Greek Stewed Beans and Lentils with Spinach

Give me greens!  I feel I have eaten distinctly fewer veg and far more fat than normal over the last week. I go to bed feeling perfectly insulated and without applying lipbalm as the oil or butter I have consumed at dinner has already moisturised them. This is entirely down to my recipe choices over the last few days as well as last week’s high-cake diet.

Consequently today I am dining on a double dose of Jane Grigson, from her marvellous ‘Vegetable Book’ (I have the 1978 edition published by Penguin) which is as much a pleasure to read as to eat from. Almost every recipe comes with some historical or cultural background, revealing her earlier careers in publishing and the arts (although I won’t always write these up). Her success in mainland Europe, particularly France, means that measurements are printed in metric as well as imperial as standard – hurrah.

Greek Stewed Beans

1 kilo french beans , (topped and tailed)
2 medium onions sliced thinly or chopped
1 clove garlic crushed with salt
½ kilo skinned, chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon cumin (optional)

Cut or snap the beans in two. Soften the onions and garlic in heavy pan in the oil, until they begin to soften and turn yellow. Put the beans on top, then the tomatoes, mixed with the parsley. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar. Cover and cook over a moderate heat until tender, about half an hour. Keep an eye on the liquid level, the tomatoes and oil should provide enough for the beans to cook in, leaving only a little thick sauce. Stir in the cumin slowly to taste at the end. Serve hot with lamb and rice or cold as a salad.

Notes

  • I quartered the quantities and this is still the most topping and tailing I have ever done.
  • When I first read the recipe I couldn’t believe cumin wasn’t absolutely necessary.
  • I have never bought raw tomatoes before because I continue to hate them long after many of my other childhood preferences have lessened or even turned to love. (Peppers? Yes PLEASE!) Despite this I still know that the way to skin them is to plunge them into boiling water, then cold water.

And

This is barely a recipe but I was intrigued by the method of seasoning. (Shouldn’t spices be fried? Don’t dried spices need a long time to cook to release their flavour?) Let’s see if it’s as tasty as my usual way.

Lentils with Spinach (Shula Kalambar)

In her Middle Eastern Food, Claudia Roden writes that shula kalambar, this lovely earthy tasting dish, was given to sick people in medieval Persia. There was a snag – to be effective as a cure the ingredients had to be paid for by begging.

250g lentils, cooked
½ kilo spinach, cooked, drained, chopped
½ teaspoon each ground coriander and cumin
Salt, pepper
Large knob of butter

Mix the lentils with the spinach and add the seasonings. Reheat and add more spices and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the butter and serve immediately.

Results


 

The fasolakia was delicious. The onions caramelised slightly, the tomatoes collapsed into a coating and the beans retain their flavour as they only cook in their own liquid. On an initial scan of the recipe I thought that the tomatoes would form a sauce in the style of ratatouille, then when I poured the pulp over the beans, there was so little I wondered if it would cook dry. Silly me, it was lovely, it didn’t even need the cumin, although that sharpened it nicely.

The Shula Kalambar was, as I feared, very bland and only edible when I had squeezed lemon juice all over it. Is it a dish designed for those to ill to have the energy for flavour, much like the now very out-of-fashion British milk puddings?

I fried up and then added some black onion seeds before putting it in the fridge and I’m sure it will be delightful tomorrow.

As you can see from the picture, I had them with mash (no butter or milk) as I didn’t fancy rice today.

Chopped and chewed by Elly

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