It's hard to believe that we're still 6 days away from the official start of winter! I am in complete holiday mode. My list of gifts has been checked-off and tucked away for weeks; I've been cooking and baking on my days off; I've taken the boxes of Christmas decorations out from storage (but have yet had the time to take them out). Then it hit me: I still haven't wrapped and sent off the parcels that are supposed to have been mailed weeks ago!!! Oh dear me. I sometimes forget that there are only so many things I can do at the same time.
Anyway, we are all running around like headless chickens at this point in the month. If it isn't the -soon to be- last minute shopping; parcel posting; marathon gift wrapping sessions; then it is the menu-planning and cooking. Well, perhaps I can lend a hand in this department (you're on your own for finding a gift for you Great Aunt Sally!) The following recipe is perfect for a potluck dinner; a holiday brunch; or just to have hanging around the fridge for late-night snackers. Yes, it is yet another bean salad, but one can never have too many of those up one's sleeve. It's somewhat of a more winter-friendly version of this bean salad, what with the stalwart beet and other hearty root vegetables, but I can safely venture that -except for the eponymous trio- all the ingredients are optional and depend entirely on your likes, pocketbook and cupboard. So it is versatile, and easily adapted throughout the year. Do try it, it is a surefire winner.
When making a bean salad, it is best to cook your own beans, since you can control the degree of done-ness you desire. However, if you are really in a pinch, by all means, use canned beans. Do make sure to rinse out all of the canning liquor, as it often has a tinny flavour, and can be overly salted. You can also drastically cut-back the cooking time by using sprouted beans instead; they only take 10 minutes in the steamer. Since I do not own a pressure-cooker, the cooking time indicated in the recipe is for chickpeas cooked in a regular pot. If you prefer cooking beans in a pressure-cooker, set your timer so that you obtain a just-barely tender pea, you do not want mushy peas for this salad. Another tip: if you prefer home-cooked beans, but find it a hassle, cook extra-large batches; cooked and drained beans freeze beautifully. The best part is that you needn't even defrost them to use, just shake out what you need and you're ready to go.
Ideally, dried beans should be soaked overnight. But you can get away with a two hour soak: in a large pot, cover the beans with enough cold water; bring up to the boil; remove from heat, and cover pot; let soak for two hours. Drain the peas, and proceed with the recipe. Whether you go for an overnight soak, or the express route, the soaking water should be discarded: although you do lose some of the dried bean's nutrients, you also remove some its 'disagreeable-ness'. However, this soaking water is great for watering your houseplants with.
Chickpeas, Beetroot and Orange Salad
Yields enough to feed an army
400g/ 2c dried chickpeas
2 medium beetroots
2 navel oranges
3 green onions/ scallions
1 small celeriac (or ¼ of a medium one), optional
1 carrot, optional
half a pomegranate, optional
125ml/ ½c olive oil
30ml/ 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp salt
Soak the chickpeas in a large pot: the peas should be covered by at least 5cm/ 2" of water.
In the meantime, prepare the root vegetables:
Roast beets in a 375'F/ 190'C oven for 45 minutes.
Peel celery root, and chop into 1cm/ ½" cubes. Set aside in a bowl of water.
Peel carrot, cut into cubes, if it is large enough, or slice into 5mm/ ¼" rounds. Set aside.
When the beets are cooked, and cool enough to handle, peel and cube.
With a sharp knife, peel the oranges so as to remove the peel, pith and outer skin: remove each individual segment, cut into chunks. Save the juices.
Drain the chickpeas, rinse briefly, and cover with fresh water. Add the cumin seeds.
Bring up to the boil. When the peas are boiling vigorously, cover pot, and turn heat down to low.
Leave to simmer for 20 minutes, add the carrots and celeriac..
Cook for another 10-20 minutes: the garbanzos should be just barely tender, if there are a few al dente, it's okay: they'll continue cooking while resting.
Remove pot from heat, and set aside until completely cooled.
Drain the chickpeas, and rinse in cold water a couple of times.
Combine with the beetroot, chopped green onions, and pomegranate kernels.
Add the red wine vinegar, saved orange juice, season with salt and pepper. Toss until the salt is dissolved.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Let the salad marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
This salad is rather pretty: if you use red beets, they will bleed and tint just about everything with a pink to magenta hue. If you prefer not to have a red salad, you can always use yellow or di Chiogia beets, but red beets are a bit more in keeping with the season. Little cubes of rutabaga or turnips (raw or coked) would also be lovely in the salad. Like any bean salad, this one will improve with age: if you are bringing it to a party, make sure to make it a day in advance. It will easily keep a week in the refrigerator.
P.S. I had originally intended to write about homemade marshmallows... They would be soooo perfect as gifts or roasting by the fireplace, but Tara at Seven Spoons beat me to it. So you will have to wait a wee bit longer for my take on this treat. (I'll even give you the vegetarian version!)