Braised sausages with potatoes & puy lentils is one of my favourite comfort dishes, especially for dark dreary, wet evenings. Lentils, for me, are wonderful anyway, bursting with flavour and so savoury. When you combine them with a good stock, potatoes, onion, good pork sausages and accompany the dish with a full bodied glass of red wine, there’s no better counter to a March evening like we had last night.
Yum scrum! Spiced chickpeas with spinach. The humble chickpea, small and nutty, packed full of protein and fibre. So tasty and cheap, I bow before thee. I first had chickpeas in a youth hostel in Rome many years ago, at the tender age of 19. A fellow youthful traveller was eating them out of a tin that he had hacked open with a swiss army knife, I was curious and had to try. I’ve never looked back.
I love chickpeas, whether they are in dips, stews or curries. In salads with cheeses, herbs and tomatoes. I like them baked as a snack or spiced in a pitta. Like all pulses, it is worth making the effort soaking dried ones over night and cooking them until tender, if reasonably fresh, usually for an hour or so. There’s no comparison for me between dried and tinned – the texture of those cooked from dried is so much better, firm to the bite, rich in flavour and not waterlogged like tinned.
Earlier this week, I soaked and cooked off a big bag of dried chickpeas, and, for that evening, spiced about 2 tins worth with spinach and froze the rest. It’s a quick dish with tasty results. This will serve 4 and is good served stuffed in toasted pitta bread. [Read more]
Another quick lunch was required and I fancied some wholesome soup. I wanted something healthy so lentils and beans sounded good. I had also recently pilfered some rosemary from a friends garden so wanted to put that in. I toyed with the idea of making a chorizo, tomato, red pepper & butter bean soup but I’ve been eating so much chorizo lately that I thought that I should give those poor Spanish pigs a break, they’re probably having nightmares about me. I did use Spanish beans though, the giant Spanish butter beans – Judion de la Granja. These are huge white butter beans, quite creamy in texture. They can be hard to get and pricey so feel free to replace with butter beans, it will still be very nice, I just like using different ingredients and the drama of the large beans. If you do want them El Navarrico do them in jars and you can get them in most Spanish deli’s. You can also get them dry at Brindisa in Borough or Exmouth Market in London. Garcia’s in Notting Hill sell the jarred ones as do most Spanish deli’s, this just happens to be the one I know well.
Back to the soup. It’s important to use a good stock here. The soup is quite brothy and the stock delivers much of the flavour. You can use chicken or vegetable and preferably homemade. Mine was vegetable made by boiling some carrots, garlic, cloves, celery, leek, rosemary, just bits I had in the fridge really. As long as you think the veg will complement the veg in your soup it will work well. Stock requires alot of veg so make sure you use plenty. Alternatively, just be sure to use a good shop bought stock. The recipe follows. [Read more]