WELL SEASONED SEPTEMBER 2021

By Cuisine14 Minutes
September 3, 2021By Cuisine

David Neville gets to grips with spring greens, explores the staff of life and reimagines a classic.

THERE’S LOTS OF. . . BROAD BEANS

Move over edamame, there’s a new sheriff in town; to my mind, there is no downside to the broad bean. Although they belong to the same family as peas and beans, broad beans have far more personality than peas and more intrigue than green beans. When very young, they can be eaten whole, but once mature they need the meditative, relaxing ritual of being painstakingly podded.

GIVE THESE A GO…

Baby grilled broad beans with hemp-heart zaatar
Place 20g each fresh oregano and thyme into a 60°C oven for 90 minutes until dry to the touch. Mix with 30g sumac, 20g hemp hearts (the inner seed of the hemp plant) and 2 teaspoons sea salt. Run a sharp knife tip along the seams of 400g of broad beans and toss in 40ml of grapeseed oil. Heat a large pan over high heat and sear pods until blistered. Dip beans into zaatar and consume like edamame.

Broad bean & lime hummus
Blitz 250g peeled frozen broad beans, the flesh of one medium avocado, 60g tahini, 3 makrut lime leaves (stalks removed), 2½ tablespoons lime juice and 1 teaspoon sugar on high speed in a blender, scraping the sides as required. Slowly drizzle in 40ml olive oil and add a teaspoon or so of sea salt to taste. Continue blitzing until smooth. Serve with wholemeal crackers – an interesting change from the chickpea classic and just as good, if not better, made using frozen broad beans. If using fresh broad beans, blanch for 2 minutes in boiling water before starting.

Broad bean, mint & pecorino salad
Put 400g of shucked fresh baby broad beans into a clean bowl. Add 200g rocket leaves and 20 leaves each of fresh basil and mint. Squeeze over the juice of one lemon and drizzle in 60ml olive oil. Season liberally with sea salt. Mix gently, divide between 4 plates, then shave and/or grate some aged pecorino over each salad to serve – simple but excellent.

Broad bean, bacon & ebly barley soup
To make this version of classic pea and ham soup, heat 100ml olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan, then add 300g finely sliced leek, 6 sliced bacon rashers and 3 crushed garlic cloves. Fry over a low heat (under a lid) for 5-6 minutes, stirring regularly. Add 10 crushed fennel seeds and continue to fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Next add 200g ebly barley and 500g peeled broad beans and stir through. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Pour in 1.2 litres of vegetable stock and bring to a gentle simmer for 12-15 minutes until the barley is tender to the bite. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty baguette.
Cook’s tip Ebly barley is a wheat berry with the outer husk removed. In this form, it has a dramatically shortened cooking time.

MAKE IT YOURSELF. . . RICOTTA

Ricotta, typically made from leftover whey, is the easiest cheese to make at home. Here, instead of giving you a novel on 50 shades of whey, ricotta is the main target. Next time you’re invited to bring a plate, you can place down your chips and dips, smile charismatically and say, “I made the ricotta myself.” One point to you.

GIVE THESE A GO…

Jerusalem artichoke & ricotta milkshake
Simmer 500g of fresh artichoke, cut into 1cm pieces, in 1L of water until tender. Add 400ml milk, 150g glucose, 75g sugar, and return to a simmer. Add 150g ricotta and 100g milk chocolate; blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Pass through a sieve. Adjust sweetness and serve hot or cold.

Ricotta ice cream
Whip 250ml cream into stiff peaks. Beat 450g soft ricotta until malleable. Fold 400g condensed milk through ricotta with a teaspoon each of vanilla essence and sea salt. Fold through whipped cream and place in a container in the freezer for 6 hours.

Sweet ricotta fritters
Whisk together 4 large eggs and 70g caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Add 450g firm ricotta with the zest and juice of 1 lemon and beat lightly. Add 125g sieved standard flour and a teaspoon each baking powder and salt. Heat 900ml canola oil until a bread cube turns golden in 3 seconds. Roll mix into 3cm balls and fry in batches until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and dredge in icing sugar.

Ricotta & chive dip
Put 400g ricotta, 50ml olive oil and a tablespoon of honey into a stainless-steel bowl. Whip until silken smooth. Add 50g finely sliced chives and a finely chopped garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with potato chips, fresh bread or raw vegetables.

CELEBRATING THE STAPLES. . . STALE BREAD

Bread is one of humanity’s greatest achievements, which is why there is no shortage of quotes and clichés about it. Bread can be served with every course, at any time. Just as wine can turn to vinegar, even stale bread has its purpose.

