Category Archives: dairy free

The Magic of Beans

I’m a bit of a bean freak and each year we grow a variety of beans in our garden. French beans, borlotti beans, angel beans, coca beans, dwarf beans…. and most years each of these produces enough beans for us to enjoy but no way overwhelm us but the runner beans exceed all expectations. They love the Irish climate.

Picking them is like magic. You walk one way along the row, picking beans until you think you’ve got them all then you turn around and walk back the other way and they reappear. Next thing you have a bucketful. 

When I was a kid we ate a lot of runner beans simply cooked as a side vegetable. This would go on for weeks. Lots of beans and no variation in cooking method. I like runner beans but they did lose their appeal.

We now cook them in many different ways but the preparation always has to begin with stringing the beans. There is a ‘string’ on either side of a runner bean which needs to be removed. My mum used to do this with a paring knife which is effective but a vegetable peeler is faster and more fun. Just top and tail the bean then zip down each side with a vegetable peeler and the string falls away.

Here’s a recipe for pancakes that I found in my odd recipe file when searching for runner bean ideas. It’s adapted from a recipe by Claire Thompson which was in the Guardian years ago. The pancakes have a definite Asian hum and make an easy and tasty treat which I’d happily eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I made this recipe early one morning to check it out and it was like having breakfast in India.

Runner Bean Pancakes

350g runner beans

170g gram flour

300mls chilled sparkling water

1tsp salt

1tsp turmeric

1tsp garam masala

1-2 chillies

2-3 cloves garlic

4 spring onions

1tsp nigella seeds

1tsp black mustard seeds

Oil to fry

Put a large pot of water to boil. Add a little salt

String the beans then slice thinly on the diagonal. When the water boils add the beans then cook for 2 minutes. Drain and refresh the beans in cold water to stop them from cooking further then drain and put aside.

Peel and chop the garlic and chop the chillies.

Chop the spring onions. Keep a few green bits aside for the garnish

Sift the gram flour, turmeric and garam masala into a bowl then  stir in the salt and the sparkling water 

Heat a small frying pan, add little oil, ¼ tsp mustard seeds and ¼ tsp nigella seeds then enough enough runner beans to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook on a medium high heat for two minutes then add ¼ of the chopped garlic, ¼ of the spring onions and ¼ of the chillies. Cook for 2 minutes more then pour over enough batter to just cover the beans. Put a few extra beans in any gaps. Cook on a medium heat for 3  minutes or until lightly browned then flip the pancake. The easiest way to flip this pancake is to hold the pan with dry tea towel, put a small plate on top of the pancake then flip it over onto the plate then slip the pancake back into the pan. Cook the other side until golden then put on one side. Repeat  the procedure 3 more times.

Delicious hot or cold with fresh tomato salsa on the side

Fresh Tomato and Chilli Salsa

2 big ripe tomatoes

1 small red onion

1-2 chillies

Juice ½ lemon

A small bunch fresh coriander

Salt

Cut the tomato in half and remove most of the seeds then dice quite small

Peel the onion and chop very finely

Peel and chop the garlic finely

Chop the coriander.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl. Mix gently and season with a little salt


Welcome Bounty

The Azores High brought great excitement and good weather to West Cork in July. For ten days it was like living in the Mediterranean. The beaches were packed and the sea full of people bobbing about, a rare and delightful sight. Families were moving in with plastic bathtubs full of picnic and kit and I felt I had been transported to another country. It began to feel the norm to get up and put my shorts on at every opportunity until the day the rain returned.

Inchydony beach at 8 o’clock in the evening

The culmination of the heatwave with the torrential rain was welcomed by gardeners and farmers alike and the courgettes sighed a breath of relief. For a vegetable that has a sunny reputation it needs a lot of water to happily produce. I have lived here for so long that I really should not be surprised about this nor how late it is before they arrive in abundance. And I must concede that everything seems happier with a little less heat and more water. I’d happily stand in the sunshine watering the garden but it’s not the same as a good dump of rain. All in all the garden is good, first sunshine and then rain seems to have done the trick, it’s all looking very green and happy

August brings home gardeners to the ultimate eat everything you have grown moment. After patiently waiting, weeding and watering there’s a rush on the ripening front. Peas, beans, kales, salads, fennel, beetroots, spuds, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, apricots, raspberries, blueberries. We’re drowning in some kind of food nirvana!

