Category Archives: Lentils & Beans

06Jul/15

Jiffy Fava Beans

Fava beans

If you’ve not tried Fava beans you’ve missed out big time!  I usually just buy Egyptian, Lebanese or Saudi style fava beans in tins as these are so quick and easy for lunch or as a side dish with some veg.  The other day it occurred to me that I had never actually tried buying plain fava beans in a tin and popping in some of my own flavours….this has now been remedied and here we are, fava beans in a jiffy and you can add whichever herb(s) you wish; thyme, marjoram, oregano, mint, parsley or coriander as I have in this recipe.

Goes well with the Maneesh (click here for the recipe) I also made the other day or cold with a green salad.

Maneesh(2)

Ingredients

1 tin of fava beans
1 medium onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin powder
A little chopped fresh coriander
Lemon juice

Method

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until golden
  2. Add turmeric and cumin powder and on low heat give it a quick stir or two
  3. Drain the beans and add to the onion mixture
  4. On low heat, stir the beans to blend with the spices for 3-4 minutes
  5. Sprinkle some fresh coriander and lemon juice
23May/15

Puy lentils with spinach

Green lentils spinach(2)

I love lentils and beans for obvious reasons and cook them very often, in one form or another because they are so versatile.  For those who don’t, do please try specially if you are vegan; they are a source of vital nutrition, vitamins, protein and fibre, specially if you use the lentils with the skins on, like green or brown lentils. Add a handful of spinach and voila! complete delicious meal served with steamed rice (link for rice) and a helping of your favourite salad.

I used French green lentils (smaller and speckled known as Puy) but you could use the usual slightly larger, lighter green lentils too.  Here is a link briefly explaining green lentils.  Puy lentils with spinach is so quick and simple; another reason to make it a regular feature on your menu.

Ingredients

150 grams Puy lentils (no need to soak)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
Little chilli powder (optional, I didn’t use any)
100 grams fresh or frozen spinach
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt
Tadka
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

  • Wash and cook the dal with all the spices and salt in 700ml water – about 30-35 minutes
  • When the lentils are cooked and the dal is thickish, add the spinach and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  • Adjust the consistency of the dal when you add the spinach – if you like it thinner, add a little more water
  • For tadka: Heat the oil and add cumin seeds. Give it 30 seconds and add onions and fry until golden
  • Pour fried onions and cumin on the dal and serve with rice – I made some aloo gobi too and dinner was served, with a flourish!

Aloo gobi dinner

 

13May/15

Lentil nuggets and curry sauce

Urad dal pakoras(3)

Not enough can be said to extol the virtues of lentils specially in a vegan/vegetarian diet.  They are full of nutrition and a source of protein and should be the mainstay of any vegan or vegetarian diet – they are so versatile and you lose out big time if you don’t get to know them intimately. There is a huge variety of lentils available and yet most of us don’t venture beyond orange lentils or mung beans.  Did you know that lentils without the skin taste completely different to lentils with the skin – for example, take the ubiquitous orange lentil – have you tried the very same with the skin? a very different story ……

Lentil nuggets are deliciously crunchy and so easy to make and yet for some reason had slipped off my repertoire – some things do and then one day it just appears on the radar, triggered by some unknown thought or action….who knows! Anyway, the other day I opened the cupboard to get my usual orange lentils out and spotted the jar of urad dal which I admit doesn’t get as much attention from me as the other lentils….and that is how it came to be.

Urad dal pakoras(2)

I forgot to soak the lentils overnight but 4 hours in luke warm water is enough and does the trick. As I was doing the nuggets as part of our evening meal, I decided to make a curry sauce with floating nuggets and you can see for yourself that it was a huge success – lentil nuggets are back on the menu!  For this curry sauce I used yogurt instead of tomatoes but there is nothing to stop you from adding a tablespoon or so of tomato puree.

Urad dal pakoras(6)

Urad dal is a sticky lentil so if you add a little to your regular orange lentil, it will give it a slightly gloopy texture – try it.  Lentil nuggets can be made with just urad dal or a 50/50 combination of urad and mung dal but I have used just urad for this recipe. Give it a go and you’ll see what I mean – it is so simple and the texture of the nuggets is firm and crunchy unlike pakoras made with gram flour (basan).

