Archives for category: Beans

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OK, it’s true, I’m among those cookbook lovers who pour through end-of-year lists proclaiming which ones are best and most warrant giving as gifts to loved ones. They all repeat each other, those lists! And while I sometimes agree (yes, Mamushka is wonderful), there are books that somehow got off the radar and really deserve attention at this point in the marketing cycle (which, let’s be real, is what these lists are about).  So with 9-days-to-go, and despite my bah-humbug, anti-materialist spirit, I’m hopping on the bandwagon.

The Groundnut Cookbook is a book to judge by its cover, based on its lush, colourful front and back, illustrated by one of its authors, Duval Timothy.  (I’ve fantasized actually about curtains, wallpaper and poster prints in this vibrant, sumptuous pattern, that’s how beautiful I find it.)

IMG_6025 (4) IMG_6028 (1) Read the rest of this entry »


Have I raved to you about Penelope Casas’ Green Bean recipe, rightfully enshrined as a Food52 “Genius Recipe?” Read the description and follow it closely.

You take your beans and sear them in a hot, oily pan, and they steam and char at the same time, retaining lots of bean-taste. When they’re done, toss them in chopped garlic and salt.

This method is flexible to flavours that go around the world– ginger and garlic and soy sauce for a Chinese mood, mustard seeds and chilis for South Asian, add coconut milk for a Thai feeling.. you get the idea.

I’d been wondering about Runner Beans, those prolific stalwarts of the British summer veg patch.  I’ve never managed to love them as deeply as I do green beans/ string beans/ French beans (as they are called here). Read the rest of this entry »


Well, the photos were coming out pretty gruesome, even for someone like me with a penchant for revolting retro food photography.


I realised part of the problem was that I was trying to present this Armenian Bean and Walnut Pate as something in the family of hummus (bean spreads), and the colour, maybe a bit like pet food, just couldn’t present well.  Even the jewels of pomegranate didn’t help– they rather annoyed me, though they were a gift from a friend and quite coincidentally on hand.

But the moment I decided to spread the spread on a crisp cracker, and put it on a plate, which then required a garnish– that was the moment those little cornichons in the back of the fridge came to mind.  These little pickles awakened an instant association with pates of liver and pork or chicken, much relished foods that are not so much on our meat-reduced menu these days. Read the rest of this entry »


I’m a Black Eyed Peas-at-New Years gal, and this year I searched around and could only find a tin. So a tin of peas it is, and a most wonderful salad that that feels lemony and green and bright.  I know that these peas can take a LOT of flavour, and years of preparing them THIS way pushed me towards the fermented flavours and the bitter of the lemon zest.  This is the salad I just made– I’m sure your variations will be delicious too.

Make sure to read this great piece by Michael Twitty musing historically on black eyed peas and greens…

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Beans are magical talisman and objects of beauty and represent a midpoint between past and future.  They are jewels of life.  Sprouting them in the long dark days of winter is a kind of ritual of hope.

I was excited to learn that in Egypt people sprout dried favas (broad beans) before cooking them, as a way to boost nutrition. Read the rest of this entry »


A Split Pea Stew becomes a Split Pea Soup With Ethiopian Spices… Read the rest of this entry »


Honouring the death of a difficult woman by remembering the soup she often made.

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So I was 20 and the year was 1984, and I ate one of the most delicious things in my life.

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“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.

Lupini Beans, Hypothetically Speaking

Oh Lupini Beans — happy memories and good times, my college days so many moons ago, in Providence, Rhode Island where a walk down streets of pastel-coloured wooden houses led to a Portuguese grocery store that I loved.  And there I discovered  jars filled with these salty Lupini beans from which your teeth rip a hole in the skin and you kind of suck the bean out of its rubbery shell into your mouth .  (Is that it really?  It’s been so long…)  Kind of like edamame, though edamame has the salty pod you strip off with your teeth to get those nuggets  of baby soybeans that can taste sweet when really fresh.