Here is a recipe from our friend Elisa of Syros in Greece which we enjoy this time of the year. 

Gemista, which means ‘filled with’ in Greek, are ripe vegetables stuffed with rice and herbs then baked with potato wedges and olive oil. Tomatoes, peppers and courgettes all enjoy this treatment. It’s an ideal recipe to make for sharing, perfect for a big family dinner or entertaining. Once the vegetable preparation is done the dish goes into the oven for an hour, then comes to out relax for at least 30 minutes before serving. In Greece this dish is not served hot. Letting everything sit allows the juices to settle and flavours develop.

The tomatoes are very important in this recipe as it’s the juice of the tomato that cooks the rice. Big fat tomatoes are the ones to look out for. It doesn’t matter if they are misshapen or ugly as long as they are big. If you don’t grow your own or have a friend or relative that might share some with you try the farmers markets, failing that the supermarkets sell big tomatoes. As a general rule the more local the tomato, the tastier it will be.

This recipe makes enough for six hungry people but is easy to scale back if you would like to make less

Gemista – Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers

6 large ripe tomatoes

6 small bell peppers

6 onions

12tbs arborio rice

50g pine nuts

50g currants

150mls olive oil

bunch parsley

bunch of mint

6 medium/large waxy potatoes

Cut the tops off the tomatoes with a small sharp knife and scoop out the seeds and the flesh with a spoon without tearing the tomato. Put the tomato tops and the empty tomatoes aside.

Roughly chop the flesh and seeds, keeping all the juices as far as possible then put into a bowl. 

Cut the tops from the peppers, take out the seeds then put the peppers and tops aside

Peel and finely chop the onions. Heat a large frying pan, add enough oil to generously cover the bottom and when it’s hot add the onions. Cook on a medium heat, without browning, until the onions soften. Season with a little salt. Add the pine nuts and currants, cook for a couple of minutes more then add the rice, tomato juice and flesh and season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat. Chop the herbs and stir in then leave to cool.

Pre heat the oven 180c

Fill the tomatoes and peppers loosely with the mix and put the tops back on.

Place in an oven proof baking tray with high sides that will accommodate the vegetables snuggly.

Peel the potatoes and cut into wedges. Jam these in between the tomatoes and peppers. Drizzle everything generously with olive oil.

Bake for about 1 hour, until the tomatoes and peppers are soft and lightly charred.

Leave them to relax for 30 minutes before serving.


A Little Sunny Crunch

Winter slaws are the business when you crave something to give yourself a boost, They are bright and crunchy and made with vegetables that don’t mind wintery weather.No need to use fragile jetlagged vegetables as local seasonal vegetables are perfect to shred and dress. The bright oranges, greens and purples are like sunshine in a bowl.

The key ingredients for a slaw are usually some kind of cabbage – red or green and then whatever you have or fancy in the line of  fennel, beetroots, carrots, radishes, onions, endive etc. Apples, oranges, mangoes and pears also make good additions as do toasted nuts and seeds . They can be dressed with vinaigrettes or creamy mayonnaise. The options are endless so you can let your imagination go riot. 

This recipe is for a simple slaw that I made today from our vegetable basket and the remaining red cabbage in the garden. Salting the cabbage briefly makes the cabbage sweat and the juices run, softening the cabbage to a delightful succulent crunch. Ditto with the fennel.

Half a small red cabbage

1 fennel bulb

1 red onion

1 pear

1tsp sugar

2tbs white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

Salt

1tsp Dijon mustard

100mls olive oil

Finely shred the red cabbage – discard the core. Sprinkle it with a little salt, toss well then leave it aside for 10 – 15 minutes. 

