Courgetti Ragu

Water and Wine

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I love this pasta sauce.  The oldest girl requests this when she comes back from school as it reminds her of home, and smells so delicious as it is slowly cooking.  I have made an old Anna del Conte’s (A Gastronomy of Italy) ragù recipe my own.  I tend to start the sauce off on the hob and then let it bubble gently away in the slow cooker all day so dinner time can be very easy and simply involve boiling a pan of water for some pasta to accompany it, and washing some rocket for an easy salad.

Ragù (with courgetti)

  • 750g minced beef
  • 250g block of smoked pancetta, roughly cubed
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in about 200ml water
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 pint milk
  • handful of herbs (thyme, bay leaves, or basil or oregano if you prefer)
  1. Remove…

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Courgetti Ragu

img_0436

I love this pasta sauce.  The oldest girl requests this when she comes back from school as it reminds her of home, and smells so delicious as it is slowly cooking.  I have made an old Anna del Conte’s (A Gastronomy of Italy) ragù recipe my own.  I tend to start the sauce off on the hob and then let it bubble gently away in the slow cooker all day so dinner time can be very easy and simply involve boiling a pan of water for some pasta to accompany it, and washing some rocket for an easy salad.

Ragù (with courgetti)

  • 750g minced beef
  • 250g block of smoked pancetta, roughly cubed
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in about 200ml water
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 pint milk
  • handful of herbs (thyme, bay leaves, or basil or oregano if you prefer)
  1. Remove the hard rind of the pancetta and reserve; chop the pancetta roughly and whizz to a paste in your blender.img_0433
  2. Peel and roughly chop the onion, celery sticks and carrots and add to the pancetta paste in the blender, blending again to create a vegetable mash.
  3. Heat a large heavy based (frying) pan and use the reserved pancetta rind as rendering.
  4. Once the fat has rendered, add the pancetta and veg paste to the pan and cook for a few minutes until fragrant.img_0434
  5. Add the minced beef to the pan and cook, stirring, until it has lost its redness.
  6. Add the dissolved stock cube and tomato puree, along with your preferred herbs and bubble for a few minutes while the liquid reduces a little.

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  7. Cover the meat with half a pint or so of warmed milk, season and remove to the slow cooker.
  8. Cook on the low setting for 4 hours or more.
  9. When ready to eat, serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan and the pasta of your choice, or courgetti (see below).  Remember to remove the stalky herb stems and the pancetta rind which has added a richness to the sauce but is no longer needed.

You’ve probably heard of courgette or zucchini noodles or zoodles by now.  They’ve been fêted internationally on Instagram for quite some time now, and the Hemsley sisters, amongst others, who write about nutrition for Vogue, have more recently promoted the use of a spiralizer in the UK.

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In essence, a Spiralizer is a sort of mandolin that has a number of blades that can slice vegetables into interesting shapes.  Courgettes, in particular, make a wonderful grain-free pasta, having a similar mouth feel and texture to it when paired with a pasta sauce.

As you can see, they “spiralize” into beautiful spirals which become coated with spaghetti sauce much in the same way spaghetti does.  The only downside I find is that they can become quite watery when cooked, so it’s important to drain them well after cooking.

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After spiralizing, I simply sauté the courgette in a heavy pan in some oil flavoured with a clove of garlic and a good pinch of chilli flakes. Once I have combined the courgette with the ragu, I tend to drain out any excess water again as the heat of the spaghetti sauce makes the courgettes release more of their water.

An Asian Salad

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We had a delicious pot roast chicken at the weekend when the boy came home unexpectedly and we needed to feed him up with something quick and delicious.  Pot roasting is new to me and while it was not the crispiest skinned bird ever, it was probably the moistest one we have cooked at home, and the leftovers were so good I just had to make another meal out of them.

When we have left over roast meats we often use our own version of a Nigella Vietnamese salad recipe from Nigella Bites.  In essence, this dish is an Asian slaw to which you can add whichever (shredded) meat you have in your fridge.  It is very easy (all the ingredients are available from the supermarket), relatively quick to make, delicious and very virtuous in terms of calorie intake, if you care about that sort of thing.

