Tuesday, 31 May 2016

experiments in the kitchen

I tried out a new recipe for beans last night.  I am a fan of pulses.  They tick all the boxes, good for you, cheap, ecologically sounder than grain fed meat, and I like them.  The Systems Administrator, a confirmed carnivore, cooks only two bean dishes (if you don't count baked beans), both of which contain meat, but eats my vegetarian versions happily enough, as long as I don't do them too often. It's good to extend one's repertoire every now and then, and so last night I tried the Cranks' haricot beans with tomato sauce.

The Cranks cookery book, copyright 1982, has more of a 1970s vibe.  The photos are gathered together in the middle of the book, all the food is displayed on thick brown earthenware vessels, and there is a residual nut cutlety tendency.  Yotam Ottolenghi it is not.  On the other hand the recipes don't require the purchase of six different Middle Eastern ingredients, three of which you can't get in Colchester and four of which you are unlikely to use again before they dry up or go mouldy.  It seemed like a reasonable place to search for a new way of cooking beans.

In the event haricot beans in tomato sauce was not one of their, or my, finest efforts.  It started well.  I remembered to soak the beans overnight, and cooked them at lunchtime so that I wouldn't have one of those evenings when supper's ETA grew later and later because the beans were still hard.  Beans, courgette, green pepper, onion, garlic, basil, bay leaf, tomatoes, I began to have doubts when I read the fine print of the recipe and discovered that I was supposed to add half a pint of milk.  I couldn't quite imagine courgette swimming in milk.

My general rule with new recipes is to try them as they are written down the first time, then decide whether to adopt them, adapt them, or abandon them as a failed experiment.  Otherwise if I start changing them before I've started there's the risk I'll never actually try something new, merely adapt it to the nearest thing I already know how to cook.  I compromised and scaled back the milk.

You couldn't honestly call the result beans in tomato sauce, because the tomatoes didn't ameliorate into the mixture at all, but stayed as distinct one sixteenths of a tomato, little red blobs in a white sea of beans and milk, along with the green discs of courgette and slices of pepper.  The book said I could serve it with cheese.  I wondered whether that would make it better, and decided it probably wouldn't.  Never apologise in advance.  Like my retired primary school head teacher sister-in-law laughing brightly as her grandson fell into a bed of nettles, to encourage him to think that it was not too bad, I presented the beans to the Systems Administrator.  The SA said, ah courgette, in tones that indicated surprise and a lack of enthusiasm for courgettes, and ate one helping but didn't come back for seconds.  In truth, basil in milk is not a good combination.  OK, it goes brilliantly with mozarella, but not milk.  I don't know why not, but it doesn't.

On the plus side, I went to a lunch today and discovered a fabulous new pudding.  Take equal parts of double cream, full fat yogurt and lemon curd, mix, and freeze until it has the consistency of a semifreddo.  It is utterly delicious, sounds very quick and easy to make (less quick if you make your own curd), and full fat dairy products are no longer bad for us, now that sugar is the new devil food.

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