Finely slice the fennel and toss with a little salt. Leave aside for 10 – 15minutes

Peel and finely slice the red onion, sprinkle a little salt over then massage until the rings separate. Put the sugar into a bowl, whisk in the vinegar then toss the onions in the mix. Leave aside for 10-15 minutes

Peel and chop the pear.

Put the cabbage onto a clean cloth or kitchen roll then dry well to remove excess liquid and salt, tip into a bowl the repeat the process with the fennel.

Put all the vegetables except for the onions into a big bowl.

Drain the pickling liquid from the onions and use this as  a base for the vinaigrette

Add the onions to the big bowl.

Whisk a teaspoon of Dijon mustard into the onion vinegar then slowly whisk in the olive oil

Pour the dressing over the vegetables then toss everything together. 

The slaw is ready to eat but it’ll also sit happily in the fridge for a day or two.


Blow Your Socks Off Lemon Chilli Sauce

I have finally taken the lemon drop chillies out of the bucket they were sitting so prettily in and am converting them to chilli sauce.

Half are sitting fermenting on the kitchen counter and the rest I made into chilli sauce yesterday

It was quite an epic heat ride.

I chopped the stalks from the lemon drop chillies, peeled red onion and garlic and put them into a saucepan with enough water to cover them, bought them to the boil then simmered for fifteen minutes.

After draining them I buzzed them in the food processor until they were smooth. I made the mistake of taking a good sniff of the salsa to enjoy the aroma – it blew me across the room.

The initial tasting was soooo hot that realistically not many people were going to eat it. I added a mango hoping it would stretch the heat but it didn’t seem to have much effect. I then sieved the sauce in the hope that removing the seeds would do the trick.

Wooo, still extremely hot !

I then incrementally added in

light muscovado sugar ,

honey,

white balsamic vinegar

another mango

and we finally seemed to be smoothing out the edges.

Phew I was getting worried!

It’s a chilli sauce to use with caution but perfect for chilli heads – like good habanero sauce and it’s a fab colour!

I’m not sure what to do with the fermenting chillies …. any ideas?


Pumpkin, Harry’s Nut Butter and Tamarind

We have a shed full of pumpkins to eat.

They were damaged by last weeks freezing weather. We don’t often get freezing weather here in West Cork and by the time we thought of the pumpkins it was too late so it’s pumpkin in everything right now.

Today’s soup was livened up by a couple of spoonfuls of Harry’s Nut Butter and a swirl of tamarind.

HNB is an Irish addiction made by the aforementioned Harry with nuts (obv) that’s slightly sweet, kind of salty and a little bit spicy and lifts the soup to a ‘where am I’ level. If you don’t have access to HNB tart up some peanut or cashew butter with a little smoked paprika, maple syrup and tamari or even miso. Actually the possibilities are endless…..

Pumpkin Soup with HNB and Tamarind

1 onion – peeled and chopped

75mls olive oil

1-2 stems celery – diced

500-600g pumpkin – peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic – peeled and finely chopped

200g diced tomatoes or half a can chopped tomatoes

2tbs red lentils ( heaped not level)

750mls stock

2 generous tbs HNB or PB

1 tbs tamarind

salt and pepper

Heat a medium/large saucepan, add the olive oil and chopped onions. Give them a stir then turn the heat to medium.

Cut the celery into quarters lengthwise then chop into a dice. Stir in with th onions.

Peel the pumpkin and chop into a rough dice – doesn’t need to be too small. Add to the pot and stir well. Season with a little salt. Cook for five minutes without browning then add the chopped garlic, stir for a minute or two then add in the tomatoes. If you’re using fresh tomatoes let them cook down. If you are using canned just stir them in . Add the vegetable stock and the red lentils. Taste, season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the nut butter and tamarind and mix well.

Buzz the soup until smooth and check the seasoning.

Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche and chopped herbs – I have chervil right now but parsley or coriander would be good too.


