Originally and Indian recipe for spinach, this works with cabbage or kale, too.
I learned this wonderful way of cooking spinach so long ago I almost forgot where it came from. I think it was a Sikh friend who showed it to me, but it doesn’t just go with Indian cooking – and it works with other greens besides spinach. I like it with cabbage, and even kale sometimes. This should be enough for two people who really like their greens.
200 g or 300 g spinach
knob of ghee or else cooking oil and a knob of butter
about 2cm of fresh ginger root, grated
clove of garlic, pressed or chopped fine.
Wash the spinach well and drain. Heat the ghee (or oil and butter) with the garlic and ginger in a pan until it starts to sizzle. Then throw in the spinach, still wet, and cover the pan. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is soft and smells delicious. With other greens you may need to add just a bit of water to stop it burning.
Jerusalem Artichokes are related to sunflowers so will grow tall and eventually have small yellow flowers. The sprouts are brittle so take care not to break the growing tip when planting them. Its best to harvest them all in the autumn or over winter, and then replant each year – otherwise they get very congested.
They are delicious roasted, and I like them as soup. Here is a simple recipe:
Peel the artichokes using a vegetable peeler or a teaspoon, this is not absolutely necessary but makes a better coloured soup.
Fry gently with a couple of cloves of garlic in some oil or butter. Don’t let it burn.
After a few minutes, add enough water to cover and cook with a lid on for about 20 minutes until the artichokes are soft.
Add a handful of parsley and liquidise to a smooth texture. I usually add milk to this, I’m going to try oat milk next time.
JAs contain inulin, a starch which encourages healthy gut bacteria but they can make you pretty windy, you have been warned!!
Spring is the time for kale sprouts – the best part of the plant.
Through March and April, kale which has survived the winter starts to put out flowering shoots, a bit like sprouting broccoli. Kale sprouts are delicious – the best part of the plant. They are much better than the tough older leaves that are served in trendy cafes along with quinoa and chia as “superfoods”.
I gather the sprouts when they are still growing fast, and tender enough to break off the stem easily. I wash them in a bit of fresh water, then drop them, still damp, into a pan with a bit of olive oil. Kale tastes best to me if I start it on a fairly high heat, tossing them in the oil. After a minute or two I turn the heat down and add just enough water to steam them without burning, but not so much that they become soggy. (Well, I do get this wrong sometimes, but then they are just ‘pan browned’ – definitely not ‘burned’.) When they are tender and they smell done serve them up.
Cook lots, or you will wish you had.
I cook broccoli the same way. Sometimes I add a clove of chopped garlic to the oil, especially with supermarket broccoli, which isn’t as tasty on its own.
Around mid-June our hardneck garlic sends up scapes – curly stems you can eat.
Around the middle of June our hardneck garlic sends up scapes as the bulbs ripen below the soil. Scapes are like flower stems, and they are delicious, only available for a short time each year. They are at their best when they are still curled around. They get tougher later, when they straighten out.
There are lots of recipes for garlic scapes on the internet – garlic scape pesto, pickles, stir fry, and lots more. My own favourite way of using them is to saute them for a couple of minutes in hot olive oil and then serve them up fresh with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Pick them up and eat them with your fingers!
Frijoles refritos are easy to make, and Borlotti beans work really well.
Refried beans (frijoles refritos) go with lots of Mexican or Tex/Mex dishes, like quesadillas, huevos rancheros, burritos, or as a dip for tortilla chips. They turn out to be easy to make, and the Borlotti beans that many of us grow work especially well.
One cup of dried beans makes two or three cups of frijoles refritos, depending on how soft you want it.
one cup of dried beans
about 60ml (quarter cup) of oil or lard
one onion, finely chopped
two or three cloves of finely minced garlic
Soak and cook the beans as usual. Drain them, but save the cooking water separately.
In a heavy frying pan, sauté the onions in the oil until they start to brown. Add the garlic, and sauté a bit longer.
Add a big spoonful of the beans, and mash them in well with the onions. Fry them for a while, then add some more beans and mash them in with the rest. Continue until all the beans are fried. This process causes a reaction between the starches and proteins in the beans (a Maillard reaction, if you want to know) which brings out the special flavour.
Now add a bit of the cooking water at a time, mashing it in as you go, until you get the right consistency. Make it a bit sloppier, actually, because they set firmer once they cool. I like to make the dip version quite soft.
Salt the mixture to taste. Beans stand quite a bit of salt sometimes. Keep tasting as you go.
It is not so hard to cook dried beans on your stove top.
Here is the method of cooking dried beans which I have refined over many years. It is easy, and it gets rid of the indigestible substances that give beans such a bad reputation. You don’t need any special equipment like pressure cookers – it works well in a covered pan on your stove top. In fact, I prefer doing it this way because I can monitor when they are done more easily.
Enough for 2 or 3 people, and combines well with one tin of tomatoes:
One cup of dried beans
Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. Ok, you do have to think ahead a little. If you have to leave them a second day, just drain them and give them fresh water until you are ready to cook. Remember, they will swell to more than twice their original volume. When you are ready to cook, drain the beans. Bring a pan of water to the boil, and tip in the beans. Get them boiling again, and boil for a further two or three minutes. Drain again and discard the water. This gets rid of most of indigestible stuff without losing the flavour.
Now cover the beans in new water and simmer with a lid on the pan until they are done. Keep an eye on them so they don’t dry out and burn. And how do you know when they are done? Lift a few beans out on a wooden spoon and blow on them. If the skins start to split and peel back they are about ready. Let a couple cool down and taste them. Repeat until you are satisfied. If the skins split in the pan they are a bit over done, but it is not a disaster. Near the end of the cooking, adjust the salt to taste. Salting them at the beginning is supposed to slow down the cooking, but I don’t know if this is really true. As a guide, our beautiful white Aztec beans (a kind of runner bean, really) take about 20 minutes. Borlottis take 30 or 40, and red kidney beans a bit longer. Beans that have been stored for a long time take longer to cook.
Now drain them, and carry on with whatever recipe you are using.
Jayne brought some to our work parties. Delicious!
(Jayne brought some of her Swedish crispbread to one of our work parties, and it was delicious. I’ve converted her deciliter units to cups. Joe)
Here is the recipe for the Swedish crispbread. Our corn flour isn’t as good as the Swedish Risenta corn flour (majs mjol) but polenta flour may work.
1.5 cups cornflour
2 cups seeds – for instance :
0.5 cup linseed
0.5 cup sunflower seeds
0.5 cup pumpkin seeds
0.5 cup sesame seeds
1.5 cups boiling water
3/8 cup sunflower or rape seed oil
1/2 teasp salt.
flake salt for topping
Mix flour and seeds, add boiling water and oil and mix thoroughly.
Take half of the mixture and place on sheet of baking paper the size of oven shelf. Place another sheet of baking paper on top and press or roll mixture until flat. Take top piece of baking paper off and place in oven.
Bake at 150 degrees C for 45 minutes.
Try to do all the mixture in one go as it doesn’t sit very well.