Tag Archives: starters

Green beans with pine nuts

Green beans with pine nuts

Green beans should have a bright, strong colour, with crisp pods with a satin-like sheen. They should not look wilted, discoloured or brown. They are best eaten when young and tender. To tell how fresh they are, snap one in half. The ‘snap’ should be clean and clear. Don’t buy them if the ‘snap’ is lacking, and if the insides do not seem juicy when you break them open. Home-grown green beans are in season from June to September. Thin green finger-length beans that are also called French beans or haricots verts. They also include the fatter snap or bobby bean, and the yellow wax bean. Confusingly, green beans are not always green; some varieties you might find at farmers’ markets and farm shops are yellow or purple – but all are delicious.

Marinated eel

Marinated eel

Eel swim thousands of miles from their birthplace in the Sargasso Sea (off the American coast) to the rivers of Europe. In Italy they are found at the mouth of the river Po, in the Tiber, and in Sicily and Sardinia. A favourite Roman recipe at Christmas is capitone, a mature female eel which is cut into chunks, marinated and cured in oil, vinegar and herbs, then grilled over charcoal. This recipe is using smaller eels and reversing the process, frying the eel chunks first, then marinating them. Marinated fish are popular in Italy and are usually eaten at the start of the meal as an antipasto. Eels are most often sold live, although they are sometimes available as steaks. A live eel is quite something to manage, so ask your fishmonger for advice. There are serious concerns surrounding the sustainability of eels, both wild and farmed (as even these are raised from wild elvers).

Lamb koftas in yogurt with cinnamon and chilli

Lamb koftas in yogurt with cinnamon and chilli

Lamb koftas are one of the classics of Indian cuisine, well adopted by Westerners around the world. In the simplest form, koftas consist of balls of minced or ground meat—usually beef, chicken, lamb, or pork—mixed with spices and/or onions. In India, vegetarian varieties include koftas made from potato, calabash, paneer, or banana. In Europe, kofta is served as fast food as a type of kebab. Koftas in India are usually served cooked in a spicy curry/gravy and are eaten with boiled rice or a variety of Indian breads. In Bengal, a region of eastern India, koftas are made from prawns, fish, green bananas, cabbage or meat, such as minced goat meat. In Kashmir, mutton is often used in the preparation of koftas, as opposed to beef or lamb. These koftas make a very good first course or snack.