Puys, peas please me

As the Spring advances, I seem to be getting more lively, almost as if I am speeding up.

I walk faster and I feel brighter and more alert. Must be the increased sunshine, I reckon.

The same goes for my cooking. I am moving away from slow cooked food and wanting faster results. I want to get in from work and make something quickly. Something brighter tasting and lively.

And who would have thought that lentils would fit the bill?

Not red lentils – these are lovely nutty, green and brown speckled  Puy lentils.

They cook really quickly, too.

Before you dismiss lentils as dark and stodgy, try them. They are packed full of protein and deliciously tasty and  make a perfect accompaniment for fish or meat. Sometimes potatoes just seem so… potatoey. Sometimes you want a change and lovely Puy lentils give you that.

They take the same time to cook as does roasting a piece of salmon in the oven… how about that as an easy supper option?

All you have to do is pour some Puy lentils into a pan, add some water and a stock cube (for added flavour) and start to boil gently.

The stock absorbs within a few minutes  – just try them and see if they are at the state of tenderness that you would prefer. They aren’t going to go mushy like red lentils, they keep their shape so don’t guage by looking, taste them. Maybe ten minutes or so should do it.

Then, just as you are ready to serve, add a handful or so of frozen peas.

Stir them round so they defrost.

And the surprise secret ingredient that changes this to a really lovely side dish that you will want to make again and again?

A spoonful of mint jelly. Stirred in, once everything is cooked, it  adds a lovely sweet brightness to the finished dish and really lifts it.

Don’t be put off by this – it doesn’t give it an over powering taste of mint, more of an elusive sweet sharpness that works wonderfully with fish and meat.

In actual fact, I am happy to eat this all by itself it’s so tasty.

Go on… you really should make them.

Puy lentils and peas

One of the most delicious vegetable  dishes the Bear and I have is made from what might seem to be an unlikely combination of lentils, peas and onion…. it’s quick and easy as well as low calorie. What more could you want?

Puy lentils are a beautiful browny-green colour and they have a lovely nutty flavour

They just need a quick rinse and then put them in a pan with twice the amount of water and bring gently to the boil.

I sometimes add stock granules to the water and that adds another dimension of flavour to the lentils.

While they are gently boiling, finely slice a red onion

and put the slices in a bowl with some olive oil… maybe three or four tablespoons

This starts to soften and mellow the onion.

Then squeeze half a lemon

Pour the lemon juice in and stir round

Add a few handfuls of frozen peas and no, you don’t need to defrost them.  They start to defrost gently and not boiling them keeps them full of flavour. That lemon juice and olive oil dressing seems to emphasise the sweetness of the peas.

By now the lentils will be cooked – they keep their firmness to some degree but they shouldn’t be hard.

Drain them quickly… and then…while they are still hot add them to the bowl

Stir them through the mixed peas and onion, making sure they are all covered with the lemony dressing.

The heat of the lentils softens the onion to perfection and takes the last chill off the peas.

This really is an excellent side dish to serve with roast meat… one of our favourites is roast lamb. The lentils and peas are all you need to serve with a few slices of meat – we don’t even bother with potatoes – which means it makes one of the simplest suppers ever

Pea and Soya bean houmous with fresh cheese on toast

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I really like the taste of soya beans – there’s a lovely nuttiness to soya and the texture is really good. Not floury at all like so many beans, but clean and firm. I often make a mixed dish of soya beans and peas to serve with a meal as a vegetable side dish. It looks so pretty as well – bright green peas and beans together look beautifully fresh and taste clean and bright.

In the summer I had spotted a recipe in Good Food for Pea and Broad Bean Houmous and thought it looked delicious… but how much more delicious it would be, if the broad beans were replaced with soya beans.

As it is November, the heating systems have come on at work and they are proving difficult to control – it can be almost tropical at times, so a light and cooling lunch (that is ideal in summer time) actually has its place in the grey days of late autumn. You can make this and pack it easily for a lunch to be  taken to work… all you need are the soya beans, some peas

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Some garlic, a lemon, some oil, fresh cheese  (well, I made it at the weekend in the Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment and I still have some left so that will be perfect instead of the goat’s cheese in the original recipe) and some lovely, slow risen No Knead Bread.

Let’s start on the houmous then….. start by boiling the soya beans. They are done first because they are bigger than the peas… so give them a few minutes in a pan

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and then add the peas. Frozen vegetables, like peas and beans are marvellous because you end up with the freshest and tastiest little morsels – far sweeter than you could ever hope to get by buying them in pods.

The peas will only need a minute or two then drain the lot, rinsing them in cold water

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They really do look so lovely

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While they are rinsing and cooling down, pop two or three garlic cloves in the pan you have just emptied and add some oil…. this needs to be on the lowest setting so you can gently cosset those cloves into softness without burning them or making them change colour (though I have to say it isn’t the end of the world if they do change colour…)

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Then, whizz the peas and beans to a sort of roughishly smooth texture

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Once the garlic is soft, add the oil and the garlic to the pea and soya bean puree and whizz it round again – you want it smooth but not so smooth it has no texture at all. You are aiming for a graininess, I suppose.

And squeeze a lemon, after taking off its zest .. add the juice and the zest and stir ….season it well with salt and pepper…. it should taste lovely

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Put it in a bowl and drizzle with more oil… then… make some toast

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Get out your cheese

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Spread lightly

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Then top with your lovely houmous….

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… there you go… light and fresh and so very tasty. Ideal in the tropical temperatures of an overheated office. Even if it is the dog end of November.

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