The key thing is the dressing, which you can play around with according to your tastes, but it should be a combination of sweet, sour, savoury and salty. I often add a bit more fish sauce and lime juice, as well as some extra chilli, as I like it really salty and sour with plenty of kick.

A Vietnamesesque Salad

  • left over roast chicken, a couple of cooked chicken breasts, or some pieces of cold roast beef or pork
  • 1/2-1 small white cabbage
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 2 red chillies (small bird’s eye ones if you like heat or the larger milder serrano ones if not)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I use Coconut Blossom Nectar which feels a bit more virtuous as it is untreated and has a lower Glycaemic Index than sugar)
  • 3 tsp vinegar (I use Coconut but just about any vinegar other than Balsamic would do)
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp fish Sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp oil (sunflower or similar – something unflavoured)
  • large bunch of coriander
  • large bunch of mint
  1. Slice the chillies and the onions finely and crush the garlic and place in a bowl with the sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce and oil.  Whisk and refrigerate until needed.img_0429
  2. Finely slice, mandolin or grate the cabbage (removing the tough core) and grate the peeled carrots, and put in your serving bowlimg_0430
  3. Shred or slice the meat finely and add to the serving bowl
  4. Once the dressing has marinated for a while in the fridge, add to the undressed salad and methodically mix until everything is covered
  5. Pick the herbs and add to the salad, tossing it together.

The flavours are amazing and it makes a nice contrast to all the heavier carbohydrate-based dishes around at this time of year.  If it doesn’t feel quite substantial enough for you, you could always add some glass or rice noodles to the dish.

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An Asian Salad

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We had a delicious pot roast chicken at the weekend when the boy came home unexpectedly and we needed to feed him up with something quick and delicious.  Pot roasting is new to me and while it was not the crispiest skinned bird ever, it was probably the moistest one we have cooked at home, and the leftovers were so good I just had to make another meal out of them.

When we have left over roast meats we often use our own version of a Nigella Vietnamese salad recipe from Nigella Bites.  In essence, this dish is an Asian slaw to which you can add whichever (shredded) meat you have in your fridge.  It is very easy (all the ingredients are available from the supermarket), relatively quick to make, delicious and very virtuous in terms of calorie intake, if you care about that sort of thing.

The key thing is the dressing, which you can play around with according to your tastes, but it should be a combination of sweet, sour, savoury and salty. I often add a bit more fish sauce and lime juice, as well as some extra chilli, as I like it really salty and sour with plenty of kick.

A Vietnamesesque Salad

  • left over roast chicken, a couple of cooked chicken breasts, or some pieces of cold roast beef or pork
  • 1/2-1 small white cabbage
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 2 red chillies (small bird’s eye ones if you like heat or the larger milder serrano ones if not)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I use Coconut Blossom Nectar which feels a bit more virtuous as it is untreated and has a lower Glycaemic Index than sugar)
  • 3 tsp vinegar (I use Coconut but just about any vinegar other than Balsamic would do)
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp fish Sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp oil (sunflower or similar – something unflavoured)
  • large bunch of coriander
  • large bunch of mint
  1. Slice the chillies and the onions finely and crush the garlic and place in a bowl with the sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce and oil.  Whisk and refrigerate until needed.img_0429
  2. Finely slice, mandolin or grate the cabbage (removing the tough core) and grate the peeled carrots, and put in your serving bowlimg_0430
  3. Shred or slice the meat finely and add to the serving bowl
  4. Once the dressing has marinated for a while in the fridge, add to the undressed salad and methodically mix until everything is covered
  5. Pick the herbs and add to the salad, tossing it together.

The flavours are amazing and it makes a nice contrast to all the heavier carbohydrate-based dishes around at this time of year.  If it doesn’t feel quite substantial enough for you, you could always add some glass or rice noodles to the dish.

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A Summer lunch of Ribs, Beans and Corn

Water and Wine

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I was so inspired by Donna Hay’s beautiful article on Aussie slow winter cooking the other day. For those of you who don’t know her, Donna Hay is an Australian food stylist extraordinaire, and always has a great and unusual take on recipes.   I loved the look of all the rib recipes, but was particularly taken by the herb and lemon ribs served with a fresh-tasting Salsa Verde. It works very well this time of year (as well as during Aussie Autumn/Winter), served with seasonal British lettuce, asparagus, peas and broad beans. With a little preparation the day before, we are ready to grill the ribs and sweetcorn on the barbecue and assemble the salad with little hassle on the day.  The ribs have already been simmered in a herby, lemony brine the previous day and left to marinade in the remaining liquor overnight.

