Posts Tagged ‘broad beans’

My fridge hasn’t been to inspirational recently.

But after a traumatic 5km charity run I thought I’d treat myself with a nice supper lastnight. So when I got back from work today the standard of fridge leftovers was a lot better than usual.

Some asparagus, sugar snaps and soft goat’s cheese. Delicious.

I ferreted out some frozen broad beans, mint leaves, virgin olive oil and some crushed pink pepper.

And then the best bulking out ingredient ever: orecchiette. I’m not one for splashing the cash in the supermarket unless it’s for a good reason. But if you’re using nice ingredients, it really is worth the extra £1 for this ‘little ear’ Southern Italian pasta made from durum wheat semolina and water. They have a slightly rough outer surface, and a tasty soft, chewy centre.

It’s a light meal with great summery flavours. And it’s a classic one pan dish – the pasta takes ten minutes, so chuck in the broad beans six minutes into cooking, and then chuck in the asparagus and sugar snaps a couple of minutes later. Drain and dress with mint leaves and goat’s cheese.

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When it comes to nasty things lurking in the fridge, a gnarldy piece of cheese ranks highly. Everyone’s got one. An old lump of Cathederal City, a pongy bit of Castello Blue, or a slippery piece of brie that keeps trying to escape whenever you open the door.

Well, those of you with a good memory may recall the wonderful cheese parcel that I received on 13 October. After initially gorging myself, I became increasingly frugal about eking out the rest of the cheese…which resulted in a sweaty piece of pont l’eveque creating a big old stink in the fridge. Two months later.

I don’t like binning things unless absolutely necessary. And it’s never really necessary to bin a piece of cheese—no matter how fluffy or sweaty.
Although it wasn’t really acceptable to eat the pont l’eveque on a biscuit anymore, it was the ultimate ingredient for a very cheesy, cheese sauce—the kind that gently stings the nostrils. Yum.

So, with a pre-prepared jug of cheese sauce in the fridge, and a corporate-entertainment-weary boyfriend, lastnight was the perfect opportunity to whip up some macaroni and cheese. The ultimate comfort food.

• Flour, butter and milk for a roux (ratio of 1 tablespoon of butter to 2 tablespoons of white flour and about half a pint of milk. Go full fat. You know you want to.)
• Cheese to flavour the roux. The smellier the better, and don’t feel constricted to one cheese—if you’ve got a few odds and ends in the fridge then chuck them all in.

• A couple of rashers of bacon per person (cooked ham is even better)
• A small handful of frozen broad beans per person
• Around 75 grams of macaroni per person

To make the cheese sauce, mix together the flour and butter in a medium-hot pan. Cook it gently until it turns a straw-like colour, and then slowly add milk, whisking thoroughly as you go.

Once you’ve achieved a panful of creamy, white sauce, then grate in the cheese (if it’s hard) or tear it into small pieces (if it’s soft), and add it to the hot sauce so it melts in.

To turn this into mac ‘n cheese, boil the macaroni in one saucepan, and then cut the bacon into strips and pop it into a frying pan.
Have both the pans going at the same time, because the bacon and pasta will both take about ten minutes to do.

When you think the pasta has just a few minutes left of cooking, chuck the broad beans (or peas) in with it. Strain the beans and pasta and tip them into a baking dish. Add the bacon to the dish, and then pour the hot cheese sauce all over everything—stir and season.

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Recently I told a long lost friend that I was living in East London. He looked at me, eyes brimming with pity, and asked whether I’d had to eat many jellied eels. If he wasn’t being deadly serious, I wouldn’t have been so shocked. But he was.

The East End has been shackled with a reputation of jellified, fish-based produce. People think that the 24-hour bagel shop is as good as it gets. Otherwise it’s Bethnal Green’s Chicken ‘n Ribs joints or a dodgy Brick Lane curry.

The truth couldn’t be further off though – a string of glorious bars and restaurants have been opening up in E2: Brawn, Worship Street Whistling Shop…and Viajante (I have to confess that restaurants are popping up so quickly that I can’t keep up. Viajante opened in April so is kind of old news—now it’s all about The Corner Room, which launched this week, and is an upstairs, cheaper and apparently brilliant extension of Viajante).

