food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘beans & lentils’ Category

mushroom, walnut and lentil loaf

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Not in the mood for meat? Here’s a high protein, gluten free loaf that everyone will enjoy.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Line the base and sides of a 1.5 litre loaf tin with baking paper. Heat 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and butter in a saucepan and add a mirepoix of finely diced onion, celery and carrot in roughly equal portions. Cook until the onion is translucent and soft. Add 240g (8½ oz) of finely chopped mushrooms. I used Swiss brown mushrooms and added a sprinkling of powdered porcini mushroom for added flavour. Cook until the mushrooms are soft then add 2 finely diced or crushed cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of smoky paprika and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. Continue to cook for a few minutes more before adding ½ a cup of red lentils and 1¼ cups of vegetable stock. Cook over low heat until the lentils are soft and all the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to col a little. Finally add 150g (5 oz) of crushed walnuts, 100g (3½ oz) of finely ground (instant) oats, 100g (3½ oz) of grated sharp cheddar cheese, 3 lightly beaten eggs and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and mix well to combine. Transfer the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and press it down. Bake covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for a further 15-20 minutes until quite firm. Serve with tomato sauce and a fresh green salad.


barley, lentils and mushrooms with fried onions

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Once again Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe imparts amazing flavours to a vegetarian meal.


In a small bowl cover 20g (¾ oz) of dried porcini with 1¾ cups of boiling water and leave to stand for an hour. After an hour, remove the mushrooms and strain the liquid through a very fine sieve to remove any grit, then return the mushrooms to their liquid. Place 120g (4¼ oz) of barley (pre-soaked) and 170g (6 oz) of brown lentils in a large saucepan. Add 4 times the volume of cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a rolling simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl and leave to cool down. Cut an onion into thin slices lengthways and toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of flour. Heat oil in a medium saucepan (enough to cover the onion slices in batches) to high heat and fry the onion in batches for three to four minutes, until golden-brown. Remove them to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside to cool. Slice a second onion into wider wedges. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat and fry the onion wedges for five minutes until charred and soft. Stir in 1½ teaspoons of ground cumin, 1 teaspoons of ground allspice and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Next add 4 sliced large mushrooms, the finely sliced rind of 1 lemon and ½ a teaspoon each of sugar and salt. Fry until the mushrooms start to soften then add the porcini and all their soaking liquid. Boil rapidly for five minutes, reducing the liquid to approximately ½ a cup. Reduce the heat and add the lentils and barley plus 1 tablespoon of dried mint, 1 teaspoon of dried dill leaves, ¾ of a teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Cook for a minute more then remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Serve garnished with the fried onion and chopped parsley with sour cream on the side.

lentils with mushrooms, bacon and sage

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This hearty lentil dish makes a satisfying meal.


Heat some olive oil in a saucepan and fry some chopped bacon, onion and celery, some chunky pieces of carrot and some finely diced garlic. When the onion is soft add a little red wine vinegar to deglaze. Add the lentils (I used du Puy lentils) and hot water or stock to cover. Cook until the lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, adding more liquid if necessary. Meanwhile, in a separate frypan, cook a few pieces of bacon until quite crisp. Remove them from the pan and allow them to cool. In the remaining bacon fat fry a generous handful of fresh sage leaves until crisp and set aside. When the lentils are nearly soft add some roughly chopped mushrooms and cook for a few minutes more, seasoning to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Crumble the bacon and sage over the top. I served these lentils with Cheesy Leeks à la Oliver and silverbeet (chard) cooked with lemon and walnuts.


Written by michelle picker

November 30, 2016 at 5:41 am

vegan meringues

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I was fascinated to learn that the water from chick peas (aquafaba), or in fact any legumes, behaves a lot like eggs in various recipes, including meringues. As you probably know by now, I’m not a vegan but I found these meringues amazing. They have a more interesting, nutty flavour than egg meringues and the mixture is very stable. I flavoured mine with orange blossom water and almond essence but feel free to let your imagination run wild.


With an electric mixer beat 160ml (5½ fl oz) of chick pea water (about what you will get in a can of chick peas) until stiff peaks form. Add 1 cup of caster sugar, a bit at a time, until the sugar is dissolved and you have a nice glossy mixture. Flavour with 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water and half a teaspoon of almond essence. Pipe the mixture, into the shapes you want, onto oven trays which are lined with baking paper. Bake in a 120ºC (250ºF ) oven for 1½ – 2 hours depending on size and cool in the oven. Store in an air-tight container.

Written by michelle picker

October 31, 2016 at 5:35 am

blue corn tamales

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Tamales originated as early as 8000 to 5000 BC. The Aztec and Mayan civilisations, as well as the Olmec and Toltec before them, used tamales as portable food, often to support their armies, but also for hunters and travellers. Tamales are generally wrapped in corn husks or plantain leaves before being steamed. In Mexico they are a favourite comfort food, eaten as both breakfast and dinner. Tamales exist in various forms throughout Central and South America and even in the Phillipines and Guam, once Spanish provinces of Mexico. They also made their way to Spain with the Conquistadors who took them there as proof of civilisation. This recipe is adapted from Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe and even though I had no corn husks and had to make do with baking paper, the result was excellent.