Herb and Lemon Ribs with Salsa…

View original post 466 more words

A Summer lunch of Ribs, Beans and Corn

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I was so inspired by Donna Hay’s beautiful article on Aussie slow winter cooking the other day. For those of you who don’t know her, Donna Hay is an Australian food stylist extraordinaire, and always has a great and unusual take on recipes.   I loved the look of all the rib recipes, but was particularly taken by the herb and lemon ribs served with a fresh-tasting Salsa Verde. It works very well this time of year (as well as during Aussie Autumn/Winter), served with seasonal British lettuce, asparagus, peas and broad beans. With a little preparation the day before, we are ready to grill the ribs and sweetcorn on the barbecue and assemble the salad with little hassle on the day.  The ribs have already been simmered in a herby, lemony brine the previous day and left to marinade in the remaining liquor overnight.

Herb and Lemon Ribs with Salsa Verde Serves four

For the pork (brine):

  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 6 stalks of parsley
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 tbsp green peppercorns
  • 1 small bunch of (lemon) thyme
  • 500ml dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp table salt
  • drizzle or two of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 kilos baby back pork ribs
  1. Combine the onion, garlic, parsley, lemon, thyme, peppercorns, wine, salt and 2 litres of water.  Bring to the boil, add the ribs, reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 mins until tender.
  2. Remove ribs from liquid, place in tray, add half of the liquid, cover and refrigerate (overnight if possible) .

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To make the Salsa Verde (Nb do not process as this will emulsify the salsa (the key to a good salsa verde is to chop it finely by hand with a mezzaluna or sharp knife):

  • large handful each of flat leaf parsley, basil and chives, chopped finely
  • 3 anchovies
  • 2 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp green peppercorns (optional – this is a Donna Hay addition and makes the salsa much more peppery)
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • sufficient extra virgin olive oil to cover the ingredients
  1. Finely chop the herbs and set aside
  2. Add finely chopped anchovies, capers, mustard, vinegar and peppercorns, along with the lemon rind, to a large mason or jam jar.
  3. Add herb mixture.
  4. Add extra virgin olive oil to cover ingredients, and stir.
  5. Refrigerate.  This will keep for several weeks refrigerated, and works well with most cold cuts, as well as lentils and pulses.

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The ribs were finished off on the barbecue, then dressed with the salsa verde and some balsamic vinegar.  They were served with a salad of lettuce, “double podded” broad beans, fresh raw peas, onion and the same herbs used in the salsa verde, dressed with an oil and vinegar dressing.  Grilled fresh corn on the cob served with lime and chilli butter made a fantastic accompaniment too, along with some gherkins.

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Grilled corn with lime and chilli butter

  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lime rind
  • 2 tsp sea salt (Maldon is good)
  • 1 chilli, seeds removed and chopped finely
  • 4 corn cobs
  1. Process butter, thyme, lemon rind, salt, and chilli in food processor until combined.
  2. roll in foil or baking parchment into shape of log, and refrigerate until needed.
  3. Grill corn on very hot barbecue, turning several times, for about 10 minutes or until tender and a little charred.
  4. Serve with lime and chilli butter on top.

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This was really delicious and an interesting take on an American staple.  The addition of herbs instead of a barbecue sauce was initially sniffed at by the children, but the left-overs were wolfed up, and everyone particularly enjoyed the lime and chilli sweet corn.

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An easy Sunday lunch of roast chicken with a spring salad

It was such a beautiful day on Sunday we fancied something lighter for lunch, and the boys wanted to watch the rugby, so we needed something quick and easy to prepare and eat.  We picked up a couple of chickens from J Seal Butchers on Saturday, and then popped to Two peas in a pod to see what fresh produce they had.  We managed to get hold of some British new season broad beans, as well as some pea pods, so we also picked up some radishes, fennel, mixed leaf and lots of herbs to make a really fresh tasting salad.

