Millennium Paella

I had the weekend to myself, without much testing to do. I’d sort of decided to spend Saturday slaving over a hot stove, but when I saw how sunny it was, I had a change of plan. I still wanted to cook myself something nice, but didn’t want to spend the whole day doing it.

I decided to try the paella from the Millennium book. It’s actually one of the quicker dishes from Eric Tucker’s two books, and as long as you do a bit of planning it comes together quite quickly at the end.

It’s based on a saffron rice pilaf, which I made earlier in the day. I also home smoked the tofu at the same time – and it was the best smoked tofu I have ever done. I’ll do a tutorial on what I did when I next do it and get some photos. I didn’t take any because I’ve done it loads of times and didn’t expect it to turn out so well. There was a secret part to it, which was just a happy find.

The other main flavours of the dish included arame seaweed, capers, orange zest, chile flakes, courgettes, cumin seeds and black olives. Looking at the amount of seaweed after it had soaked, I suspected it would be too overpowering, but it just provided a really gentle taste of the sea, which was perfect.

It was served with a chile tofu aoli. I’m always a touch suspicious of silken tofu where it’s standing in for mayonnaise or sour cream. This is probably a hangover from a very early vegan brush with a Sarah Kramer recipe where the tofu ended up tasting resoundingly of… tofu, and had to be thrown away. However, this was deliciously creamy, garlicky and fresh, and worked perfectly with the deep flavours of the paella.

For a really tasty dish, from a book renowned for difficult dishes, this one really didn’t take too long. You don’t need to smoke your own tofu so don’t let that put you off. You can use shop bought smoked tofu or a seitan sausage. I would highly recommend giving this a go. And look! The recipe is available on googlebooks here – no excuses!

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Broad bean and potato salad

I always get very confused about certain differences in US English versus proper  UK English. One of the ones I’ve never got to the bottom of is broad beans and butter beans. Broad beans are those yummy looking green things in the picture, which happen to be fresh but also come tinned and frozen. I don’t think you can get them dried, at least, i’ve never seen them. Butter beans are big and white and mealy and usually tinned, sometimes dries. So are they fava beans, lima beans or neither? I’ve never really been sure, and its one question I’ve searched the internet, and asked on various food fora, and never quite found an answer. Certainly, when I’ve looked at photos people have taken of recipes with one of them in, they often look like not the sort of bean I’d have used.

Anyway, I don’t suppose it really matters as long you enjoy the results of what you’re eating!

My Mother in Law loves broad beans, and can’t get them where she lives (Hawaii), so whenever she comes to stay, if the season is right, I try to make something with them. I bought two huge bags of local broad beans and spent several happy hours catching up with Top Chef Season 3, and double podding the beans. I just love those furry, velvetty insides of the pod. I don’t always double pod but I had an urge to this time, and it was very satisfying. Now I had this pile of beans, what could I do with them?

It was a nice sunny day so I went for a salad. I cooked some local new potatoes until almost soft, then threw the beans in for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Meanwhile, I made a dressing by blending together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mint, parsley, wholegrain mustard, salt and pepper. I drained the potatoes and beans, and while they were still warm I covered with the dressing. Snipped a few spring onions over the top, and there you go. A lovely taste of English summer, whatever the beans are called!

And by the way, does anyone know if you can do anything useful with the pods?