First bean harvest – and so we have broad bean and purple bean pasta

Cubano Orzo pasta - black bean, lime cilantro, plain semolina, sweet red pepperA couple of year’s back we went to Chicago and when in Chicago visited a rather awesome farmer’s market and an equally awesome pasta shop: Pappardelle’s Pasta where we went a bit crazy and purchased all kinds of wacky pasta. So far, this pasta has been admired from a distance; too good to use in your average recipe. In short though, it amounted to neglect and the darned stuff needed to be used. Two years after its purchase, a harvest of Stratford-balcony-grown purple beans and some fresh broad beans from the organic veggie box, we were finally ready to use some. Specifically, the orzo we purchased. An exciting moment for us all.

purple beansBelow you’ll find the incredible recipe that’s finally deemed good enough for our pasta.


  • Orzo pasta
  • Handful shelled broad beans
  • Handful of purple French beans or whatever green beans you have to hand
  • Onion
  • Garlic

For the pesto/salsa:

  • Basil – a good bunch of
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tbsps red wine vinegar
  • Tomatoes (we only had two to use)
  • 8 sundried tomatoes
  • 1 dry, smoked chilli pepper
  • Clove of garlic – just for a hint
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • Salt
For the salsa/pesto:
  1. This is somewhere in between salsa and pesto and we used it as the main sauce for the pasta. It’s simple.
  2. Soak the sundried tomatoes and dried, smoked chilli pepper in approximately 2tbsps of boiling water for about 20 minutes before use.
  3. Roughly chop the tomatos and onion.
  4. Crush the garlic with the back of a knife.
  5. Add the sundried tomatoes, dried peppers and the water they’ve been soaking in to a food processor (you could do this in a large pestle and mortar) and add the fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic clove, basil leaves, olive oil, red wine vinegar and olive oil.
  6. Blend.
  7. Season to taste – obviously add salt and pepper at this point, but you can also adjust the oil and vinegar as you see fit. It needs to be of a decent consistency in order to coat the pasta.
For the orzo pasta and beans:
  1. In boiling, salted water blanch the broad beans – takes a couple of minutes (this will depend on how fresh the beans are). Remove from the water. Use the same water to blanch the french beans. We had just picked these from the balcony so they literally needed a quick flash so they still retain a bit of crunch. Remove beans from the water.
  2. Put the orzo on to cook in the water from the beans. We just cooked in the same way you’d cook any pasta – the orzo cooked really quick, probably 5 minutes boiling time. Just keep an eye on and keep checking until al dente.
  3. Drain and put back in the cooking pot and add the two types of beans. Then stir in the salsa.
Then stir the pesto/salsa mixture into the waiting orzo and beans and serve.
We grated some organic cheddar over the top and served.  It was tasty as. Annoyingly, we forgot to take a picture of the finished product as we were too concerned with eating it.

A warming winter dish for a cold summer’s day – Toad in the Hole with Mushy Peas

When it’s raining and cold in July, it’s time to call in the gravy-based, hot, hearty dishes just like Toad in the Hole. And that’s exactly what we made in July, in London last night. With a host of favourite recipes from well-loved TV chefs (notably Jamie and Nigella) we were ready to go. For a while I was using an Asda recipe for Toad in the Hole, then I tried this Jamie recipe with far better results.

We use Cauldron veggie sausages. It works. Honest.

  • 6-8 veggie sausages – or meat if you’re that way inclined.
  • 2 large white onions
  • Garlic – as much as you fancy and cut thick to prevent burning
  • Sunflower oil
  • Rosemary
  • 285ml milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 115g plain flower
  • Pinch salt and pepper

I actually modified the original recipe – I didn’t use a thin, bread tin to cook the toad instead I used a glass dish that was long and about 2 inches deep and I didn’t use as much oil as Jamie’s recipe suggested, just enough to coat the bottom of the dish (about 2 millimetres deep).

Oven was at 250C (fan assisted) – next time I would reduce temperature to 200 though.

  1. First get the batter ready. In Jamie’s recipe it just implies you bung it all in and mix – I’d recommend adding the milk slowly to the flour and then beating the eggs and adding individually. I added everything at once and mixed with a fork, there were a few lumps that I had to work out. Hopefully adding it the other way will reduce the lumps.
  2. Heat the oil on its own in the oven until hot. Add the onion, garlic and sausages cook in the oven until starting to brown. Make sure you turn the sausages so they get browned on all sides.
  3. Once they’re browned, add the sprigs of rosemary and roast off for a couple of minutes. I gently pressed on the rosemary with the back of a knife – I’ve no idea if this makes a difference to “releasing the flavour” or what-have-you but it seemed like a nice thing to do.
  4. Then you add the batter. Just pour it evenly around the sausages. I usually just open the oven and do it while the dish is still in there – according to the Jamie recipe the oil needs to be hot to help the batter get going. Bit like a Yorkshire pud I guess.
  5. Then don’t touch it for 20 minutes. No peaking, prodding or poking. Absolutely no opening of the oven. I always put the timer on for this to ensure absolute accuracy and it seems to help with the temptation of opening the oven. After 20 minutes I check and it usually needs another 5 or 10 minutes to brown off nicely and then it’s ready to serve.

This recipe has always produced a lovely, voluminous batter with all the sausages perching on the top and the tops rosemary crisped up.

I noticed on Jamie’s recipe post there were a number of negative comments about the recipe, but doing it as above I’ve never had a problem and it’s always turned out great. From reading the comments, I suspect it’s the dish I use instead of the tin and also the reduction of the oil.

We also made the onion gravy on Jamie’s blog – we used apple balsamic and it came out way too sweet. Will try it again with a different balsamic next time; it had promise.

We always serve Toad in the Hole with a Nigella mushy peas recipe that goes:

  • As many peas as you need – we did about 300g
  • As much garlic as you can handle – we did about 4 cloves
  • Yogurt or cream (if you’re feeling in the mood for a treat)
  • Knob of butter
  • Mustard or horseradish
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Put the garlic in a pan of water and boil until softened, then add peas and cook through.
  2. Drain and squeeze the garlic out of peel.
  3. Put into a food processor – add the butter, yoghurt/cream and mustard/horseradish and blend until smooth.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper – add more mustard/horseradish if desired.

It’s amazing. Next time I make all this I’ll take a picture!