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Seasonal Specials > Broad Beans 18 July 2007

Posted by cath in easy, specials, summer, variations, vegetables.
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Broad beans and garlic

Broad beans are in season at the moment and taste fantastic fresh from the pod. The pods are larger than peas, but basically the same idea – unless they are very young (baby broad beans), you don’t eat the pod (but it does make a lovely stock for vegetarian food).

Broad beans go fantastically well with pancetta (plus this might help you get broad beans on the menu for those more fussy about their veg!).

Broad beans steam really well, taking about 5-6 minutes, but less if they are very small and young. Just remove them from the pods, rinse and steam. Serve with a knob of butter.

Here are two methods of cooking broad beans:

If you’ve got a few large handfuls of broad bean pods you can make a very quick and easy, vegetarian broad bean pod stock. Just cover the beans in water in a large pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain out the pods and reduce the remaining stock. You can reduce it right down to a syrupy liquid and freeze in cubes (or small batches), or just reduce to taste. Stock with a good flavour and consistency will give you a base for making soup or risotto.

Veg stock - broad bean and pea pod

Broad bean pod stock (front) and 

Pea pod stock (back) – reduced and frozen


You can mix pea and broad bean pods together, or do pea-pod stock in the same way. Don’t simmer for longer than 20 minutes – vegetables like these pods release their flavours quickly and can get bitter if overcooked.

Vegetables > Broad Beans cooked in Tomato Sauce 18 July 2007

Posted by cath in easy, summer, vegetables.
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Using some freshly podded broad beans, and some homemade tomato sauce you can make a vegetarian version of my broad beans with pancetta, tomato and pasta. It’s just as nice, and healthier without the pancetta and pancetta oil.

You just need to cook the broad beans gently in the tomato sauce for the last 6-8 minutes of cooking, so once the pasta cooking you can put them in. Thats it! Check the beans are done, then add to the tomato sauce and serve. Couldn’t be easier!

Mix some fresh basil or other herbs into the sauce to vary it. Sprinkle with cheese for a richer dish.

The finished dish:

Vegetarian Broad Bean & Tomato Pasta

Vegetarian Broad Bean and Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti



Vegetables > Broad Beans with Pancetta 18 July 2007

Posted by cath in easy, summer, variations, vegetables.
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For this recipe, take a large handful or two of broad beans, remove them from the pods.

Take about 2 inches of pancetta and cut it into slices (which look like Frazzles, those bacon crisps!) and then each slice into short sticks.

Find a frying pan which is the right size to fit a lid onto it. Heat the pan up, dry (or use with just a very small splash of oil, rubbed over the pan with some paper towel so that there is the barest coating. This can help the pancetta start to cook and not burn).

Now, fry the pancetta on a low heat, melting the fat and gradually crisping up the pancetta pieces. Be careful to agitate them and not to let them burn.

Once they are crisp, you may decide you have too much oil in the pan, if so remove some until you have enough to just cover the base of the frying pan. (You can use this oil to fry other things like mushrooms or onions, so keep it covered in the fridge.)

Now with the heat turned slightly higher, throw in the broad beans and mix them with the oil. When they start to sizzle, throw in a splash of water (it may spit a bit so be careful!) and quickly cover with the pan lid, after a minute or two, turn the heat down again. Shake the pan a few times during cooking, they will take about 5-10 minutes, depending on their size. Test one to check it is done. It should be soft (but not mushy!).

Remove from the heat and drain on a paper towel.

This makes a great simple side dish for a meal, or throw the cooked beans with some hot tomato sauce and stir it all into some cooked pasta – yum!

Broad Beans, pancetta, tomato and pasta

Broad beans, pancetta, tomato and pasta

Spicy Tomato Pasta with Homegrown Chillies 22 July 2006

Posted by cath in easy, freeze-friendly, mildly spicy, Recipes, summer, variations, very spicy.
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I’ve been growing chillies in the hottest, sunniest window of the house. Yesterday was finally time to try the first fruits.

I’ve got a mixture of red, purpley and still green chillies on the plant, so we tasted a bright red and a green one.


chillies fresh from the plant

homegrown chillies


An easy dinner, variation on the basic tomato sauce: Spicy Tomato sauce, this one has chorizo, chillies, basil and a ewes milk Parmesan style cheese:

Close up of finished dish

spaghetti with spicy tomato and chorizo sauce


First make your basic tomato sauce with 5 or 6 tomatoes per person.

Once the tomato sauce has cooked for an hour, put on the spaghetti in a large pot with plenty of boiling water.

Use about 2 chillies per person, or to taste. Two of my fresh homegrown chillies were sampled – very hot and fiery with a lovely fresh taste and amazing smell, 4 of these in 2 portions gave a pretty spicy dish). The red chili was hot but mellow and slightly sweet, the green chili was slightly hotter and fresher, more zingy in flavour.

You’ll also need a handful of basil, some grated Parmesan-style cheese, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. I’ve also used some chorizo, but this is optional.