Brent cooked the chickens the way Simpson’s on the Strand recommend as per the carving course he did there a few years ago.  They turned out really beautifully – crisp and golden on the outside, but still moist on the inside.  The salad he devised really made use of the fresh Spring flavours of the beans and herbs.  The contrast in texture between the crunchy radishes, fennel and raw peas and the yielding broad beans added another dimension to the salad; the addition of some avocado might also work well.

In terms of health benefits, peas and broad beans (a type of legume)  provide a good source of vitamins C, K, Beta-carotene and Bs, as well as being rich in the mineral potassium.  Legumes are also rich in soluble fibre to help maintain a healthy blood sugar balance.

Roast Chicken and a Spring Salad

  • 2 small chickens, preferably organic
  • 2 bulbs of garlic
  • 1 kilo of new season broad beans
  • 1 kilo of new season pea pods
  • a bunch of radishes, finely sliced
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • a bag of mixed salad leaf
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 bunch of tarragon
  • 1 bunch of rosemary
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Salad Dressing

  •  3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

The Chicken

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C.
  2. Stuff the birds with a bulb of garlic each (separated, peeled and squashed), half a bunch of thyme and rosemary, and lightly salt the skin.
  3. Brown the thighs of the whole chickens in a roasting tin in the butter and olive oil (Brent also likes to slash the flesh on the legs to allow the meat to cook through).
  4. Roast the birds in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours, turning once, until golden and crispy.

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The Salad

  1. Pod the broad beans and the peas.
  2. Blanche the broad beans for a couple of minutes.  Allow to cool.  “Double pod” them, in other words, discard the inner membrane so you are left with a vibrant green bean.  The easiest way is to pinch the flesh where the bean curves, and then just pop or squeeze the bean out of its skin.  Small children tend to love this job, so take advantage of their little fingers.
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  3. Grate the radishes and fennel with a mandolin or grater so they are finely sliced, or use a sharp knife, if you have a steady hand.
  4. Add the extra virgin olive oil and the red wine vinegar to the bottom of your serving bowl, add a tsp of Dijon mustard and whisk into an emulsion.  Season to taste.
  5. Add the capers, the raw peas, the fennel and the radishes; followed by the washed mixed leaves.  Add a couple of handfuls of parsley and tarragon and combine.  Finally, add the broad beans, turning them carefully into the salad so as not to break them up.

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Open a nice bottle of Provencal rosé to accompany this dish.  We love MADE IN PROVENCE! rosé from Lea & Sandeman in Barnes.

A Sunday Lunch of Moroccan Mechoui Lamb

This time of year, lamb makes a wonderful Sunday roast.  At the weekend we bought a leg of lamb from J Seal Butchers in Barnes (established over a hundred years ago).  They source their lamb from Devon, and like most good butchers, the meat is hung to create a better flavour and texture than supermarket meats.

Lamb is a good source of high quality protein, essential for the building processes of the body (and to satisfy the appetite).  It is rich in  monounsaturated (and some saturated) fat, and if bought from a good source, will also contain a good balance of omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids.  It also contains key minerals and vitamins including iron, zinc and B-vitamins.

Since we came back from Morocco in October, we have regularly been improvising with  Moroccan flavours.  Sunday lunch with my parents and an old family friend was a recipe for Mechoui Lamb amended from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes book.  Mechoui lamb is a celebratory Berber dish, and consists of a lamb cooked whole on the spit.  It is slow cooked so the lamb is very tender, almost falling off the bone, and is heavily flavoured with Moroccan herbs and spices (in this case, cumin).  This version of the dish works very well as everything is prepared well in advance to leave time for you to converse properly with your guests.