Makes about 15-16 nuggets

Ingredients

200 grams skinless urad dal (soak overnight in cold water or for 4 hours in warm water)
1 teaspoon onion granules
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ level teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
Oil to fry
Little chopped fresh coriander for garnish

Method

  • Rinse the soaked dal and grind in blender to a coarse, thick paste
  • Add all the ingredients and mix well

Urad dal pakoras

  • Gently form into small, golf size balls – the balls will be soft but that’s fine
  • Heat some oil in a small wok – about ¼ inch of oil
  • Fry the nuggets for 10 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Using 2 forks to turn them over works well for me
  • Serve with a sweet chutney or in a curry sauce (see below) and eat with rice

Curry sauce

Urad dal pakoras(5)

Ingredients

1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1½ inch piece ginger, minced or finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (available at all Asian stores or online – buy small packet as it goes a long way)
½ teaspoon paprika (for colour)
Little salt
100ml unsweetened natural yogurt (I used Sojade)

Method

  • Fry the onion in oil until golden
  • Mix all the spices with the yogurt and a little water and add to the onions
  • Fry the spices for about 6-7 minutes, adding small splashes of water if required
  • Add about 400ml of water and let the curry sauce simmer on low for about 20 minutes
  • Check the sauce for preferred consistency and add the urad dal nuggets and simmer for a further 5 minutes
  • Sprinkle the chopped coriander and serve with boiled rice
22Apr/15

Dal with Chiquino peppers

Dal with Chiquino peppers(2)

At last and a long time coming….I am now the proud owner of my first French, tin lined copper saute pan! Inaugural dish being something to do with potatoes!! So to put it to the test, I went ahead with a very French dish Pommes Anna and was amazed how quickly they cooked and the base was perfectly brown and hardly anything stuck to the pan!!  (Sorry, didn’t take pictures so will do a repeat soon!) Why did it take me so long to go down the copper pan route….the cost perhaps…..but I bought this one as a “second” in TK Maxx for £40 with very little wrong except for a tiny, tiny dent on the edge of the lid.  And here we are and I am the first to admit that it is a hard act to beat. Not only is it the most gorgeous, beautiful, glowing, aesthetic pan ( could go on but would be bordering on the ridiculous!), it cooks beautifully at very low temperatures and visually beats every other sort of pan I have used. I for one will never be looking back and am now a life-time member of the tin lined copper pan brigade!

As for dal….we have dal at least 2-3 times a week for its nutritious quality and also because there are so many varieties to choose from, each with its own unique taste and texture.  I always have at least 5-6 types of dals in my cupboard – they are all cheap and store very well and that way you are never at a loss and can produce a lovely dish in no time, specially the skinless variety, as this cooks very speedily.  And as I now have my very special copper pan, I had to try cooking dal in it – not perhaps quite the right sort of pan, but hey, gotta have a go.  It was unbelievable how quickly it cooked and on a very low temperature too and for some odd reason never once threatened to boil over; curious because dal usually does exactly that!

Most of us tend to use the ubiquitous orange lentil more than any other….it’s delicious, takes about 25 minutes to cook and will happily accommodate most vegetables.  Try adding spinach, carrots, sauteed leeks, fried shallots, green beans etc…the list is endless.  Adding vegetables is an excellent idea because this produces a meal-in-one-pot and all you need do is boil some rice to go with it – dinner is ready to go! And if you decide not to add a whole lot of veggies to your dal, simply rustle up this simple potato and onion dish ……. 

Potatoes with onion(2)

or a cauliflower bhaji to go with it ….

Cauliflower & sprouting broccoli

The other day I bought these pretty little sweet peppers called Chiquino from Tescos mostly because I couldn’t resist the gorgeous, vibrant colours and smooth glowing skin.  Added a few to the dal and saved some which I intend to stuff to go with a salad later and here they are…..don’t you agree they are gorgeous?

