There is more to it than pie and crumble.
Starting in April, or earlier, we pick lots of rhubarb until June on our plots. Here are some recipes and recommendations from members for surprising ways of using it.
Sweet cicely is an attractive perennial herb with an aniseed scent, easy to grow. It combines especially well with rhubarb:
Pick them young, before the choke develops and try this.
Globe artichokes are coming on nicely at the moment (mid May). Instead of waiting for them to get enormous, this is how I’ve been cooking them:
Pick them young and tender.
Cut of the top third, and take of several layers of ‘leaves’.
Cut them in two. There is no choke at this stage.
Boil in wine/water+lemon juice or vinegar for about 10 minutes. Dress them with vinegar or whatever.
From Rosie Hall
JAs are delicious roasted, and as soup.
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!!
From Rosie Hall
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.
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.
I wondered if our white “Aztec” beans would work in this…
Fasolia gigantes are very large white beans much loved in Greek cooking, and I wondered if the white-seeded “Aztec” runner beans that some of us grow would work instead in this recipe which I found in Rena Salaman’s book Greek Food. I tried it out on a Greek friend of mine, and the result was “just as it should be”.
Serves four people as a main course.
- 2 cups dried “Aztec” beans, or about 4 cups of fresh ones
- Half a cup of good olive oil
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 2 tins of tomatoes or about 1kg of fresh ones
- Salt and black pepper
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
If you are using dried beans, soak them overnight, drain, then boil until just tender, but not too soft. Fresh beans just need boiling for a few minutes and draining. Heat the olive oil and fry the onions, garlic and dried herbs until they start to be golden. Add the tomatoes and their juice and a bit of water and mash them up a bit and cook for 30 minutes or so, until the sauce starts to thicken. Spread the beans across the bottom of a nice oven dish or casserole. Mix the parsley into the sauce, pour it over the beans and mix them all together. Sprinkle a bit of oregano and black pepper on top and bake at 180 degC for 40 minutes, until they start to look a bit crisp on top.
From Joe Foster
My favorite bean dish, using our large white “Aztec” beans, or borlottis.
This is my very favorite bean dish. It works especially well with the large white “Aztec” beans that some of us grow on our plots, dried or fresh. It might be even more delicious with borlotti beans, it that is possible. It serves 2 or 3 people.
- A cup of dried beans, or about 2 cups of fresh ones.
- Half a cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Six fresh sage leaves, or a sprig of sage blossoms
- A small dried chili pepper, crumbled
- Four good cloves of garlic, crushed
- Salt and black pepper
- A 400g tin of tomatoes or about four fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped.
If you are using dried beans, soak them overnight and drain. Boil the beans for about an hour, until they are nice and tender. Drain them.
Get about half the oil hot and simmer the sage, chili, and garlic in it for a minute or two, then add the beans and fry them all together for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and simmer it all for about 30 minutes. Top up with water if it gets too thick.
Season to taste, then pour the rest of the olive oil over the top and serve. Do not be tempted to skimp on the olive oil!
I like it with steamed brown rice, but my wife prefers it with mashed potatoes. If you manage to have any left the next day, try Tuscan Beans on toast. Sublime!
I found the original version of this recipe in a wonderful little book called The Goodness of Beans, Peas and Lentils by John Midgley. It is full of great things to do with beans. Any of the recipes that use cannellini or haricot beans are even better with Aztec beans.
from Joe Foster