MARY GOLDSMITH wrote a charming letter after my last column, taking me to task because I always specify tinned beans in my recipes. She points out that home-cooked pulses taste much better (Ottolenghi would agree) and are more environmentally friendly.
She’s right, of course. And she knows about Hodmedod, an interesting company in East Anglia dedicated to growing and supplying pulses, and grains like quinoa. Unsurprisingly in these extraordinary times, my email to them has only received an apologetic holding reply, but re-introducing home-grown pulses seems a very important venture. I shall keep trying to get in touch.
Meanwhile, Mary writes, “I get over the bean problem by putting them to soak just before going to bed. In the morning I set them to cook as soon as I get up, so that I can leave them while I shower, meditate and breakfast. So, I’m not really devoting any time to them, just leaving them to themselves” and she offers her own version of a Hodmedod recipe. You may have plenty of time to try this in weeks and months to come.
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
3 large onions, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
3 sticks celery sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
3 tins chopped tomatoes (or fresh if you have an abundant supply)
2 tablespoons tomato puréee
1 tablespoon black strap molasses
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
100ml hot water
3/4 teaspoons bouillon powder
400g cannellini beans, red or white
Soak the beans overnight, drain, replace the water, bring to the boil, and simmer for 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC/Gas 4 or prepare the slow cooker.
Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions, garlic, and chilli for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, cover the pan, and bring to the boil. Add the pepper, celery, and tomato purée, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Dissolve the bouillon in the hot water. Add to the pan with the paprika, molasses, and cooked beans. Bring the heat up to boiling again. Stir well, and transfer to an ovenproof lidded dish and bake for 1½ hours; or place in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours.
If oven cooking, check occasionally and add more hot water if drying out. This is not likely to be necessary if using a slow cooker. Check seasoning after cooking, and add salt and black pepper if required.
Makes about 10 portions and freezes well.
AS I was packing for self-isolation last week, I wanted to make a birthday cake for someone. No shopping possible. Here is my recipe for a hasty chocolate cake without eggs or butter, with milk made up from dried milk powder:
Set the oven to Gas 5/190ºC/375ºF. Line an 8-inch tin with baking parchment. Beat together:
235g plain flour
200g sugar (I use coconut sugar)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
225g/8 fl. oz milk
115g vegetable oil
1½ teaspoons vanilla
and bake the mixture for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.