I was particularly interested to go to Viajante though, because I’d heard such mixed reviews about the venture set up by El Bulli-trained, Nuno Mendes in Bethnal Green’s old town hall.

AA Gill gave it a measly two stars. Guardian reviewer Matthew Norman couldn’t get over the stumbling block of there being no menus, and gave Mendes a hit rate of one in three dishes. Tracey MacLeod from The Independent also scored Viajante cruelly low, complaining about the open kitchen with “the spookily silent team of chefs, busily tweezering items onto plates from Tupperware boxes.”

Viajante’s selling point is the dining experience though—the mystery menu, and tweezering of spring garden salads is part of the fun. If Mendes had strived to create a formal and conventional restaurant, then it’s fair to slate him—because Viajante is anything but that. But it seems a little unfair to criticisise a restaurant for not being something it never set out to be.

When I went, I’d set aside an afternoon to work my way through the six-course taster menu. Setting aside time is key—the afternoon disappeared in a flurry of twelve beautiful little dishes whizzing on and off the table. They were formally introduced by charming waiters (and a few by Mendes himself).

Every detail had been thought through—broad beans and popcorn kept cropping up in dishes, tying the entire meal together, and stopping the courses from being detached and random. The mackerel with lemon and wood sorrel, for example, was served with a nutty popcorn dust, and then the meal finished with white chocolate ice cream fashioned into individual popcorn shapes.
The only negative point made by Mendes’ critics that I’d agree with is the hit-and-miss nature of the dishes. Some of them were definitely better than others. Perfection comes at a price though—if you want to pay triple the amount for a well-rehearsed, flawless meal, then there are plenty of places in London….but at £50 for 12 plates, I’d take a chance of Viajante any day.

(left to right) Duck ham, Lobster croquettes, Thai explosion II

Fresh cheese with peas and flowers

Bread and flavoured butter

Mackerel with lemon and wood sorrel

Milk yuba with peas and parmesan

Acorda de camarao

Romain lettuce with mussel juice and sour cherries

Confit cod loin with onion and crispy potato

Lamb with coffee, macadamia and broad beans

Frozen maple with shiso and green apple

White chocolate with grapefruit and lemon

Close-up of white chocolate, popcorn shaped ice cream

Petit fours

Close-up of petit fours

A music booth on the way to the loos...in case your dinner partner is a crashing bore

Patriot Square
Bethnal Green
London E2 9NF

+44 (0) 20 7871 0461


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Food prices have been soaring lately. I’m beginning to feel old, reminiscing about when you could buy a pack of butter for less than £1.

Last week, Good Housekeeping asked their readers what they did to make the weekly shop go further. As people began to send in complex details of their weekly menu plans or egg-based budget diets, I realised that my budget shopping really is as simple as legging it straight for the discount section in the local Tesco’s.

I discovered that this week, you can buy three packs of organic beetroot for the price of two – that’s 750g of feel-good, low-fat beetroots for a mere £2 (less than two packs of butter…and considerably healthier!)

Three for the price of two - BARGAIN!

I gave myself the challenge of having a beetroot-only day…if not for their cheapness, for the fact that each beetroot contains roughly 30 calories.

Only, I soon realised that a beetroot day wasn’t a challenge at all…beetroots work in so many different guises and I can report that the vegetable that was a childhood nemesis is now a real friend.

For lunch I went for a beetroot-based salad:


2 beetroots
Handful of broad beans
A few heads of broccoli
Crumbly feta cheese – as much or as little as you fancy

Start off by bringing a pan of water to the boil.
Put in the broccoli first. If you’re using frozen broad beans then add them after about 30 seconds and then boil the two vegetables together for 3 minutes. If you’re using fresh broad beans, then pop them in right at the end.

While the greens are boiling, cut up the beetroot into chunks.
Drain the broccoli and beans, then add the beetroot and crumble the feta on top. Enjoy!


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