went alongside the maple parsnips very well. The photo is rather messy as I had the bright idea of economising with the washing up and eatening the main course off the starter plates. Not such a pretty vision I think I’ll make more effort next time!

Dessert was a seductive truffley chocolate cake. It was bought by one of the guests and was delicious.We managed to polish most of of it off. I don’t know where we put it all!

Here’s the recipe for the beetroot risotto

Beetroot Risotto

2 medium onions

4-5 medium beetroots

25g butter

25ml olive oil

400g Arborio rice

1 glass white wine

About 1.25 litres hot vegetable stock

100g parmesan cheese

handful flat leaf parsly.

Peel and chop the onions. Melt the butter together in a pan and add the onions. As soon as the onions begin to sizzle season with a little salt and  turn the heat down. Cook gently for about 7 minutes. The onions should soften, not brown.

Peel the beetroots and cut into a fairly small dice then stir into the onions. Season with a little salt and cook for a further ten minutes, giving occasional stirs.

Add the Arborio rice to the vegetables and give a good stir, then add the glass of white wine. Allow the wine to bubble up and reduce then add a small amount of the hot vegetable stock. Cook for a couple of minutes then start adding the stock ladle by ladle. Stirring between additions. Keep the rice cooking, so that you can visibly see action but not like a volcano. The rice will be cooked after 15=20 minutes, Check and maybe add more stock, or water if you’re out of stock. If the rice has the slightest bite to it, take it off the heat and beat in the Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkle of chopped flat leaf parsley

Gin and Tonic Tasting

Gin bars are popping up in Barcelona. Gin and tonics aren’t new but there are now bars with an enormous variety of gins and lots of tonics to try.

The oldest gin bar in Barcelona the XIXBAR has more than thirty gins on offer,and is close by to where I am staying. There is an extensive menu using gins from all over the world and about half a dozen tonics. Not all the drinks on offer use tonic, there are plenty of other options including a blue gin made  with a dash of curacao which looks pretty wacky.

Being a gin and tonic officinado myself, tasting the tonics seemed like a do-able plan, with the most chance of survival. Half a dozen tonics versus thirty odd gins seemed the safer option

So  we decided to focus on the tonics. and see how much impact they had on our enjoyment. This all became a little hazy – not the enjoyment but the subleties of the tonic if we drank more than one at once. This is of course is partly due to the generous measures dispensed in the bars which has also lead to a new discovery that you’re meant to tell the bar tender when to stop pouring. This is obviously why we have been drinking such whopping great gin and tonics over the years..

The tasting panel consisted of myself, A Catalan and A Pregnant Lady which really gave the tonic an open rating as it wasn’t occluded by gin.

Some of the tasting was done at home and some in the bars

Here are our findings.Score are from 1-5, 5 being the top rating and price taken into consideration

Feverfew Indian Tonic -price €5.40 for 4 bottles of 200mls

We thought this was a bit lemonady and gave a score of 2 . We weren’t influenced by the fact that Adria Ferran apparently drinks this!!

Fentimans Tonic -price €5.70 for 4 bottles of 200mls

A herby, bitter and tasty tonic. very nice for a change, scored 4 but was downgraded to 3 with the price consideration

Q Tonic -not sure of the price per bottle as we tasted this in the XIXBAR but probably similar to Fentimans

On our tonic research we had discovered that Q Tonic still uses quinine – most tonics use an artificial substitute as it’s cheaper- and had expected to excite our tastebuds but it tasted disappointingly ordinary and it got a score of 2

Tonica Catalana price €1.40 for 250mls

There was definitely enough tonic to make a whopping g and t in this bottle. It was fresh, a little bitter and not too sweet. We gave it a score of 4 – the Catalan was especially enthusiastic with a 5 but could be somewhat biased!

Blue Tonic

This was one of the XIXBAR creations. It looked spectacular and was lovingly prepared. First a lime skin was scraped over the ice, the rim of the glass was rubbed with lime juice and then then plenty of ice cubes were added. The gin was poured in – this was the moment in our education that the stop pouring instruction was discovered – and then the tonic. It looked spectacular and tasted very good. It got a score of 5 but cost a fortune so was downgraded to 4

Schweppes Tonic price €1.50 for 1 litre

The consensus was that this makes a jolly good g and t, not too sweet with a zing to it. This scored 3.5 but was upgraded to 4 with the price consideration!

At the end of the day, Schweppes tonic certainly does the trick and the other tonics are definitely fun to try but we think that there is an essential procedure for making gin and tonics and this has as much bearing as the gin or the tonic.

The glass needs to be large, preferably long and there must be plenty of ice and lemon. In fact enormous ice cubes really upgrade the drink. It’s a bit like blanching in reverse. Instead of having a huge pot of boiling water so that the temperature doesn’t plummet, huge ice cubes chill the drink without melting and making it watery. And of course  good company and sunshine will always upgrade the experience!

Beans with Pumpkin and Clams

Spain is full of beans, this much I have discovered walking through garden allotments just out side of Barcelona.There are rows of bean structures dotted here and there, in-between all the other veggies. with all the foliage dying back and  the beans dangling there, waiting to be picked. I had a moment of bean envy as we can’t grow beans that way in Ireland, it’s far too cold and wet to grow beans for drying.

The  beans that are grown in Spain are not only eaten green earlier in the summer, they are also dried in the pods on the plants in the autumn and then harvested. I think they are probably enjoyed more as harvested beans than the fresh green kind. The Spanish kitchen is very good in the bean department and  beans are in soups, stews with chorizo etc.,and also with seafood . Any of these these combinations are a delicious way to make little go along way.

The seafood combo is something that I enjoy and last night we cooked beans with pumpkin and clams.

If you can’t get your hands on any clams, mussels make a good substitute

Here’s the recipe

250g white beans -cannelini or butterbean – soaked in cold water overnight

500g pumpkin or butternut squash

1 onion- peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic – peeled and chopped

1 glass white wine

75mls olive oil

a good pinch of saffron

500mls – 700mls vegetable stock – use the liquid from cooking the beans and top up with water

500g clams

a handful fresh parsley – chopped

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. the next day drain the beans and put them in a saucepan. Cover them with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Turn to a low simmer and cover with a lid.

Cook for about  forty minutes or until they are tender.

Put the saffron in a small bowl and cover with boiling water, leave aside to infuse.

Heat a fairly large saucepan then put enough olive oil into a pan to cover the bottom and add the chopped onions.Let these sizzle away whilst you peel and chop the pumpkin but don’t let them brown.

Peel the pumpkin and chop into equal sized chunks – about 2cms. Add the chopped garlic to the pan with the onions, give them a stir then add the pumpkin chunks and a little salt and pepper. Cook the pumpkin gently for about fifteen minutes then add a glass of white wine and about 500mls of stock and the saffron infusion..Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about fifteen minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Stir in the beans and let them heat through.Don’t finish the seasoniing until the clams have been stirred in as they will be a little salty

Put the clams into a large pot with a splotch of white wine. Turn the heat to high, cover with a lid and give a good few shakes. The clams are ready as soon as they open, this only takes a few minutes.

Stir the clams and the cooking juices into the pumpkin and beans, taste to check the seasoning and add more salt if you fancy.

Serve with a little chopped parsley