Chiquino peppers

Ingredients

1 cup orange lentils, rinsed
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 +1 tablespoons oil
1 large tomato, chopped
I teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ inch piece ginger, finely chopped
Few sweet Chiquino peppers (you could use the large bell variety & cut into long slices)
Salt to taste

Method

  • Fry the onion and cumin seeds in 2 tablespoons oil until the onion is golden brown
  • Add tomato, curry powder, turmeric, garlic and ginger and a little salt
  • Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring intermittently to avoid sticking
  • Add the washed lentils to the softened tomato and spices with 400ml of water
  • Cover and cook on low for about 25 minutes until lentils are cooked and the dal is thickish – if you prefer a thinner consistency, add a little more water and simmer for a further 5 minutes
  • With a sharp knife make a gash in the peppers and fry for about 3 minutes until nice and golden
  • Add to the dal and serve with plain rice

 

16Apr/15

Two bean cassoulet with butternut squash

Cassoulet with butternut squash

If you are a vegan like myself you will know all about beans and lentils and legumes…. not only how versatile they are, easy to prepare as most beans are available in tins and incredibly delicious and nutritious.  The variation of taste from one bean to the next, or lentils for that matter, is blessedly vast and I feel so humbled to have so much available to us to eat to our heart’s content and more.

I actually die the cassoulet as an aside!  What I really wanted and craved for dinner tonight was a big, fluffy, potato cake!  Naughty, yes! but I do love potatoes and have no intention of feeling guilty about it either.

My take on potato cakes today was to add some cabbage and perhaps leeks at which point I realised what I really wanted were some colcannon patties!  Yaaay, so it shall be.  But what to serve with the patties…not baked beans from a tin – no didn’t fancy that.  Enter the cassoulet! that rich, satisfying, French “peasant” food I would happily abdicate my throne for, if I had one!

Eventually, after much deliberation, I decided upon a two bean cassoulet with butternut squash.  Borlotti beans were married with Cannellini beans simply because I love the sweet, creamy taste of Borlottis and had a hoard of tins in the cupboard. Butternut squash went in for sweetness and texture – don’t you just love the gorgeous colour of a squash?  The orange of the flesh is like no other orange and orange is definitely not my favourite colour, and I am always hesitant as I pop butternut squash into the pan because it glows so perfectly on the chopping board….but needs must and in it goes! I tend to buy cheap red wine and then freeze if so often add a shot or two to my pot but this is optional so don’t rush out to buy wine specially.  I believe in making use of what I have to hand and never rush out to buy any ingredient unless it is absolutely vital to the recipe.  Enjoy ….by the way, here’s the recipe for the main course, Colcannon Patties!

Colcannon patties & cassoulet

Ingredients

Half medium sized butternut squash (about 500 grams) peeled & cut into large chunks
1 tin of white beans (cannellini beans)
1 tin of Borlotti beans
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon Herbes de Provence or mixed herbs
1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or Tamari/soya sauce
50ml red wine – cooking wine is fine (optional – I used some because I had some frozen in the fridge!)
350ml water

Method

  • Gently fry the onions and garlic until translucent
  • Add all the ingredients and about 350 ml of water
  • Cook on low for about 25 minutes until squash is cooked – check seasoning, you shouldn’t need more salt
  • Check the consistency while it is cooking – you may need a little more water – just eyeball the gravy you want to end up with!

Note: Drizzle with parsley pesto before serving –optional but it does give it that extra buzz!

Parsley pesto
Blend together 1 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley, with 1 large clove garlic and 5 tablespoons olive oil

09Jan/15

Chickpeas with spinach

Chickpeas with spinach

Like most of my recipes, I try to keep things simple.  This is because I cook every day, one nice, hot, home-cooked meal, cooked with love for added flavour, for my hubby and myself (the cats don’t like my cooking!).

So tonight we are having chickpeas with spinach served with rice – a delicious combination of chickpeas and spinach cooked with simple curry spices! Chickpeas are full of vitamins and minerals (check link)  as for spinach, well, we all know how Popeye got his muscles in shape; he ate tons of spinach!  However, for those in doubt, here’s a link with some spinach facts! 

