Autumn has come in all its glory. I love the colours of the leaves and the few last rays of sunshine before the winter. It is also the time of bountiful harvests, the last of the summer tomatoes and time to harvest squash and apples. Squash are so much more interesting to eat than the pumpkins usually associated with the end of October. But that apart, we have two new products that are just ideal for Halloween food – Black Chickpeas and Black Rice! I can just imagine a witch flying over the “moon” crescents of the squash in the picture…………
Black chickpeas have a more fibrous coating than the normal ones which makes them more suitable for canning – no chance of them going mushy under pressure! They also have a better nutrition profile.
The black rice is now grown extensively in Italy although it originated in China where it was known as the “forbidden rice”. The colouring is due to flavonoids in the rice and has a nutty flavour.
I do like to make my own curry sauces but it does take some time for the spices to mingle and to reach the right consistency. This time, after the initial frying process, I put the whole lot in a slow cooker for 8 hours and then in the fridge for use the next day. This could easily be doubled up and the surplus frozen for future use. I think it actually does taste better the next day.
- 1 tin black chick peas
- 200g onions
- ¼ bulb garlic
- 1” knob of ginger
- 2 Tablespoons of oil
- ½ stick celery
- ½ small carrot
- A green chilli slit
- 300g tomatoes
- 170ml water
- 400g squash
- Black pepper
- 165g black rice
- To garnish – ½ Lemon, coriander leaf, green chillies & ginger julienne
- 1½ teaspoons cumin seed
- 1” stick cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- 2 cardamom
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek
- 1 teaspoon red paprika
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1½ teasp. ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon tumeric
- ½ teaspoon salt
First make the sauce. Chop the onions finely and sauté in the oil. Peel and chop the garlic and ginger and add to the pan, stirring for a few minutes more. Add the whole spices and the bayleaf. When the onion begins to colour add the ground spices, turn them a few times and add the water. Chop the tomatoes, carrot and celery and add them, with the green chilli. Cover and simmer over a low heat until the vegetables are all cooked (see above). Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Set aside a ladleful (removing any tomato skin) fish out any whole spices, and blitz the rest. Add the reserved ladleful back in to give a bit of texture.
Meanwhile, put the rice in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave it to soak for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour. Drain and rinse with cold water shaking off as much water as possible.
Preheat the oven to 195°C. Cut the squash into crescents about 1½ cm thick at their widest. Grease an oven proof tray and lay the squash slices on it. Brush with a little oil and make a few turns of black pepper over them. Roast for 40 minutes.
Drain and rinse the black chickpeas.
Put the drained rice in a saucepan with 600ml of water. Bring to the boil, covered and then turn the heat down to a simmer. It should take 30 – 35 minutes to cook and absorb all the water. Keep an eye on it as it gets near the end of the cooking time. Add salt to taste and turn off the heat. Leave to rest for 5 minutes in the covered pan.
When you are ready to serve, reheat the sauce and add the chickpeas. Cook for 5 minutes to thoroughly heat through. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add a knob of butter (or coconut cream from a block if vegan) to give it a glossy shine.
To serve, put a mound of black rice on a plate with a few slices of squash leaning on it. Pile the chickpea curry in the front and garnish with the ginger, chilli, coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Now just see if you can spot that witch!
One of the vegetables that is normally in full swing in July are courgettes – not so this year (2021)! The cold spring and the low light levels in May and June have meant that the poor plants have just sat there, hardly growing at all. This is usually a time when all efforts to pick them young fail and there are always a few that escape. However with the recent appearance of the sun and the increase in temperatures they have sprung into full production at last.
I made this from 2 that had grown too large and had formed seeds inside. I cut them into quarters lengthways and removed the seeds and the woolly bits in the centre and just used the firm flesh. The original weight of the courgettes was 535g from which I gleaned 375g of usable flesh. After the water had been removed (see instructions), it only weighed 165g!
This quantity will make about 15.
Courgette and Basil Pakoras with Tomato Chilli Jam
375g courgette flesh
1 Tablespoon salt
50g gram flour
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon tumeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon whole cumin seed
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
75g Greek yoghurt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
I teaspoon black onion seeds
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon salt
chilli flakes to taste
Approx. 500ml sunflower oil for deep frying.
Coarsely grate the courgettes and place in a large bowl. Add the salt, mix well and leave for at least 30 minutes to draw out the water.
Mix the gram flour, spices, bicarb and Greek yoghurt together in a bowl that will be large enough to take the courgette flesh as well.
Meanwhile, make the tomato chilli jam.
Peel and core the tomatoes and chop roughly.
Finely dice the clove of garlic.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan and when it is hot, put in the black onion seeds. When they begin to sizzle, put in the garlic. Stir and fry until the garlic starts to take on colour. Lower the heat and add the chopped tomatoes carefully, as the hot oil will spit. Cook until the tomatoes have softened, stirring and mashing them with the back of a spoon. Add the salt, sugar and chilli flakes and cook until the mixture has become thickened and syrupy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Return to the courgettes. Rinse all the salt out of them under running water, drain and rinse again. Put in a muslin bag (or a thin clean tea towel) and squeeze until all the liquid has gone. Unwrap and place in a sieve, just to make sure there is no excess water left – it will make the batter too runny.