Mechoui Lamb

  • Servings: 6
  • Print
  • Large shoulder (or leg) of lamb (2-3kg)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • 11/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 50g butter, softened
  • Salt and pepper

For the final seasoning:

  • 1 tbsp toasted cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp Maldon salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper]
  1. Preheat oven to 160C.
  2. Using a sharp knife, stab the meat all over on both sides.
  3. Mix together the toasted cumin seeds, garlic and smoked paprika with a teaspoon of salt and massage into the meat, forcing it down into the slits you have made with the knife.
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  4. Place the lamb on a baking tin and roast for 4-5 hours, basting it regularly with the juices, until crisp and charred (inside will be tender).IMG_1484
  5. Place toasted cumin seeds in mortar and grind with pestle, adding salt and pepper to the seeds.
  6. Serve the lamb broken up or torn into pieces, sprinkled with the seasoning and topped with pomegranate seeds.
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  8. We served ours with mashed cannelini beans and roasted onions, courgettes and red peppers.  We added a generous handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley, and ate it with the Moroccan harissa I bought in the Mellah in October, and still going strong.

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We served the lamb with a good bottle of Rhône red, but it would work equally well with a nice bottle of Lebanese Château Musar.

The lamb tasted almost better cold as left-overs.  We served with houmous, and the ubiquitous harissa.

Spring a Leek

The leek is a wonderful vegetable currently in season and often overlooked for its more exotic counterparts.  A member of the allium family, but milder in flavour than the onion, like them, they are rich in sulphur and consequently both anti-bacterial and antiviral.  They are also rich in flavonoids which have a cardio-protective effect on the body.  Containing a fibre called inulin, they act as a prebiotic, that is, they feed probiotics and promote good bacteria in the gut, thus helping to maintain a healthy digestive tract.  Leeks provide a good source of folic acid, iron and potassium , as well as lesser amounts of B vitamins, magnesium and calcium.  They are alkalising and have a cleansing or diuretic effect on the body, can help with bladder stones, and may also be used to help regulate bowel movements.  They are anti-arthritic and can also help alleviate the symptoms of gout.  In other words, they are a wonder vegetable.

In terms of cooking with leeks, they are very versatile.  Most commonly used in soups (as part of the stock, or on its own in a vichyssoise), leeks are delicious boiled and served cold, dressed with a vinaigrette.  They also work well with Asian dishes to delicately flavour broths.  They work particularly well with potatoes, ham and cheese, and make theperfect comfort food for wet, cold winter evenings.

My mum used to make this dish for us in winter, and we all loved it.  I suspect it was inspired by a Robert Carrier recipe.  The leeks are blanched and then wrapped in ham, topped with a cheese sauce and baked until bubbling and golden.  It is quite indulgent due to the butter, milk and cheese content, so should be viewed a treat rather than a routine supper..  Make sure you use the full fat versions of all the dairy items to maximise your intake of fat-soluble vitamins, and to really enjoy the taste.  Food that is whole is more satisfying than food that has had its fat removed.

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Leeks and Ham Au Gratin (to feed four)

  • 8 leeks, cleaned and trimmed
  • 8 slices of good quality roast ham
  • 75g butter
  • 75g flour
  • 1 1/2 pints milk
  • 150g grated cheese (cheddar or gruyere are good)
  • grated nutmeg
  • seasoning to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Blanche the leeks for 5 mins or so until tender (use the tip of a knife to test if yielding)
  3. Drain and pat and squeeze leeks dry
  4. Wrap leeks with ham
  5. Place in buttered baking dish
  6. To make the cheese sauce:
    Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan
    Add flour, stirring with a wooden spoon, for a couple of minutes
    Remove from heat and add the milk, stirring well
    Return to the heat and cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened
    Leave to cook for 10 minutes or so
    Add grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste
    Add the cheese gradually, so it melts and blends in evenly
  7. Pour the cheese sauce over the leeks and ham
  8. Place in oven and cook for 40 minutes or so, until golden
  9. Serve with a large rocket or watercress salad, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Why not discover this underrated vegetable and try this dish to celebrate with the Welsh on St David’s Day tomorrow with a good glass of red.  The husband recommends Pinot Noir or Gamay grape.

And to celebrate the weekend, how about a Friday Night Cocktail?