2  good servings (with rice or pitta/flat bread)

Ingredients

1 tin chickpeas (400 grams), drained and rinsed
100 grams fresh or frozen spinach (couple of large handfuls!)
1 medium onion, sliced
3 tablespoons oil
2 medium tomatoes OR 1 good tablespoon tomato puree (more like 1½ tblsp!)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ inch piece ginger, chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons curry powder (I use mild)
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek (Kasuri methi, optional – you can but it in Asian stores or online)

Method

  1. Fry the onion in oil until golden
  2. Add all the spices and tomato or tomato puree and fry spices for a couple of minutes
  3. Add a small splash of water, cover and let spices cook for 10 minutes
  4. Add chickpeas and spinach, a little water (about 30ml), cover and cook on low for 15-20 minutes
  5. The sauce should be reduced and thickish – how much sauce you end up with is entirely up to your taste and preference!
08Jan/15

Dal palak – lentils with spinach

Dal palak(2)
Tarka with whole dried chillies and cumin

Dal palak(3)
Full tarka with dried chillies, garlic and cumin

Lentils are the mainstay of Asian cuisine – nutritious, easy to cook and versatile.  Lentils and spinach or dal palak as it is known more commonly, is a dish prepared with lentils and spinach, but nothing to stop you from adding carrots, marrow, green beans, sauteed shallots or leeks, green pepper, swede, turnips instead….the list is endless and it is a matter of imagination and preference what you pop into the pan once the lentils are cooked.  I sometimes add some seitan or braised tofu which you can buy in tins from Holland & Barrett or Oriental supermarkets.

One other thing to bear in mind is you don’t necessarily have to use orange lentils – green lentils or puy lentils also work very well with spinach. 

Ingredients

1 cup orange lentils (about 150 grams), rinsed
About 100-125 grams fresh or frozen whole leaf spinach
I teaspoon curry powder (I prefer mild)
½ teaspoon turmeric
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ inch piece ginger, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1-2 fresh green chillies (optional)
Garnish/Tarka
2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 whole dried chillies (optional)

Method

  1. Rinse and cook the lentils with all the spices in about 450ml water – approximately 1 inch of water above the lentils (I just eye ball it!)
  2. When the lentils are soft and mushy, which takes about 30 minutes, you should end up with a not too thin, not too thick, soup
  3. Add the spinach and whole green chillies, if using, and cover and cook on medium heat for a further 15 minutes or until the dal is of the consistency you like (uncover the pot to dry off if too runny). Don’t forget to give it the occasional stir!
  4. Now make the tarka as below and pour on dal

Tip: Traditionally, dal is served with rice or chapatti, however, there is no reason why you can’t have this as soup with a piece of pitta bread. If you don’t wish to garnish it with the tarka, simply warm a little olive oil and drizzle on soup.

Garnish/Tarka

  • Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the dry chillies, if using
  • Give it a minute and add garlic – let the garlic turn golden
  • Pop in the cumin seeds and give it 30 seconds to brown
  • Pour on the dal

Note. You can use just cumin seeds for tarka but garlic adds zest and loads of flavour to the dal

 

28Dec/14

Chickpeas with Kafir lime leaves

Chickpeas with lime leaves(2)

We have all tried chickpeas….surely? If you haven’t you don’t know what you are missing.  It is one of the mainstays of our vegan diet and so versatile too.  Can be cooked whole with spices, mashed up to make burgers or sausages and used in salads.  I usually cook chickpeas with spices and tomatoes but remembered I had a pack of frozen Kafir lime leaves (wild lime) sitting patiently in the freezer and decided to do chickpeas with Kafir lime leaves……. the aroma of lime leaves is heavenly and once you have used these, you will return to it over and over again, I promise!  It is used freely in South East Asian cuisine and you may well have had a taste of it the last time you visited your local Thai!  Try this and I am sure you will love it – it is very quick and easy too.

Ingredients

1 tin chickpeas -400 grams, rinsed
Small piece of either marrow, butternut squash or 2 small potatoes, diced small (I had a small piece of lauki or bottle gourd, which is a long marrow like vegetable found in Asian stores – the round variety is called Calabash)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1½ inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened soya yogurt (I use Sojade available at As Nature Intended and Wholefoods)
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
3 Kafir lime leaves (I bought a pack of frozen from an Oriental supermarket, could use dried or fresh)
2 whole green chillies (optional)
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander for garnish, chopped

