Romesco white bean dip

For those of you holidaying abroad this summer, or considering it’s the end of August, have already spent your week away and have hoiday blues. You’ve wined and dined eating the local cuisine, immersed yourself in a new culture, had many failed attempts at the local lingo, driven on the wrong side of the road and made many memories.

That’s what holidays are really about the memories.

A certain time and place, the view, the company, it all adds up to make these memories. Ever had lunch on a beach drinking a glass of wine, to go and buy that very same bottle to take home, but when it comes to drinking, it just doesn’t taste as good. Or asked the waiter for the recipe for that sublime paella or meze dish to cook it at home, it most likely won’t taste as good.

So I bring to you a take on a famous sauce from the northern region of Spain, Catalonia. The romesco sauce is punchy from the paprika and cayenne but rich due to the almonds and Spanish olive oil. If you’ve ever experienced a true romesco sauce, no this won’t be the same, it may not be as good, it may even be better?!? But it has its feet stuck firmly in its roots.

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The original sauce uses bread as a thickener, a good white sourdough or chunky country loaf is ideal as it also imparts some flavour. Here though I’ve opted for some white beans. When making a dip I tend to gravitate towards a plantbased protein, typically in the form of lentils or beans, so whether it comes to afternoon snacking or building a big veggie bowl it will keep me sustained. White beans help to thicken the dip and provide a creaminess meaning less oil is needed plus who doesn’t like an alternative to hummus!?! I may feel the urge to bathe in it, but sometimes a change is necessary, so in comes this bright red beauty.

How much chilli, and which variety of chilli you use is comepletely up to you. I use a picante paprika by La Chinata, it is the hot smoked kind so has a good kick, if you’re using paprika just from the supermarket you may need to add a little more to get the right smoky level. Also I used half a dried ancho chilli which has sweeter fruity notes and isn’t too spicy but dried chilli flakes will substitute just finneeeeee. You won’t need to rehydrate these so just add straight to the food processor.

 

I served this in a few different ways, just as a dip with crudites, once in a big veggie bowl packed with sweet potato and courgette chips, avocado, some grains and greens. Another time in a packed lunch with olives, carrot, extra butter beans and a few other veggies thrown in the mix. Stir in some extra olive oil, vinegar if you like and a drop of water to make a killer salad dressing that will liven up any old salad. Or serve with some simply cooked fish or chicken or steak, or smeared underneath a plate of roasted meditteranean veg. I like to work on a leftover lunch policy, they are always the best ones. Throw together whatever is lingering, the crazier and more random sure will be the better!

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Enough chatting, let’s hop to it!

Romesco white bean dip

  • Servings: one big bowl full
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Ingredients

  • 1 tin of white beans (I used haricot)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree ( I had 2 tbsp of tinned cherry tomatoes that were leftover)
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp almond butter or a handful of almonds (roasting them would make it taste even better)
  • 1/2 dried ancho chilli (or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp picante smoked paprika (use 1 tsp of paprika if it’s not as strong)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 good pinches of salt
  • small handful of fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Set the oven to 190C/170C fan. Place the peppers on a tray and put in the oven for up to 45 minutes until the skin is blackened and the peppers are soft. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile put the 1/2 ancho chilli in a mug and pour enough boiling water over to cover and leave to rehydrate.
  3. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle peel away the charred skins and remove the seeds and white membranes. Then put into a food processor.
  4. Place all the other ingredients along with the ancho chilli (not the water though) in the food processor and blitz until a smooth puree is formed.
  5. Taste and check for seasoning, salt, smokiness, acidity, spiciness and adjust as you like.
  6. Scoop into a serving bowl, garnish with extra parsley or store in a Tupperware where it will keep for around 5 days.

Have you got any favourite recipes from past holidays that you make on repeat at home? Maybe it’s the peri peri chicken from Portugal, a rabbit stew from Malta (that’s one that is on my list) a further flung pav bhaji from Mumbai or fava, one of my favourite Greek dishes that I still haven’t got round to cooking. Don’t you worry I’ll be in a yellow split pea frenzy by the time I’m back in my kitchen!

Enjoy the last of your summer!

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Burnt courgette veggie chilli and all the fixings

Meat Free Monday. An initiative started up to encourage eating a vegetarian meal altogether as a family just one day per week, to improve your health as well as the health of the environment. Also there’s One Part Plant, started up by Jessica Murnane, with the idea to eat one plant based meal per day. Some use it as a chance for a healthy meal full of vegetables, others to reduce the impact of meat production on the environment. By vegetarian I’m talking vegetables, grains, legumes, a bit of dairy or eggs perhaps (I do love me a bit of cheese), but definitely not Quorn fish fingers and chips. Please can a vegetarian explain to me why you would want to eat something which resembles the taste and texture of a fish finger when you choose not to eat the real thing? I just don’t get it.

Now for many, a vegetarian meal completely devoid of meat, fish and sometimes eggs and dairy too if it’s vegan, well that’s not a meal. I’m from the North of England. The home of meat and two veg, bread and dripping, Lancashire hotpot and the legendary Pie Barm (google Wigan Kebab). If it contains, meat, potatoes and pastry, it’s probably Northern and the food that we were brought up on. It’s cold up here, we need the stodge to keep the warmth in our bones.

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The struggle here has to be the Dads. Happy with steak and chips every night I’m sure, the meal that always fits the bill, but not necessarily a happy one on the purse strings. A veggie meal for Meat Free Monday which isn’t too funky, not too many greens and no weird unpronounceable components like quinoa or edamame or tzatziki, that’s what we’re after. I always opt for a veggie chilli full of different beans, lentils and veggies for that texture and a lack of meat means we need to up the flavour for some oomph! Of course whenever the pan is set down at the table for dinner my dad has to ask ‘does this contain any meat’, well no it doesn’t. Nevertheless we all really enjoy it, and as soon as he has dug in the lack of beef isn’t mentioned again.

