Lemony giant beans with fennel & dill

Lemony giant beans with fennel & dill


Do you feel you get stuck sometimes and feel that even your absolute favourite vegetable dishes are still, well, loved, but you could do with a change or something new? It is the exact same feeling, that you get looking at your wardrobe and sigh and sigh and… One new thing that mixes up everything, turns things around, allows new combinations and suddenly: all shines in a new light, looks bright & fresh and the world is right as rain again.

These giant beans, fennel & lemon wedges with tons of dill offer a total different taste and unusual combination of ingredients (honey with dill). Definitely something to get you out of your vegetable or side dish rut: brilliant on its own, though I imagine it a great companion to grilled mackerel, rouget (red mullet), too. We had it with lamb, which was the reason I tried it in the first place. The ingredients made me think of the cuisines of Greece, Turkey, Persia, Israel and lamb chops came to my mind (luckily I had just bought some that day in the Kleinmarkthalle – what a coincidence). We loved it and this dish has claimed its place in our rota of quick go-to suppers or sides.

Lemony giant beans & fennel with dill

Serves two as a side dish, adapted from Heidi Swanson; I changed the quantities, added more sauce, lemon & dill)

1 fennel bulb
1 tablespoon olive oil
half a lemon, thoroughly washed and cut into wedges
1 teaspoon honey
¼ cup of white wine
1 small tin (220g) of cooked giant white beans (Fagioli “Bianchi di Spagna”)
1 ladle of chicken broth or vegetable stock (approximately ¾ cup)
½ cup of roughly chopped dill
Cut the fennel in halves, turn those onto the cut sides and slice the bulb into 1cm (less then 1/2 inch) thin wedges. Heat the oil in a frying or braising pan over medium heat, throw in the fennel and leave to brown undisturbed for a while (2 minutes or longer) then add the lemon wedges brown for another 2 minutes. Season with salt, add honey & wine for the sauce, let it reduce for a minute, then pour in the stock and warm the beans in it for approximately 5 minutes. Sprinkle with dill to serve. As Heidi says, the beans are great at any temperature – we enjoyed them as a warm side to our grilled lamb.


Zitronen-Riesenbohnen & Fenchel mit Dill

Für zwei Portionen, adaptiert von Heidi Swanson

1 Fenchelknolle
1 EL Olivenöl
eine halbe Zitrone, gründlich gewaschen und in Spalten geschnitten
1 TL Honig
60ml Weißwein
1 kleine Dose (220g) weiße Riesenbohnen (Fagioli „Bianchi di Spagna“)
1 Kelle Hühner- oder Gemüsebrühe (ca. 180ml)
½ Tasse oder eine große Handvoll grob gehackter Dill

Den Fenchel halbieren, auf die Schnittflächen legen und in 1cm dicke Spalten schneiden. Das Olivenöl in einer Pfanne oder einem niedrigen Schmortopf bei mittlerer Hitze erhitzen, den Fenchel hineinstreuen und ohne Rühren für ca. 2 Minuten oder länger bräunen. Dann die Zitronenspalten hinzugeben und alles für mindestens weitere 2 Minuten Farbe annehmen lassen. Salzen, Honig & Wein für die Sauce einrühren, eine knappe Minute reduzieren lassen, dann die Brühe hineingießen und darin die Bohnen erwärmen (ca. 5 Minuten). Mit Dill bestreuen und servieren. Das Gericht schmeckt bei jeder Temperatur: heiß, warm, Zimmertemperatur; allein oder als Beilage zu Fisch (mhm: gegrillet Makrelen oder Rotbarben sind bestimmt toll) oder Fleisch: uns haben diese aromatischen Zitronen-Bohnen besonders gut warm zu gegrillten Lammkoteletts geschmeckt.

Indian spiced chickpeas with mint & coriander yoghurt dressing

Do you know, when you are using this upbeat voice & add ‘we liked it so much last time’ to sell dinner, everyone is forewarned: “Hey, we are having this lovely aubergine, red pepper & pea curry for supper that we liked so much last time! And it comes with this new chickpea salad!” Well, we had to use up some vegetables and there was a great void in the creative department – all on holiday away from the lead-grey sky (and we really did like that curry last time, honest). Maybe we did not shower it with Michelin stars and “Greatest supper ever”-nominations but it was nice and after some tweaking it was still nice and boring.

What saved the day was the wild card, this little salad that was supposed to be a starter and thrown in at the last moment because I just stumbled over the recipe in Food & Wine and some of the ingredients where on the to-be-used list as well. This tangy, herby dressed salad perfectly balances intense and crunchy spices, lemony sourness and onion-y sharpness against the creamy chickpeas and its success should have not come unexpected since it was on a best-of staff-picks list. I have made a few adjustments: I used crème fraîche  and yoghurt (1.5%) instead of whole-milk yoghurt since that was in the fridge and simplified the spice-frying (tossed all into the oil at the same time instead of delaying some due to slap-dash reading). Those might very well be the reason for the creamyness and lovely crunch and I was quite happy about those particular traits.