Method

  1. Fry the onion in oil until pale golden
  2. Mix all the spice powders, garlic, ginger and salt with the yogurt to make a paste and add to fried onions
  3. Gently fry the spices for about 6-7 minutes, adding small splashes of water to keep it from burning (this helps to cook the spices)
  4. Add chickpeas, whichever vegetable you choose to use, lime or lemon juice, Kafir lime leaves and whole chillies if using, with about 150ml of water
  5. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer covered for about 15 minutes (adjust time according to the vegetable you use!)
  6. Check the sauce and thicken according to preference
  7. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with rice
14Dec/14

Curried Beans – Rajma

Rajma

Rajma is a very popular dish in the Northern parts of India, especially in the Punjab.  Here it is usually served with rice and is a regular feature in most households.  As with all curries, most people have their own “take” on it ….. the spices may vary slightly, some use more chilli than others and the use of tomatoes will also vary from one household to another.

Red kidney beans are soaked overnight, rinsed and left to simmer until soft and squidgy.  I have used red kidney beans and Borlotti beans out of tins!  The pace of life being such, it is not always easy to remember to soak the beans and tins are a nifty option.  You can use just red kidney beans if you prefer.  I have also tried this recipe with black turtle beans, very popular in Latin American countries, and it was the most luscious, rich and gloopy bean curry I have ever tasted.  You can buy them in tins in most supermarkets.

Ingredients

1 tin Red Kidney beans, rinsed (400 gram tin)
1 tin Borlotti beans, rinsed (400 gram tin)
2 medium carrots, thickly sliced
1 large onion, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons curry powder (mild or hot, whichever you prefer)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
3 tablespoons oil
Salt to taste
Fresh chopped coriander to garnish
Garam Masala: to be fried whole with the onions
4 cloves, 6 black peppercorns, 2 pods cardamom, 2 inch stick cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

  1. Fry the onion with all of the garam masala listed above in 3 tablespoons oil until onions are golden
  2. In a bowl mix all the spices, garlic, ginger, tomato puree, salt and a little water to make a paste
  3. Add spice paste to the onions and fry for about 5-6 minutes, adding small splashes of water to stop it from burning
  4. Take about a third of a tin of either of the beans and mash them with a potato masher or fork
  5. Add all the beans including the mashed beans and the carrot with about 250ml of water (about 1 cup and a bit)
  6. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer gently on low heat for about 25-30 minutes until you have a nice, thick sauce
  7. Sprinkle fresh coriander, give it a stir and serve with rice, quinoa or eat with chappati or any flat bread
16Nov/14

Chilli Napolitana

Chilli Napolitana

I wouldn’t describe myself as a big Chilli fan…… it could be that I am simply accustomed to a different taste and recipe.  In Asian homes, we cook red kidney beans called Rajma not with just the traditional Chilli spices like cumin and chilli powder,  but with a variety of curry spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, chilli powder, garlic and ginger and this is finally garnished with fresh coriander, served with plain steamed rice; it is a warming and hearty meal.  My mother would soak the red kidney beans overnight and then cook them in a pressure cooker the next day – the stock and juices were retained. The onion, tomatoes and spices were prepared in a separate pan and the beans added to this spicy mixture and gently simmered;  some of the beans were mashed with the back of the wooden spoon to thicken the gravy, resulting in a very aromatic dish of Rajma in a gorgeous, lusciously thick sauce, yum! Will post the recipe next time I get the urge for Rajma soon.

And this is how Chilli Napolitana came to be on our menu when we fancied red kidney beans as filling for our humble jacket potatoes…. and as the name suggests, it is an Italian variation where I have omitted the usual Chilli  ingredients, cumin and chilli powder, and resorted to Italian herbs like oregano and basil – half a cup of red wine takes it to a higher level!

If you use it as filling for jacket potatoes: enough for 3-4 large baking potatoes or 6 medium sized potatoes

Ingredients 

1 medium onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tin chopped tomatoes, 400 grams
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 good teaspoon dried oregano
1 good teaspoon dried basil
½ cup red wine (optional, but definitely tastier with!)
Salt to taste

Method

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent but not brown
  2. Add tin of tomatoes, tomato puree and 1 cup water (about 200ml)
  3. Cover and cook the tomatoes for about 20 minutes
  4. Add beans, herbs, wine and salt and cover and cook for a further 20 minutes until the chilli is thick

Serve with jacket potatoes or rice