“What’s for dinner?” Once you have kids, that question becomes part of your life. Even my mother-in-law, growing up in the 1930s, in the deep country in a large family as a child of a coal miner, remembers asking her mother, who would flatly respond, to which many of us can empathise, “Crickets and soot.”

Someday I want to make Crickets and Soot for dinner.  Not a fancy Heston Blumenthal take on it, but literally…

Yesterday I decided to take my menu cue from this wonderful Carolina Chocolate Drops song and make… Cornbread and Butterbeans.

cornbread, butterbeans

I liked the idea of a meal constructed differently, perhaps more simply, than the ones I often belabour– this one felt like a variation on Dal and Flatbreads, an easy, nutritious, cheap meal my children do enjoy.

What did I learn:

The Lima Bean of my American childhood is reborn in the dried Butterbean (in this case, a lazy tin) of my adulthood in the UK.

The “stew” I made with butterbeans was really good and simple and kind of universal: leeks, onion, carrot, celery sauteed in butter/ olive oil, the beans, some added liquid, salt and pepper and thyme and a bay leaf– and at the end lots of fresh parsley, which is still growing happily in this rainy but mild winter.  The dish reminded me of the Marcella Hazan Italian recipe for a very garlicky white bean soup with loads of parsley.  There’s a mildness to these beans and a slightly mealy texture that one child did end up rejecting, even as both of them continue to open up to new foods, thank goodness, because not being able to be fully creative in my cooking is tiresome.

Cornbread:  I used some kefir in place of buttermilk.  It was a bit on-the-edge and so sour that it instantly reacted to the baking soda/ bicarb in the recipe that it frothed over the jug.   Because it was SO sour I decided to use the full amount of sugar in the recipe, in some attempt to please, i.e. not disgust, those same children as above.  The result, having got in the habit of always reducing sugar in any recipe, was a taste way too sweet for my liking.  And I used the duck eggs that I’d bought for the birthday cake that ended up being eggless.  The cornbread tasted like cake to me, and not gritty.  But still was fun to mop up the beans with it.

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