Chilli Con Carne is one of those meals I remember fondly from my childhood. Something which is quick and easy for busy families and makes everyone happy. One made from minced beef and tomatoes (basically Spag Bol minus the herbs with added spices and chilli) and a tin of kidney beans thrown in the mix. Probably the only meal we used to eat that contained beans or legumes (the chickpea was alien to me) and the beans I then picked out and left sucked of their chilli juices on the side of the plate. Oh how things have changed. Spooned on top of white rice and a side of garlic bread it was a regular on the meal rotation.

Perhaps traditional in the UK, but not so much a traditional recipe. Hailing from Mexico the Chilli Con Carne is a far cry away from what we are used to. Chunks of beef, like cheek, brisket or shin slowly simmered in a deeply rich sauce, no minced beef here, and technically kidney beans shouldn’t be seen either. A melange of spices, paprika and different chillies all balanced to give layers of smoky-sweet flavour which is finished off with some dark chocolate (it makes all the difference). Cooked up in one pot, cowboy style, that’s how a chilli should be.

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Well and truly burnt

For those Meat Free Mondays we want a veggie chilli which isn’t just a substitute or a side, but it’s even better than the real thing. So good that the vegetarians have to fight to get their fill before the carnivores tuck in. That’s when you know it’s good. Vegetarian food is no more difficult than cooking meat it just requires extra spices and flavouring tricks to pack in that flavour. Different pulses, grains and vegetables are used to provide varying texture and interest so every mouthful is different.

I like to serve this veggie chilli over a jacket or baked sweet potato, but brown or white rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, in a wrap or just in a deep bowl with tortillas to scoop up the juices. All will suffice here. The toppings are a necessity. Whether you go basic with some guacamole or all out with sour cream, coriander, lime to squeeze, feta or grated cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, pickled jalapenos, chilli sauce (Cholula Hot Sauce always is a winner), spiced up salsa and some sauerkraut. This is the pot that will suit all, just make sure to fill the table so everyone can DIY.

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This recipe I found in the January edition of Good Food magazine, from Izy Hossack (of Top with Cinnamon). It was a recipe for a burnt aubergine veggie chilli, and, not like me at all, we didn’t have any aubergines in and I couldn’t be bothered to walk down to the shops in the rain to get some. So courgettes had to do. If you’re familiar with making Baba Ghanoush, the courgettes need to be charred under a grill or directly on your gas ring until blackened and starting to collapse. The skins are then peeled away to leave a silky smooth interior with some smokiness that is to be folded through the chilli. If you’d prefer, here is the original recipe using the aubergines, but at this time of year I’m sure you avid gardeners are growing courgettes out of your ears. So for a respite from courgette chutney and fritters, add this into your courgette cooking repertoire.

Below are also the recipes for the sweetcorn and tomato salsa and guacamole with which I served the chilli. Super simple and quick and only require a few extra ingredients. But it’s the extras that make this dish shine!!

Burnt courgette veggie chilli

Ingredients

  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 30g red lentils, rinsed until the water runs clear
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 tin black beans
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce/tamari
  • 1 heaped tsp chipotle paste
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes
  • 20g dark chocolate (70% plus, the darker the better)
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or more/less to taste)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 heaped tsp vegetable stock powder (I use Bouillon)
  • 400ml water

Directions

  1. Turn your grill up to high and place the courgettes under for around 30 mins to 45 mins, turning occasionally until well blackened and charred all over. If you have a gas hob place the courgettes directly on the ring and char until completely blackened. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan then add the onion, carrots and celery and cook gently for around 20 minutes until softened. Stir often to make sure they don’t burn.
  3. Go back to the courgettes and peel away the burnt skin to reveal the soft inner flesh. Throw away all the burnt bits, making sure to scrape every little bit of the insides away and set aside.
  4. Once the carrots, celery and onions have softened add the red lentils and the two tins of beans along with the water in the cans. Add in the courgette flesh, soy sauce, tinned tomatoes, chipotle paste, all the herbs and spices, chocolate, vegetable stock and 400 ml of water. Stir everything together, bring to the boil, then turn down to a very low simmer.
  5. Put the lid on ajar, and leave to cook for 1 1/2 hrs, stirring very often, as it thickens it will stick to the bottom. If it starts to look a bit thick add a bit more water.
  6. After the time, take off the lid and check the consistency, if it seems a little thin leave to reduce for another 15 minutes or so longer. You want a thick sauce.
  7. Check the seasoning, adding more salt or chilli if you think necessary, then squeeze in the juice of half a lime, sprinkle with some coriander and take to the table to serve.

Sweetcorn and tomato salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 tin sweetcorn
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • Handful of coriander leaves and stalks
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded

Directions

  1. Drain the sweetcorn and put into a bowl.
  2. Finely dice the tomatoes, slice the coriander leaves and stalks finely along with the deseeded chilli and add all to the sweetcorn.
  3. Squeeze in the juice of some lime, a big pinch of salt and pepper then taste for seasoning. Add more chilli, lime or salt if you like and serve spooned on top of the veggie chilli.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime

Directions

  1. Slice the avocados in half and scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
  2. Add the juice of the lime and a large pinch of salt and mash well with a fork. Leave chunkier if you like or mash until smooth and creamy if that’s what you prefer. Taste for seasoning.

 

Let me know what you think if you cook this recipe. It doesn’t have to be on a Monday either, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, any day it will be good. And the leftovers even better. If you’re making this for a solo dinner or two people, make the full amount. Eat leftovers for dinner or lunch later in the week or freeze for a rainy day.

Snuggly warming hugs

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