Just for the record, yesterday’s vegetarian supper was Bombay potatoes with a fried egg on top (yummy, coming soon) and the wild card side dish fell through. What a shame, it looked so nice.

Indian spiced chickpeas with lemon, mint & coriander yoghurt dressing
serves 6 as a side dish, adapted from Jerry Traunfeld’s (Poppy, Seattle) recipe in Food & Wine

1 tin (800g/28oz; 450g/15oz drained) chickpeas, rinsed
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds (I used brown mustard seeds)
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
¾ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ cup yoghurt
¼ cup crème fraîche (or use another ¼ cup whole-milk yoghurt)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
¼ cup (or more) chopped mint
¼ cup (or more) chopped coriander
¼ – ½ teaspoon Piment d’Espelette
salt & pepper

Pour the rinsed chickpeas into a bowl, they should be drained in a strainer to get rid of too much excess water but no need to worry about a few drops of water. Heat the peanut oil in a small skillet until it is warm and shimmers. You are supposed to add the mustard seeds first and cook them with a partially closed lid for about a minute until they stop popping, after which the cumin and fennel seeds are supposed to be added and fried for 30 seconds. Or, do as I did and add the whole lot to the shimmering oil with one swooshing motion and fry for about 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pour the hot spice oil over the chickpeas and mix with the yoghurt, crème fraîche, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, spring onion, mint, coriander and season with Piment d’Espelette, salt & pepper. Stir and check the seasoning and add more lemon juice if needed and serve at room temperature.

Olive pickers’ soup

While it is not extremely likely that we would have been harvesting olives tonight, I find that this hearty and warming soup transports you to a picturesque rustic countryside scenery staffed by people doing just that (at least in my imagination). It is inspired by Alice Hart’s simply fabulous – in name and in taste – Olive Pressers’ soup which we had before as it is. I would have made it the same today, only I wanted to change things (e.g. go to a more Spanish olive grove) and use up stuff which needed to go: chorizo instead of bacon, leftover beans from an opened jar and so it obviously required a new identity (some people might say I remembered the name wrongly, but what do they know).

In Germany we like a hearty soup made from pulses in Germany – it is the essence of comfort on frosty days when you have been working outside (gardening, moving, long hikes, harvest fire gatherings…or like we just did: changing a flat tire). My dad always enjoyed a hearty Ebsensuppe (pea soup, made with dried peas) and he was in his element having it made in quantities fit to feed an army (to use the German proverb here) for any gathering of the same size. He always ordered / supplied a wagonload by the THW (German Federal Agency for Technical Relief), for whom he worked for 50 years as a volunteer. This would be a soup after his taste, meaty in flavour (he would though bemoan the miniscule amount of meat in it) but would be delighted by the kale which he loved.


Olive pickers’ soup
Inspired by Alice Hart’s Friends at my table

100g (3½ oz) chorizo (leave out if you want to stay vegetarian, add a little more spice though)
olive oil (always extra virgin)
150g (5 1/3oz) chopped kale
½ small pumpkin (I used Hokkaido), diced
4-5 carrots, cut into coins
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
2 leeks, sliced into thick rounds
2 celery sticks, chopped into half moons
2 potatoes, diced
1 zucchino, cut into half moons
400g (14oz) jar cannelini beans (it is nice to use dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked – if you can plan ahead, today I needed to use up a jar of beans; if you like some more beans with a bite in the soup, reserve some and add shortly before serving)
bouquet garni (bay leaf, a sprig of rosemary, 2-3 sage leaves)
2-3 peperoncini
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1l (a little over 1 quart or 1 pint) vegetable stock or water
(organic vegetable stock powder)
1-2 teaspoon smoked paprika
piment d’espelette (or cayenne pepper)
salt, pepper

rustic bread, Pugliese would be perfect


If you are using dried beans, soak about 200g overnight and cook the next day with a few peperoncini, salt, rosemary, thyme & bay leaf for about 1-1 ½ hours. Reserved about a third. Prepare all the vegetables in advance, wash, peel, slice, dice etc & cut the chorizo into small dice.
Heat the a few drops of olive oil in a medium dutch oven (for this amount, I used a smaller Le Creuset, but had to squeeze in the kale) or any pot you have and lightly fry the chorizo pieces. Add all the vegetables (minus reserved beans, if you have decided t do so), the herbs, the peperoncini, tomato puree and stir to mix. Pour the stock or water into the pan (no need to have everything covered), season with a little salt, pepper, stock powder (yes), cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, stir occasionally and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. The soup should be quite thick leaning more towards a stew. Five minutes before serving add the reserved cooked beans and let them heat trough. If you are using dried beans you might want to adjust the cooking times since they might cook differently. Check the seasoning, we liked it quite spicy and smoky and added a healthy amount of smoked paprika and piment d’espelette. Remove the herb stalks and if you can find them the peperoncini.

To serve: Either with bread on the side or toast slices of bread according to the number of your crowd and rub with garlic and place at the bottom of your bowls, top with ladles of the soup. Rough shards or coarsely grated parmiggiano reggiano is another luxury.