GIVE THESE A GO…

Bread sauce
Lightly fry 100g diced onions in butter until soft but without colouring. Add 500ml milk, bring almost to a simmer and add 3 cloves, a bay leaf and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg. Remove from heat and leave for 60 minutes. Return milk to the heat and bring almost to the simmer. Remove cloves and bay leaf, and stir in 200g breadcrumbs and 50ml cream. Leave over low heat for 15 minutes for bread to swell. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Universal bread stuffing
Cut 500g bread into 1cm cubes and bake at 90°C for 45 minutes to completely dry out. Melt 180g butter in a large frying pan and cook 200g each of diced onion and celery for 6-7 minutes until soft. Put bread and cooked vegetables in a large bowl. Fold through 2 size 7 eggs and 3 teaspoons sea salt until bread begins to soften. Add 500ml chicken stock and 25g each of flat-leafed parsley, rosemary and sage leaves; stir but avoid breaking up the bread too much. The stuffing can be used in a whole carcass or put on a baking tray covered with foil and baked on its own for 50 minutes at 180°C. Remove foil after 35 minutes and bake for 15 minutes until golden.

Ajo bianco (chilled almond, bread & garlic soup)
Put 200g ground almonds into a high-speed blender. Add 750ml vegetable stock and leave for 4-5 minutes for almonds to swell. Blitz on high speed for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add 250g torn stale bread and 1 peeled garlic clove. Blitz until silken smooth. If soup is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water. Add a good glug of sherry vinegar and 3 tablespoons olive oil, and blitz for 60 seconds. Season and serve in chilled bowls garnished with sliced green grapes.

Strata (aka cheese toastie for a crowd)
Preheat the oven to 160°C and grease a 40cm x 25cm baking tray. Whisk 6 large eggs, 375ml milk, 100ml cream, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper and 3 teaspoons salt together. Fold through 2 cups coarsely chopped dark leafy greens, 250g torn stale bread and 200g leg ham. Pour evenly into a baking tray and cover with grated gouda. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes until golden and puffed.

REINVENTING THE MEAL. . . RISOTTO

Risotto is, without doubt, an Italian classic. On the TV programme Masterchef, it is often described as the ‘death dish’ but we’re Kiwi, and we got this. The key is to keep the risotto always at a gentle simmer and to have all your ducks in a row. Provided you do this, it practically cooks itself.

GIVE THESE A GO…

Mushroom risotto with soy & egg yolk
Rinse and clean 100g shiitake, 100g Swiss brown mushrooms, 100g oyster mushrooms and 200g portobello mushrooms. Pat dry. Quarter shiitake, slice the Swiss and portobello and shred the oyster mushrooms. Toss to combine. Prepare risotto as described. Halfway through, add half the mushrooms to cook with the risotto. Fry the remaining mushrooms in butter over a moderately high heat for 2-3 minutes only. Season cooked risotto with 80ml light soy and serve in 4 bowls with fried mushrooms. Put an egg yolk in the centre of each to stir through just before eating.

Arancini with mascarpone & spring herbs
Mix 250g mascarpone with 50g each chopped basil, chervil and chives; freeze for 30 minutes to become semi firm. Make the risotto as described and spread out onto a baking tray lined with baking paper to cool thoroughly. Put in the fridge for 60 minutes until firm to the touch. Divide risotto into 10 equal balls and flatten. Place a tablespoon of mascarpone mix into the centre of each and wrap around to form a ball. Dredge balls in flour, then beaten egg and finish in panko crumbs. Heat 700ml canola oil in a large pan to 170°C or until a bread cube turns golden in 3 seconds. Fry arancini for 4 minutes until golden. Dust with salt and serve immediately.

Baked pumpkin & seaweed risotto
Combine 500g skinned, diced pumpkin with 100ml olive oil and 2 teaspoons chilli flakes, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes until tender. Make the risotto as described, with the addition of a 5cm piece dried kombu in the stock. Halfway through, add 20g dried wakame fronds to the rice to rehydrate. Fold baked pumpkin through the cooked risotto and season to taste.

Preparation 5 mins / Cooking 35 mins / Serves 4

Boil 200g peas, 100g zucchini cut into 1cm pieces and 100g asparagus stems cut into pieces for 2-3 minutes until tender. Strain and blitz in a blender with 100g room-temperature mascarpone until vibrant green and smooth. Make the risotto as described but omit the parmesan. Fold through the vegetable purée and crumble or grate over 80g feta. Garnish with coriander or microgreens and serve immediately.