Archives for posts with tag: beans

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I just happened upon this wonderful illustrated history of Johnny Appleseed.  Enjoy!

And here’s something that makes an interesting (and convincing) contention: Johnny Appleseed and the Golden Days of Hard Cider.

Here’s “Man in the Maze,” a short film about Food System problems (hideous) and people-centered solutions (beautiful).  The film is specific to “the geopolitical boundary with the greatest economic disparity in the world” but offers inspiration to people anywhere working hard “to rebuild the food system up from the bottom in a participatory way,” as Gary Paul Nabhan puts it in the interview — “to heal that food system, our economies, our bodies, and the land.”

Thanks to the lovely Charlotte Spring for the recommendation.


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 »


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…

Read the rest of this entry »


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

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Something kind of momentous happened today.  I read the Rumi poem “Chickpea to Cook” for the first time. What a feat of imagination, to identify yourself as a chickpea being cooked, and to conceive this as a metaphor for how life shapes us.  A chickpea, anthropomorphised.   I recognise that there must be great artistry as well as contention between translations of Rumi, because the first version I include feels so darn contemporary, especially compared to other, earlier ones.

Chickpea to Cook (translated by Coleman Barks) Read the rest of this entry »


I thought I’d share an aspect of my “approach” to daily meals.

Friends were coming for dinner; there would be seven of us.  I roasted a chicken with lemons and garlic and paprika and fennel seeds and this wonderful Palestinian za’atar.  I baked a squash, made brown rice (which I had duly soaked), a black-eyed pea salad with parsley and garlic and olive oil and scrap apple vinegar, and steamed kale with similar.  A sliced avocado decorated the platter that held the chicken. There was some leftover lemony tahini sauce, and I did make a kind of gravy / sauce, with the carmelized bits from the bottom of the roasting pan, and some ancient sweet wine from the bottom of a bottle.

After supper, the bones of the chicken simmered in the extra bean water, with some various scraps of carrot and leek and parsley stem, the seeds and pulp from the squash, and the roasted lemons complete with rind (I like a little bitter, and the acidic nature helps the bones release their minerals).

In the photo above are the leftovers, which I added in the morning to that broth, which I’d strained, reserving the kale for the last minute.  I chopped a carrot for sweetness, shredded half a swede/ rutabaga because it was there, chopped some celery by habit, squeezed in some tomato puree/ paste for the pleasure of squeezing a tube and and for the colour, and served with black pepper and parmesan at the end.


Soup: I make it constantly, usually with leftovers as a main ingredient, exploring inspirations from world cuisines, basing broths on meat stocks or vegetarian stocks and often fermented brines.  I have herbs from the summer preserved in salt, and a lacto-fermented “bouillon” (posts to follow) that I can call upon for oomph.  Then grains, legumes (red lentils an obvious favourite), root vegetables, greens, ginger, spices — sometimes finishing with miso or fermented veg in one form or another, usually sauerkraut.  Fresh herbs if they happen to be there.  It’s not so much rules as a sense of freedom.  Which is a reason I don’t like recipes or the idea of “the best” this or the best that, and ask you to trust your own impulses.   Use what is on-hand as your inspiration, though of course you can plan what to have on-hand.  Food made with love will be received with love– generally.

This one was quite minestrone-esque, and amazing to me because basically it was a pretty direct transformation of the meal the night before, with a few hearty brighteners.

“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.

Hello, Old Bean

The beans as runner beans were old and scraggly and would have been chewy and tough. Inside though– little magic beans, beautiful colours and telling stories of a diverse genetic lineage. It’s amazing really to LOOK at them, to hold them in your hand, and imagine they are both seeds, and security, and food for the winter too– food for indefinite duration, if stored correctly. Beans here in Britain can feel– well, there are Baked Beans, of course, donning in sugary, tomatoey glory many a Jacket Potato with Cheese. But these beans: these feel Old World, and humble, yet mysterious, Jack and the Beanstalkish, something from the past and hopefully the future, a good food future, in which people, gardeners, farmers, still save and plant seeds, a future in which we’ve retained freedom of seeds, the little amulets that communicate the magic and mystery of life-cycles.

Corporate seed control, via patents and elaborate legal regulation of sales, is so absurd I barely can understand it, except in terms of a growing trend in which common (meaning shared) resources are privatised for profit and ownership. How could any of these seeds, these precious living beans, be owned for the life that they can generate if planted and nurtured? I just don’t get it.

Seed Freedom Fortnight is upon us, please see what might be happening near you, or make something happen– even if it’s just saving seed or sharing seed or thinking about the importance of keeping our right to access, freely, joyfully, humanity’s agricultural (and culinary) heritage.


Youth and Experience

Three Sisters

Last night I stayed up late baking for this morning, three cakes for the launch of a community kitchen venture I will write about soon. I’d been inspired by the idea of the Three Sisters of Native American growing– corn and beans and squash.

A cornmeal (or polenta) cake with blackberries my family picked; Vegan Black Bean Brownies that were equally delicious and weird– hard to get a grasp on; and a moist, dense Pumpkin and Apple Cake, that I made with gluten-free flour and roasted, very orange and dense squash that I pureed through a food mill. The internet is so vastly full of ideas when you need them. Ask me and I can give you any particulars…

I am entranced by the idea of cakes with vegetables– of course carrots and courgettes and marrows, and all the chocolate beetroot cakes — though I want to try the squash cake above with that rosy beet instead, to play and shine the earth of beet rather than hide it behind the dusky sweet chocolate. Parsnips too intrigue, and there’s that world of sweet pies and tarts that have spinach or swiss chard with raisins and custard, or not… and would love to try these with nettle leaves some day. You could imagine savoury cakes and loaves too, playing with the sweet form with usually salty ingredients, but what I feel like exploring first is just how far you can take veg into a sweet cake. Going to do a little research– I’m sure there’s loads to be discovered.

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