Coarsely chop the basil.
Place a small saucepan on the heat and add the oil to heat up. Fold the courgettes and the basil into the batter making sure it is all mixed together and the courgettes are coated all over.
Take a teaspoon of the mixture and shape it with another teaspoon. Slide it into the hot oil. Repeat 3 times and fry the pakoras until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a dish lined with kitchen paper. Repeat this process until all the mixture is used up. It is important not to overcrowd the pan otherwise they will be soggy or worse still, the temperature of the oil will drop and they will not hold together!
Serve hot or cold with the jam as a dipping sauce.
The winter of 20/21 seems to have been the longest EVER and the spring has been so cold! Now, with the easing of lockdown, there is a sense of relief and, as ever, the relentless passing of the seasons heralds this renewal. The new spring veggies are particularly welcome at this time and the vibrant flavours truly remind one of new beginnings.
The origins of using cashew nuts in a sauce is largely Asian (as in korma) but many cultures use nuts as a creamy non-dairy base with or without other flavourings – think pesto, muhamara, tarator etc. I have not used stronger flavours here – it is all about the veg after all!
Asparagus and Broad Beans with a Cashew Nut Sauce
1 bunch asparagus
1kg broad beans
1 Tablespoon finely chopped spring onions
100g cashew nuts
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
A few chilli flakes
Olive oil for drizzling
Soak the cashew nuts in boiling water for 2 hours to soften them.
Put them in the container of a hand blender with the 100ml water and blend until smooth. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and blend again. Add salt to taste.
Shell the broad beans; there should be about 200g. Bring a small quantity of water to boil, there should be just enough to cover the beans. When the water is boiling, add the beans, cover and bring back to the boil. Simmer for 1 minute and then drain. Plunge the beans into a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking and leave for 2 minutes then drain and set aside.
Cut the woody stalks from the asparagus and rinse under the tap. Place in a glass dish with a lid and microwave for 2 minutes. It is possible to steam them if you prefer, but it is hard to get the stalks cooked without ruining the tips. Leave to rest for 5 minutes.
When you are ready to serve, place a table spoon of the sauce on each of 2 or 3 plates and sprinkle some of the spring onions on it. Arrange the asparagus on top followed by the broad beans. Top with the remaining spring onions and chilli flakes if using and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.
Cauliflowers have been particularly successful this season; there has been a plentiful supply of lovely creamy heads. Although Cauliflower Cheese remains one of my all-time comfort foods, I love this combination of roasted cauliflower and chickpeas, tempered with sweet potato and punctured by pomegranate seeds.
Tastes of Summer!
A crisp tasting cucumber relish to compliment a lightly spiced fish dish makes for the quintessential flavours of summer. Each 125g fillet can be served with new potatoes and a green salad as a main dish. It can also be served on toasted sourdough or cooked mini filo cases as a starter, topped with the cucumber relish. Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a starter
Veganuary is here!
As I write Storm Brendan et al has been and gone – there is wind and rain a plenty! Here in North Devon we know all about this in the winter months. It’s time to snuggle up and make this comforting plant based stew. The trick here is to make layers of flavour within a single pot; the long cooking time of the pulses gives ample opportunity for this.
We started growing these in 2014. Tomatillos or tomate verde are a member of the same plant family as tomatoes but are more closely allied to the “Cape Gooseberry” or Physalis. When the husks are removed, they look like a green tomato, but the inside is full of seeds and they have a bitter-sweet, tangy flavour.
Mean Molly – Food for mind and body! This is a lightly spiced recipe with many variations, common in southern India and south east Asia. The name is derived from “moilee” – a stew with coconut and “meen” – fish. Somewhere along the line this got christened Mean Molly in our house. However there is nothing mean about this dish – its packed with nutrients for the heart, brain and general well being.
As the leaves on the trees change from green to yellow, orange and red and are finally dispelled by a few sou’ westerlies, I begin to think of warming bowls of soup. The tomatoes and summer veg are at an end – it is the season of golden squash, carrots and other root vegetables.
These felafel are made throughout the middle east using either dried large broad beans or chick peas. However, we are now selling a British grown bean called Fava and it is these that I have used for this recipe. It is most important to use dried beans, not already cooked ones as these will not hold together.
Finding a healthy lunch on the go or to eat at work can be difficult but with a little planning it’s easy to take your own. I have combined the super-nutritionally-loaded quinoa and avocado to make this nourishing and tasty salad. Quinoa has a prep and cook time of about quarter of an hour so it takes no time to do the night before, making it an ideal ingredient to have ready in the fridge for healthy snacking.
Due to the extraordinary weather in February when temperatures soared we are lucky enough to see a few green shoots in the garden. The Swiss Chard or silver beet is one of those appearing now and how welcome it is! I think it is a universal type of plant that grows where nothing else is sprouting as there are recipes to use it all over the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.
Spring into Summer – At last there are a few fresh veggies ready to harvest. It seems to have taken even longer this year, with a very mild winter turning into a very cold spring! Even in the mildest of seasons, plant growth is restricted by day length and then as the days get longer, the temperature has plummeted! I love to have a plateful of these young veg virtually raw to remind me just how good they taste.