Excited About Chickpeas

I’m not sure where the chickpeas we can usually obtain come from but generally they are old. Old and hard and take a very long time to cook so when I saw that the olive guys in our local Neighbourhood Food had imported chickpeas and pinto beans I had to try them.

I’m always on the lookout for good chickpeas – I’m possibly one of the only people that travel home from Spain with dried chickpeas in my bag. A true chickpea geek. Big fat chickpeas that only take 30-40 minutes to cook make me very happy. They obviously haven’t been sitting about in dusty depots for months on end.

I cooked some of the above prize chickpeas this morning after soaking them overnight. The weather was awful – torrential rain – it seemed pretty obvious that what we needed was warming sustenance so I made this dish. I’m never quite sure whether it’s a soup or a stew but the recipe is an old favourite. Sometimes I make it with spinach and sometimes with kale, depending on what I have and on the tomato front just use the best you have – fresh or canned. One thing is for sure – you will have a delicious bowl of bright nutrition to beat the rainy day blues.

And the new chickpeas cooked up a dream.

Chickpeas, Spinach and Coriander

250g dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight – or 2 cans

2 onions – peeled and finely chopped

100mls olive oil

2 stems celery- diced

3-4 carrots- peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic- peeled and finely chopped

1-2 chillies (Optional) – chopped finely

2 big tomatoes or 1 can – chopped

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

800mls vegetable stock/chickpea liquor

1 bunch spinach or kale – 2 big hanfdfuls when shredded

1 bunch fresh coriander – parsley or chervil work too if that’s what you have

salt and black pepper

Put the chickpeas to cook. Drain and cover with water. Bring to the boil then cover and turn to a simmer. Cook until tender – anything between 30 mins and 3 hours , depending on the vintage of your chickpeas. Take off the heat and reserve the cooking liquor.

Heat a large saucepan then add the olive oil and chopped onions followed by the celery and carrots . I chop and add in that order, adding a little salt as I go. Cook the vegetables on a medium heat until they begin to melt down but don’t brown.

Stir in the garlic and chilli, cook for a couple of minutes then stir in the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes melt down then add about 800mls reserved chickpea liquor or vegetable stock or a mix of the two. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. It’s up to you whether you eat this a s stew or soups add more stock if needed

This is when I popped up the garden and picked some spinach and chervil. The recipe does call for coriander but our coriander is in animated suspension at the moment but we do have a healthy amount of chervil Basically use what you have!

Wash the spinach and remove any thick stems then gather it up and chop into thin ribbons. Stir this into the pot, allow everything to return to the boil then take off of the heat. Taste and add salt and ground black pepper. I use a hand held blender to give the soup a couple of buzzes – very quickly – just enough to create a little background creaminess. Chop the herbs and stir in.

Admittedly this makes a large pot but I put a picture up on the family WhatsApp and it was soon devoured!

It’s ideal to share but it would also freeze well


Pea Days

I have a cameo memory from when I was young of sitting on the back doorstep shucking peas in the sunshine with my mum. Peas were super exciting then as although peas were available in cans all year round it was before the frozen pea revolution and canned peas were completely different to fresh peas. Fresh peas were a total treat when they arrived.

We grow peas in our garden. Just for us, not for the shop, because if we were paid to grow, pick and shuck the peas without a mechanised system they would be like gold.

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We just grow them to eat like sweeties when they first ripen and as the crop ripens we always make risi e bisi (a pea risotto) and summer vegetable pilafs, paellas and salads but after that we begin to scratch our heads and the peas keep coming. It’s a real grow your own phenomenon, the all or nothing syndrome and when the peas ripen they need eating as it’s obvious they should not go into the freezer.

This is new recipe that we’ve enjoyed this summer. It was inspired by a recipe from Spain called Tortillitas de Camarones which are crispy little fritters made with baby shrimp. Last autumn we visited Sanlucar de Barrameda in the very south of Spain and I have happy memories of bars where camarones were served as tapas on the terraces, usually with an accompanying glass of chilled manzanilla, the local sherry.