Something recently brought up a craving for Lupinis (Tremocos in Portuguese), and I began to wonder what they actually are, and whether I could make them.  I somehow had imagined them close to fava/ broad beans, though their name should have easily suggested the Lupin family, which I’ve only known as beautiful blue cottage-garden, bee-attracting flowers that I’ve never grown successfully in this country of slugs and snails.

(This is a post I’m writing hypothetically really, as a round-up of the state of knowledge I’ve come to, to share web resources — of which there are not that many — and an invitation to anyone else’s interest, and a request for more information should anyone with experience happen upon this blog….  My interest, as readers know, is looking at global food traditions to widen what we grow locally, around the world, with Climate Weirding etc. in the name of both self-sufficiency and fun and experimental eating.)

Here’s a wonderful and easy Snapguide to how to prepare the salty snacks I enjoy so much.  But, searching for hours on the internet I was unable to find the dried beans to order by post in the UK– and from abroad, the postage cost just made the idea prohibitive.

dried lupinis

I’m not even sure precisely which lupin species have been used traditionally for food– clarity on this issue would be appreciated.  These beans can be toxic, to humans and to livestock, if not prepared correctly, so there seems to be pretty widespread concern to grow low-alkaloid cultivars.  Yet, the traditional varieties were prepared with over a week’s soaking in water that was changed pretty frequently, so the toxic alkaloids would be leached out.  Hmmmm.   If using these beans dried and ground, as for flour, I guess you’d want to either dry the soaked beans, which seems labour and energy intensive, or in that case really seek out the “sweet” varieties.  I am signposting this issue as something for further research and understanding.  There also seems to be an issue with allergies not being uncommon.

Full of curiosity, I wrote to Alan who writes the really great Scottish Permaculture blog Of Plums and Pignuts.

“Hello!…Can I ask you a question, as someone more interested in cooking/ preparing food than growing …. I’d like to figure out which lupins to grow for the edible seeds that are Lupini Beans/ Tremocos. In your opinion, would any species produce more seeds than others, or be more appropriate or traditional than others?  I am aware of the alkaloid toxicity issue… If you have time, I’d love to know what you think.  I’ve jumped around the web but haven’t found much really.”

“Hi Annie,” Alan replied. “Thanks for the email. It’s always nice to hear from other people who are interested in this sort of thing. The only lupin I have tried growing for food is Lupinus albus or white lupin, which really didn’t flourish at all [up there in Aberdeen, Scotland], to the extent that I didn’t even get any seeds to try. I understand that Lupinus mutabilis is the best one for eating, having been a staple of the Incan empire, but it isn’t hardy here. Tremocos (Portuguese name)/lupini seem to be Lupinus luteus or yellow lupin.  [Somewhere I think I, Annie, read that they come from the blue lupin, Lupinus angustifolius— my memory could be faulty but it nags.]

The most productive lupin in this country is certainly the garden lupin, which is Lupinus polyphyllus. Unfortunately its seeds have very high levels of alkaloids. There are cultivars that I would like to try some day that have been bred for sweetness. Lupinus perennis and Lupinus nootkatensis also look like they would be hardy and might be worth trying.

I haven’t experimented much with lupins as in general they seem to be fiddly and take a lot of preparation. In addition the best ones for eating are often annual, which means that you lose much of what attracts me to the group in the first place. From what I’ve read, they seem to be eaten rather like edamame, but since I can get moderate crops of soya beans here I might be best sticking with them.  Good luck with your experiments.”

Thank you Alan for that useful information!  It also seems like the countries that have a history of eating lupin seeds are warmer and have longer and drier growing seasons than we have had in the UK….

Well, as I’m just putting this all out there in the webosphere as something of interest, here are some links I’ve found that might be helpful

On the Andean lupin

Plants for a Future (for one species, and there are others on their database)

A good Permaculture website

and for a Canadian experience with growing lupins for food.

Illustration from Wikipedia Commons

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