  1. Finely chop the chillies – seeds and all if you want it properly spicy, add it to the sauce on the heat and continue to cook until the pasta is cooked
  2. Roughly chop the chorizo, if using
  3. One the pasta is cooked, drain it and return to the pan with some olive oil, swirl together
  4. Turn off the heat from the sauce, add chorizo, basil and stir through
  5. Serve the pasta, top with sauce and a sprinkling of cheese and a grind of pepper

Spicy Tomato Pasta

The finished dish


Summer Drinks > Iced Coffee 21 July 2006

Posted by cath in drinks, easy, Recipes, summer.
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frothy iced coffee

frothy iced coffee

Iced Coffee

iced coffee

To me, this is the perfect summer drink. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Put on some coffee – I use one of the stove-top espresso makers, quick and easy to use (see below for details…)
  2. When the coffee is done, pour it into a glass jug or mug to help it cool down – if you want sugar in the finished drink, add it now whilst the coffee is hot
  3. Whilst the coffee is cooling you can make the crushed ice – just crush about 4-5 cubes per cup of coffee – I use a manual ice crusher as its only a small amount
  4. Add the crushed ice to some cold milk, add milk to taste, equal milk to coffee is a good starting ratio, you can always add extra milk at the end if required. Use a container with a sealing lid if you have one, or if you want it extra frothy, put the milk and crushed ice into a liquidiser, then blend together with the coffee for 30 seconds or so. If you do this step in advance, keep the milk and ice in the fridge or freezer until you’re coffee is ready and slightly cooled.
  5. When the coffee is slightly cooled, add it to the iced milk put the lid on the container and vigorously shake. If you don’t have a liquidiser or sealed container, then you can just stir everything together. Taste and add extra milk as required.
  6. Serve immediately (or put the jug in the fridge and shake up again before serving

Jug of Iced Coffee

Jug of Iced Coffee


A very easy way to make small quantities (2-3 cups) of coffee is in one of the Italian stove-top espresso makers like this one:

Coffee Pot

Coffee Pot

Add a scoop (roughly 1 tbsp) of coffee per cup, more if you like strong espresso, and fill the bottom up with water up to the line (or underneath the valve)

Put it on a medium heat and after a while steam will pour out of the spout and then stop – that’s it – it’s ready!

You can either drink the espresso, or, add hot milk for a cafe au lait, add hot or cold chocolate milk for a mocha, or add hot water and cold milk for a good strong white coffee

…also good for baking cakes, desserts and even chocolate making. Definitely a worthwhile purchase if you don’t have one.


And what about buying coffee?

Well, I have to say I buy a mixture of good Fairtrade coffee and fantastically flavoured strong (but pure evil no doubt) Lavazza Gold – mainly coz there isn’t a great supply of Fairtrade espresso ground coffee around here, but also it is good :)

We’re still not grinding our own beans – that could be a step worth taking though…


Summer Drinks > Ginger Beer 9 June 2006

Posted by cath in drinks, easy, Recipes, summer.
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Glass of Ginger Beer

Glass of Fresh Ginger Beer

FreshGingerBeer-brewing and brewed

Ginger Beer – Brewing and Half Gone…

First, thanks to Tracy for pointing out this basic recipe for Ginger beer courtesy of Giles Paterson (see the original recipe here). In my usual way I made a few alterations – basically, the recipe was great, but I wanted it extra gingery and more lemony, so this year I’ve managed to perfect it (she says)! Well, my official taster said it was as good as the Black Isle Ginger Beer, so I’m pretty pleased.
Ingredients and Preparation

An empty, 1 litre bottle (i.e. a tonic or soda water bottle) with lid

1 large chunk of root ginger – peeled and grated to give you at least 2 heaped tablespoons grated ginger

1 lemon – juiced
1/2 cup caster sugar (easier to dissolve than granulated)

1/8th teaspoon dried yeast (the same as for breadmaking…)

Plastic funnel – for getting everything in the bottle (plus a chopstick to poke the ginger down the funnel!)

Preparation Time, 10 minutes. Brew for 24-48 hours, chill for a minimum of 4 hours.


  1. Pour the sugar into the bottle using the funnel
  2. Then add the dried yeast on top of the sugar
  3. Mix the grated ginger into the lemon juice and add this to the bottle.
  4. Now add enough water (I use tap water but you could use bottled) fill about 2/3 or 3/4 of the bottle, put the lid on and shake well until the sugar is dissolved
  5. Now carefully fill the bottle up to about 1-2inches from the top – leaving room for expansion. It’s quite hard to open the ginger beer without it fizzing out of the bottle, so leave more rather than less here.
  6. Put the cap on the bottle tightly then put it somewhere warm – a warm room or airing cupboard/boiler room should suffice. Leave it in the warm for 24-48 hours to brew.
  7. The bottle will become hard after 1-2 days. I usually leave mine for 2 days to get the most flavour and fizz. Don’t leave your bottle in the warm place for too long – there have been stories of explosions, although I’ve not experienced that!
  8. Place the bottle in the fridge to cool, usually overnight or for several hours. This stops the yeast and holds the brewing process.
  9. Once chilled, open carefully over a sink. As we’ve brewed the beer in the bottle, it is quite fizzy and wants to explode out as soon as you open the top, even just a crack. It will begin to fizz as soon as you begin to open the lid, so watch it and go slowly. Be careful and patient. Once opened, it will be easy to open and close from then on.
  10. Pour your ginger beer through a tea strainer to remove the chunks of ginger and serve straight away.