I became addicted to these thin crispy fritters and when I got home I tried to make my own. They weren’t quite the same and it wasn’t only the lack of sunshine that was missing  so I googled the problem and after reading many recipes and watching a particularly edifying YouTube tutorial I cracked it!

You might be wondering at this stage what this has to do with the peas, well I discovered they are an excellent addition to this recipe, either peas and shrimp or peas alone. Both work very well and the peas alone are suitable for vegans which is always a bonus.

There are couple of little tricks involved so read the recipe carefully before you begin.

Use a combination of gram flour and white rice flour if you want the fritters to be gluten-free. The water needs to be chilled and sparkling gives the best results

 

Pea fritters – Tortillitas de Guisantes

 

200g peas – fresh or defrosted

1 small onion

90g gram flour

40g white flour or rice flour

¼ tsp turmeric

A little lemon zest

1 tbs finely chopped parsley

Chilled sparkling water

Oil to fry

 

Pod or defrost the peas.

Sift the gram flour and regular flour or cornflour into a bowl. Add half teaspoon salt and turmeric. Stir to mix.

Peel and finely chop the onion small and finely chop the parsley. Zest a few swipes of lemon for the mix

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Put everything except for the water into the bowl and mix well then start stirring in the chilled water until the batter has a medium pouring consistency, like a crepe pancake mix or pouring cream.

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Heat 4cms oil in a frying pan or wide based saucepan and when it is hot add a tablespoon of the fritter mix, spread it a little with the spoon after it goes into the pan, spreading the fritter with the back of the spoon under surface of the oil., it should be bubbling just below the surface. You need to do this quickly. Repeat but don’t overcrowd the pan.

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Cook each side for 2-3 minutes, until golden. Lift onto kitchen paper then cook the next batch. It’s a good idea to stack the fritters like dishes so the oil drains off both sides.

Serve with lemon wedges

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Time for Chickpeas

This is a recipe from the ‘live to be one hundred’ collection. Revithnos is a chickpea soup from Sifnos in Greece.  It’s cooked slowly using just a few key ingredients – chickpeas, onion, olive oil, lemon and bay leaves. The slow cooking makes the chickpeas velvety soft in an emulsion of olive oil and onion which is brightened up with a squeeze of lemon juice. I seldom cook this dish as it takes a long time to cook but time is something we have plenty of at the moment. Although don’t confuse taking time with having to do a lot as after the initial cooking of the onions and bringing everything to the boil this more or less looks after itself.

Today’s revithnos did take a long time, especially as our Irish bought chickpeas must have been sitting in a warehouse for months if not years. I soaked them for 48 hours then cooked then for five hours by which time we were hungry and the dish was not ready so we resorted to blasting them in the pressure cooker for 10 minutes. They were good, softer would have been better but our appetites got in the way of culinary excellence.  Next time I will seek out fatter and younger chickpeas but I still love the simplicity of this dish and even old chickpeas make a richly satisfying  one pot wonder

Here’s the recipe although the cooking times are variable and it’s also possible to cook this entirely stovetop – or blast it in the pressure cooker if your hunger gets the better of you.

 

 

Revithnos – Chickpea Soup

 

350g chickpeas

150mls olive oil

2 large onions

2-4 cloves garlic

1 -2 bay leaves

big strip of orange peel – skin only

lemon juice

salt and pepper

water

a handful of parsley

 

Soak the chickpeas over night then drain well.

Peel the onions and garlic and chop finely.

Put the olive oil into a heavy pot and heat gently. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onions melt down but don’t let them brown. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook for a further two minutes then add the chickpeas , orange peeland bay leaf. Stir everything together for a few minutes then add enough water to cover everything by 2-3cm. Bring to the boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for one to one and a half hours or until the chickpeas are soft.

Stir in the juice of a lemon , add a little more water if it looks like it’s getting dry and season with a little salt. Pop the pot into a low oven , 150c, oven for an hour.

