TAKE a tin of beans — they make a good protein base that embraces any number of partners from traditional English tastes, such as pease pudding, to Cajun and TexMex, Eastern, Indian, and Mediterranean flavours. Combine them with a cereal or dairy food and you have a complete protein.
Cannellini beans are easy to find now; they are mild, useful for salads, and have a more delicate flavour. Green lentils are delicious in Greek and Mediterranean salads with soft cheeses. Butter beans and red kidney beans are ideal for meat or vegetarian casseroles. Add a handful of chopped fresh herbs for extra vitamins, colour, and flavour.
Here is a recipe for a Bean, pepper, and walnut salad which gets its robust flavour from toasted walnuts.
3 red peppers
4 tomatoes, sliced or chopped
400g tin cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
generous handful of walnuts
large bunch of watercress, torn into sprigs
2-3 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tablespoons capers, chopped
For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, crushed
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper
Halve and de-seed the peppers, then roast them or grill them for 10 minutes. Add a generous handful of walnuts to the peppers for the last two minutes, just to toast them. Be careful: they burn in seconds. Put the peppers in a plastic freezer bag for a few minutes to help loosen the skins in their own steam. When you’re ready to eat, wash the watercress and assemble the salad ingredients. Combine all the salad-dressing ingredients and whisk together well. Dress the salad and serve it with Greek yogurt and wholemeal toast.
Ratatouille vegetables can be made into a satisfying supper dish with a tin of chickpeas, Harissa spices, and some good bread.
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 carrots, sliced
1 aubergine, cubed
2 peppers, chopped
1 courgette, diced
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
400g passata or tinned tomatoes
fresh basil, parsley, or coriander leaves
Fry the vegetables gently in a generous slug of olive oil, in the given order, leaving the courgette on one side. Stir in the Harissa paste and allow the spices to warm through. Add the chickpeas and tomatoes, cover, and simmer until carrots and aubergine are tender. Just before serving, stir in the courgette and fresh herbs. Season well, and serve with bread or pasta.