Monthly Archives: March 2015

Recipe: Roasted Chickpeas


Snack attack!

I’ve been wanting to make roasted chickpeas for a long time. Today was finally the day. I don’t think you can claim these are massively healthy – the oil and salt take care of that, but they’re high fibre, full of protein, full of flavour and you know exactly what’s gone into making them. And they’re really easy as well.

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400g tin of chickpeas, drained
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp salt

Pre-heat the oven to 220C.
Add the chickpeas and the other ingredients into a bowl and stir thoroughly until all the chickpeas are coated with the mix.
Spread evenly over an oven tray.
Put in the oven and roast for 10 minutes.
Take out of the oven and stir the chickpeas around so that they will cook evenly.
Put back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes more.
Leave to cool and serve with the film or TV sport of your choice.

Edit & NB I’ve been asked questions about timings on this. This recipe very much depends on your oven, if the timings here don’t get the chickpeas as crispy as you’d like, add an extra 5 minutes at a time until they are. Remember they will crisp up a bit more as they cool down. I’m sorry, this is one recipe where you’ll just have to experiment to see what works in your kitchen.

Recipe: Spaghetti with Garlic, Chilli and Olive Oil


This is the classic pasta dish Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, spaghetti with garlic and olive oil. All the recipes I’ve seen add chilli to the mix. It’s known in my house as ‘cold cure pasta’. I didn’t know about its curative properties when I first made it, however. I had a streaming cold and was just looking for a quick and easy dinner. This dish takes no longer to cook than the time to cook the pasta, but once I’d eaten it I found that my nose dried up for the rest of the evening!

Even if you don’t have a cold to deal with (or a battalion of the undead to keep away with the garlic!) this is still one of the great pasta dishes. As there are only a handful of ingredients, which are treated incredibly simply, use the best quality you can get. This is one to use the plumpest garlic and the extra virgin olive oil.

I’ve given the quantities for two people here, but this is a solitary dish for me so I don’t need to worry about table etiquette of eating spaghetti dripping with oil and flavour.

Pasta with Garlic, Chilli & Olive Oil photo DSCN1776_zpswoqrh5xn.jpg

Cook 150g of spaghetti according to packet instructions. While the pasta is cooking gently warm 3 tablespoons of good olive oil in a frying pan. Stir in 2 minced plump cloves of garlic and 1 chopped birdseye chilli. Stir the garlic and chilli through the oil but you are only warming and flavouring the oil, do not fry the garlic and chilli. When the pasta is cooked, drain it thoroughly. Put it in the frying pan and stir through the oil until every strand is coated. Season with black pepper and serve, sprinkled with a few chopped basil leaves.

Serves 2

Book Review: Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets – Joanna Blythman


This is a disturbing and scary book. In it Joanna Blythman lifts the lid (or should that be pulls back the inner wrapper?) on how the modern food industry produces our processed and chilled food. From a food fair with no food on view, to postings on industry-only forums, Blythman tells us about the secretive world of additives and processing ingredients that food manufacturers don’t talk about because they don’t have to.

In Part One of the book, Blythman tells us how the processed food system works. How a handful of companies make most of the ready-meals you can buy. How truly industrialised it all is. How the bad old E-numbers have disappeared from food labels to be replaced by more natural sounding additives – Clean Labelling. And a visit to a food industry exhibition where little to no food was on display – only stalls selling processing agents and the latest additives and coating gels.

Part Two investigates these additives and processing agents in more detail with chapters looking at the defining characteristics of processed food – Oily, Flavoured, Coloured, Watery, Starchy, Tricky, Old and Packed.

Part of me really wants to dislike this book. Half of that is the bit that says ‘Just because it’s got chemicals in it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Everything has got chemicals in it. Water is dihydrogen monoxide, for freak’s sake!’ And the author shoots herself in the foot occasionally. Ms Blythman, she tells us, was put off processed food for life after eating a Vesta curry at aged six. (She should have had a Findus Crispy Pancake, they were way better.) “Margarine spreads…” she sneers, “… leave a greasy coating on the roof of the mouth and taste of nothing pleasant.” Really, Ms Blythman? NOTHING pleasant?

She is on safer ground when she lets the food industry speak for itself. “Whether you are looking to replace oil, cream, milk solids, vegetables or egg, we can ensure premium quality and guilt-free indulgences at a competitive price.” This is from a starch company.

And it’s these kind of quotes that make this a book that everyone who cares about what they eat needs to read. There are ‘natural’ flavourings and colours that are a whole factory and chemistry set away from the original plants they came from. There are processing agents and enzymes that the food factory workers have to be protected from in the manufacture of the food that never appear on the labels because they don’t have to.

This, for me, is the book’s real importance. Clean Labelling. Not clean food, but how the food industry has removed the nasty E-number additives from our food and replaced with equally artificial additives that are opaque or non-existent on the food labels. This is information that is hidden from us and I hope this book can start a conversation about how we can be told more about what goes in our food.

As a vegetarian I watched the horse meat scandal unfold with a huge serving of schadenfreude. Now I’m looking into my own fridge at the soy milk, the soy ‘yoghurts’, the tofu sausages and wondering what’s really in them. How are they made? What am I not being told? Like, I said, this is a scary book.

Title: Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets
Author: Joanna Blythman
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Year: 2015
Pages: 320
Price: £10.49 paperback
ISBN: 9780007548330