In the 1990s, when I was a strict vegetarian, and vegan for a while, meat-free alternatives were pretty limited. The only ‘vegan chocolate’ I could find back then was carob, I would not recommend it. With ‘free from’ sections in most food shops it’s becoming much easier to follow an alternative diet.
However I’m not a big fan of Quorn and similar meat substitutes. Instead I often use pulses to bulk out meals and add protein. In many other cuisines there are classic dishes, like Mexican chilli con carne and French sausage and bean cassoulet, that combine meat and pulses. Or Indian daals and Middle Eastern hummus, recipes which celebrate lentils and chickpeas respectively. We don’t have a strong culinary tradition of using pulses, besides baked beans, of course, and maybe pease pudding or mushy peas. Firm national favourites but not dishes that really appeal beyond our shores.
Considering how well beans and pulses grow in the UK it’s a shame they don’t feature on more menus. Most of the UK fava bean (aka broad bean) crop is exported or used for animal feed. It wasn’t always this way and I think it’s time we embraced them again. East Anglian based, Hodmedod’s produce a host of dried and canned British grown pulses, beans and quinoa – Spar in Narbeth stock some and hodmedods.co.uk have a wide range available for home delivery.
Our appetite for hummus appears to be growing, if the range available in supermarket chiller cabinets is anything to go by. It’s easy to make at home and super cheap if you use dried beans, whilst a can of ready to eat beans is much quicker. You can mix and match flavours, try butterbeans pureed with roast carrots, peanut butter and a dash of soy sauce or haricot beans with roast peppers, chilli and smoked paprika.
I love beetroot and often cook a big batch – to eat sliced in sandwiches, as a side veg, diced into a simple soup with stock… For speed and ease you could buy cooked beetroots (not preserved in vinegar though!), or any other cooked veg. Extra hummus freezes well.
Satsuma, coriander, roast beetroot and fava bean hummus
For the roast beetroot (makes more than you need in the hummus)
Bunch of beetroot
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp peppercorns
Heat oven to 170-220c (I cook them when the oven is on for something else, temperature isn’t important, hotter = quicker cooking).
Remove the beetroot leaves and stalks (small leaves are good in salad, cook large leaves and stalks like spinach) and scrub the beetroots clean. Don’t peel before cooking, tough skin can easily be removed afterwards. Leave whole if beetroot are the size of a satsuma, if larger I halve so they cook quicker.
Place beetroots in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over coriander seeds and peppercorns, slice satsuma in half and squeeze juice over, add the halves too. Cover with a lid/foil and bake in the oven until tender (30mins – 1hr depending on the size of beetroots and oven temperature).
For the hummus
2-4 roasted beetroots, cut into chunks
400g can of fava beans, drained
1 tblsp tahini
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 satsuma, juiced
salt and pepper
You will need a food processor/hand blender. Put beetroot, fava beans, tahini, garlic, ground coriander and half the lemon and satsuma juice into the blender, season and blitz to a paste. Taste and add more juice/seasoning if needed, if it’s very thick add a dash of juice/water/oil, blitz until smooth.
This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.