For 2 Tartinis, or Blood Orange Martinis

  • Juice 3 seasonal blood oranges
  • In a cocktail shaker chilled with ice add
    4 fluid ounces of vodka
    1 fluid ounce Cointreau
    2 fluid ounces of the blood orange juice
  • Shake, strain and serve

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Finger on the Pulse

After the crash weight-loss madness of January, it’s probably time to look at more sustainable ways to lose weight.  To help us lose weight, and keep us feeling fuller longer, a good intake of protein is essential.  However, a diet rich in animal protein can increase saturated fat intake to unhealthy levels, and cause the body to become too acidic (symptoms of an overly-acidic body include depression, fatigue, anxiety).  Pulses are a great provider of vegetable protein, and have an alkalising effect, helping to restore the pH balance of the body.
Pulses are the edible seeds of any legumes (such as beans, peas or lentils), and were among the first foods to be cultivated.  They are low in fat, low calorie, contain no cholesterol, and are high in protein and fibre.  They are cheap, and can be easily stored for prolonged periods of time.  Available in dried form requiring overnight soaking prior to cooking, in canned form or ready cooked (Ready to Eat Puy Lentils from Merchant Gourmet) for immediate use, they are the most versatile of products.
Increasing intake of pulses can help promote bowel regularity, build strong bones, protect the heart, lower cholesterol and help to regulate blood sugar levels.
Pulses include:-
  • chickpeas
  • kidney beans
  • butter beans
  • borlotti beans
  • aduki beans
  • cannellini beans
  • blackeyed beans
  • haricot beans
  • broad beans
  • black beans
  • mung beans
  • flageolet
  • marrowfat peas
  • pinto beans
  • split peas
  • lentils

Delicious and versatile in vegetarian dishes, pulses can also be used alongside meat to create a more satisfying meal.  One of my favourite weekday suppers is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe for a simple, oven-baked chicken dish cooked with sweet roasted tomatoes, garlic, basil and tinned cannellini beans.  It is a simple, one pot dish that takes minutes to prepare, and then bubbles away gently in the oven while you get on with all your other pre-dinner jobs.

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Chicken with Cannellini Beans and Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 180C/350F.  Serves 4.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or coconut oil)
  • 4 chicken legs or 8 thighs
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 1 ripe red chilli
  • 250g cherry or vine tomatoes
  • 2 tins of cannellini beans
  • bunch of fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper and put in casserole dish
  2. Pick basil, chopping stems finely.  Add to dish.
  3. Add tomatoes.
  4. Rinse cannellini beans well, and add to dish.
  5. Rinse and chop chilli finely, add to dish.
  6. Break garlic bulb into cloves (unpeeled) and add to dish.
  7. Place in oven and cook for 1 ½ hours, turning halfway through, until the skin is crisp and the meat falling off the bone.
  8. Serve with broccoli, or another dark green leafy vegetable.  Squash the soft, cooked garlic out of its skin and eat alongside.

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A great vegetarian dish, perfect for Meat Free Monday, is a sort of lentil chilli.  I tore this recipe out of a Sunday paper a couple of years ago, and it is attributed to Alice Hart.    The good fat from the avocado and the pumpkin seeds and the fibre in the lentils make it really filling, and the addition of the chipotle paste, with the smokey paprika and cumin seeds,  gives it an amazing aromatic and fiery bite.  It is lovely warm, however, I often make extra to eat cold for lunch the following day (sadly this usually just means we eat more that night!).

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Puy Lentils with Roasted Tomatoes and Chipotle Cream

Preheat oven to 160C/325F

  • 600g small vine tomatoes, halved
  • 3 large red onions, halved and thickly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 packet of ready cooked puy lentils (Merchant Gourmet)
  • 2 ripe avocadoes
  • large bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
  • 50g pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • heaped tsp chipotle chilli paste
  • 4 tbsp creme fraiche
  1. Line baking tray with non-stick baking sheet
  2. Place tomatoes, cut-side up, on one end of baking tray
  3. Add chopped onions to other end, tossed with cumin seeds and half of the olive oil
  4. Roast for an hour and half or so, until onions are soft and tomatoes shrivelled.  Turn occasionally.
  5. Whisk together remaining oil with honey, paprika and lime juice.  Season.
  6. Add ready-cooked lentils to salad bowl and dress.
  7. Roughly spoon out avocado flesh into bite sized pieces and add to bowl.
  8. Add roasted tomatoes and onions, and toss gently.
  9. Top with chopped coriander and pumpkin seeds.
  10. Marble the chilli paste through the creme fraiche

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