Sunday, January 17, 2016

Black bean soup

I love all kinds of beans and lentils, but black beans aren't a variety I've cooked with too often.

I've used the canned kind in chilli in the distant past, but generally kidney beans are my go-to variety for a chilli (sometimes with chick peas too). Cannelini beans or other creamy white beans are what I turn to for dips and Italian-inspired dishes such as stews and soups. And then chick peas have all kinds of uses - in substantial salads, pasta sauces, hummus, occasionally a curry. (Writing this list, it occurs to me that it's time I showed black-eyed beans a bit of love too.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chick peas with leeks, squash and broccoli

Another healthy yet deeply satisfying salad. This one has all the vegetable goodness of broccoli, leeks and squash, protein from the chick peas, and then a flavour hit plus good fats from the almond and red pepper pesto. It's great for packed lunches, too.


Makes 4-6 portions

3 leeks
1 small to medium butternut squash
2 tsp olive oil
1 small to medium head of broccoli
2 bell peppers (ideally orange or yellow, though red will work just fine)
2 tins chick peas (or soak and cook 250g dried chick peas if you prefer)
2 tbsp almond and red pepper pesto (home-made or shop-bought - see directions below if you want to make it)


Heat the oven to gas mark 5 190C/ 375F. Cut open and deseed the butternut squash (don't throw away the seeds - put them in the oven for a few minutes until lightly golden, and either scatter over the cooked salad or save for a snack). I rarely bother to peel butternut squash - you could if you really want to, but I find it more trouble than it's worth. Chop the squash into small cubes and toss in a baking tray with 1 tsp of the olive oil, then put on the top shelf of the oven.

Slice the leeks into short lengths of about 1cm (half an inch) and the pepper into roughly square pieces. Put the leeks and peppers on a large baking tray (or two trays if not everything will fit), which you have greased with the other teaspoon of olive oil, and add to the oven. Set a timer for 15 minutes.

Once the 15 minutes is up, check on the squash and stir if it's cooking unevenly. The squash is likely to need about 30 minutes and the leeks and peppers perhaps 20, but keep an eye on all the vegetables and remove from the oven when they are tender but not browned. At this point, drain the tins of chick peas, add them to the baking trays with the leeks, peppers and squash, and return to the oven for five minutes.

Wash the broccoli, chop into florets and steam for about five minutes or until tender. Mix all the veg together and drizzle over the pesto. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For the pesto

2 roasted red or orange peppers (from a jar or roast them yourself along with the peppers for the salad)
50g / 2oz whole almonds, toasted in a dry pan until lightly browned
2 tbsp good-quality rapeseed oil (use olive oil if you prefer) or more if needed
1 tbsp grated pecorino or parmesan

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until you have a fairly smooth paste. Add more oil if needed to loosen.

This will make more pesto than you need for the recipe, but will keep for a few days, covered, in the fridge.