Serve with a little chopped parsley. 

 


Posh Carrot Salad

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This is just what we need at this time, carrot salad elevated to a vegan prawn cocktail status. It’s guaranteed to cheer up the day and boost our immune systems.

This is a rehash of a salad that we’ve been eating for years but re-assembled. The carrots and avocado are a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants and the toasted seeds provide omega 3’s and crunch.

I enjoy eating this dressed with a little vinaigrette but a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon juice would be good too.

 

1 ripe avocado

2 carrots

20g sunflower seeds

1 tsp soya sauce or tamari

1 tsp Dijon vinegar

1 tbs vinegar – your best

3-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Carefully split a just ripe avocado in half and remove the pit. Peel each half  – the skin should peel back with very little assistance with a knife. Just nick the skin with a knife and with a bit of luck the skin peel back by hand. Put each half in a small bowl.

Peel and grate the carrots then pile the carrots on the avocado

Heat a dry pan and gently toast the sunflower seeds then toss together with a little soya/tamari sauce.

Whisk the vinegar together with the vinegar using a fork then slowly whisk in the olive oil Season with a little salt or a few drops of soya/tamari sauce

Scatter the seeds over the carrots then drizzle over a little vinaigrette

Any left-over vinaigrette can be stored in the fridge – jam jars with lids or recycled mozzarella tubs work well here

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Home alone with Lemons

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I’ve been holed up with a box of lemons – literally. I inherited an entire box when we closed the shop this week because of the coronavirus and have been merrily making my way through it ever since.

I have a big kilner jar of pickled lemons , or should I say pickling lemons as they’re not ready to eat yet. I found the recipe in the Guardian, a lemon pickle to eat with samosas which required 25 birds eye chillies which I just happened to have in my chilli bucket.

IMG_7363We recently harvested the last of our chillies in our tunnel to make room for this years seeds and now we have quite some chillies to make our way through. The pickle sounds exciting  – lemons, chilli, nigella seeds, mustard seeds, oil , vinegar and what sounded like an alarming amount of salt – !00g salt and only 2tbs sugar.

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It has me curious. Anyways it’s going to take two weeks before I can try it so l have to be patient.

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The rest of the lemons, bar a couple held back for the gin and tonics, were finely sliced and left over night in water. I put them into a big pot today, added sugar and cooked them for more than an hour .They made the house smell a lot better than sanitiser!

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Here’s the recipe, scale it back to make less. I think one quarter would make a sensible family amount unless you are marmalade freaks. It  does taste seriously good. Lemony, sweet and sharp at the same time – just as marmalade should taste.

 

Lemon Marmalade

 

25 lemons

3.5 litres water

4kg sugar

about 20 clean jam jars

 

Wash the lemons well and slice very thinly with a sharp knife.

Put the lemon slices in a large bowl and cover with the water and leave overnight.

The next day, put everything into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer until the lemons are very tender, about one hour.

Put a small plate into the fridge or freezer to chill

Add the sugar to the pot and bring to the boil. Keep the marmalade at a rolling boil for about twenty to thirty minutes. Do not turn to a low simmer as the marmalade needs to reach 104c to set. You need to keep the heat as high as you can without boiling over so stay close by. Fish out any stray pips that float to the surface. To check whether the marmalade is ready to set put a spoonful of onto the chilled plate and leave for a few minutes then gently push your finger sideways on the surface. If the marmalade is ready to set small wrinkles will appear. If this doesn’t happen put another clean plate to chill and boil the marmalade for another five to ten minutes then try again. If it’s ready take the marmalade off the heat and let it rest for ten minutes. This will stop the peel from sinking to the bottom of the jars. Wash the jam jars well and put them in a hot oven for five minutes. This will sterilise the jars and also prevent them from cracking when they are filled with the hot marmalade. Wipe any spilt marmalade from the sides and top of the jars with a clean cloth and cover with clean lids whilst still hot.

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