To make these tamales you will first need some blue corn masa. For 6 tamales combine 1½ cups of blue corn masa with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of milk. In a large bowl or stand mixer whisk 250g (9 oz) of butter with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Incorporate the masa mixture into the butter 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking to keep the mixture light. Fold in 1 cup of cooked corn kernels, 1 diced chorizo and ½ a cup of chopped coriander (cilantro) until well combined. Divide the mixture between 6 corn husks, or baking paper. Roll the tamales and tie the ends. Steam them for 30 minutes and serve with a fresh salad and some refried black beans. For this salad I first pickled a finely sliced red onion and 2 green chillies. In a small saucepan combine ½ a cup each of white vinegar, water and sugar and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the onion and chillies and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Heat some oil in a small frypan and add ¼ of a cup of pepita (pumpkin) seeds, some smoky paprika and some salt. Fry until they just begin to colour and remove them to a plate. To assemble the salad lay out rows of tomato and avocado wedges. Spread the pickled onion over the top and garnish with the pepita seeds.


To make refried beans, 1 cup of beans and 4 cups of water will produce 2½ cups of cooked beans. If you remember, you can soak them overnight but a quicker method is to boil them for 4 minutes and then soak them for 1 hour. Next they need to be cooked for 45-60 minutes (or 10 minutes in a pressure cooker) until tender. Drain, retaining the liquid, and set aside. In a saucepan, heat a generous amount of vegetable oil and sauté 1 finely diced onion and 1-2 cloves of garlic until translucent. Add any or all of the following dry herbs and spices to your taste: cumin, oregano, chilli, smoky paprika, cayenne pepper. Add the beans and fry over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Now add some of the liquid and salt to taste.


Written by michelle picker

August 14, 2016 at 5:49 am

enoki mushroom and bean thread soup

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This quick Asian style soup makes a deliciously satisfying meal.


Nothing in this soup takes very long to cook. Prepare a light chicken or vegetable stock and add some finely shredded cabbage, enoki mushrooms and julienned carrots. After a couple of minutes add some bean thread noodles (mung bean vermicelli) broken into 10cm (4″ ) lengths, some sliced fried tofu (beancurd) and some raw prawns (shrimp). Allow to simmer until the prawns and vermicelli are cooked. Add some garlic chives, also cut into 10cm (4″) lengths and flavour the soup to taste with Vietnamese fish sauce (milder than Thai fish sauce), Sriracha chilli sauce and white pepper.

jerk chicken + coconut rice and beans

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I haven’t tried much Jamaican food but a newly found appreciation of all things cooked over coal led to this delicious meal. Jerk is a style of cooking in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture which always includes allspice (pimento in Jamaica) and Scotch bonnet chillies. We used Tasting Tables’s recipe.


To make the jerk marinade, in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle coarsely grind 1 tablespoon of allspice berries and 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns. Transfer to a food processor with 4 to 6 whole Scotch Bonnet chillies, 6 roughly chopped scallions, 1 large shallot, 1 peeled and roughly chopped thumb-sized piece of ginger, 6 large cloves of garlic, 3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves, 2 tablespoons of finely grated lime zest, 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, ½ a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg and 2 teaspoons of salt. Blend or process until smooth. Place 4 whole chicken legs (or pieces of your choice) and the marinade into large ziploc bags or a container with a good lid and make sure all the chicken is coated with marinade.Refrigerate the chicken for at least 4 or up to 36 hours (we did ours for 24). When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the refrigerator, wiping off any excess marinade. Transfer to a plate and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking. Meanwhile prepare a charcoal grill for indirect grilling at 180ºC (350ºF). Arrange the chicken skin-side up on the grate, with the legs pointing toward the heat source. Cover and cook the chicken undisturbed, adding more charcoal as needed to maintain the temperature for 50 – 60 minutes or until a thermometer reads 65ºC (150ºF) to 68ºC (155ºF). Uncover the grill and drop a handful of allspice berries and some bay leaves onto the charcoal. Once they begin to smoke, transfer the chicken to the hot side of the grill and continue to cook, flipping often, until the skin is lightly charred and crisp and the temperature reads 74ºC (165ºF). Transfer to a work surface and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with lime wedges.

Coconut rice and beans are also traditional Jamaican fare.


To make coconut rice and beans heat some oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 finely chopped onion and cook until softened and lightly coloured. Add 1½ cups of long-grain rice and stir for 30 seconds to coat the grains. Add 2 cups water, a can of coconut milk, 1 can of rinsed and drained kidney beans, 1 Scotch Bonnet chilli, 3 spring onions, a sprig of fresh thyme, 3 whole peeled and bruised garlic cloves, some freshly ground black pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer then cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Written by michelle picker

September 28, 2015 at 5:48 am