These little pearls are half the size of their better known cousins, cannellini beans, but are cooked the same way.

These were a gift from Polly Wessel–a “Braveheart” (a cooking workshop alumni) last year–kindly brought from Rome.

They have sat on the shelf patiently waiting. Now they are in the spotlight–and I’m appreciating them.

They are called Fagioli del Purgatorio and come from Gradoli–a town 60 miles north west of Rome in Lazio.

Traditionally served at lunch on Ash Wednesday (today), which marks the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar–a time to purge one’s sins by giving up something one enjoys.

(I remember dreading it as a child in the fifties! No chocolate and or sweets for seven weeks–purgatory!)

One definition of PURGATORY has it as

“…a temporary condition of torment or suffering.” *

When it comes to eating beans Meredith would agree–and would willingly give them up for longer than Lent!

She said today that if she were to take over in the kitchen–something she is capable of doing–she’d cook more or less like I do–except NO beans!

(Meredith grew up near Chicago–the Windy City–perhaps she’s had her fill of wind! The only beans she saw were the long green ones from the family garden–and those she likes!)



Annibale Caracci’s The Bean Eater

The size of the beans suits this little salad but use any white bean.


8oz dry white beans–soaked in water eight or more hours or overnight (evening of Pancake Tuesday!)

1 carrot–halved lengthwise

stick of celery–chopped in two

1 onion–halved

sprig of rosemary

for the dressing;

4 tbs olive oil

2 tbs red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove–pulped in a little salt

1 smallish red onion–diced small

2 to 3 tbs parsley–chopped

salt and pepper to taste

a lemon quartered to squeeze over for perfection!

oven at 170c

  • Put the first five ingredients in a saucepan and top by two inches or more with water.
  • Bring gently to the boil.
  • Spoon off any white froth that has collected on the surface.
  • Cover the pan and place in the middle of the oven and cook for an hour.
  • Test the beans for softness.
  • If they still seem a little crunchy cook on until they are soft.
  • This depends on the age of the beans–the older they are, the longer they cook.
  • When you are happy with their tenderness–drain them and pour into a pretty serving bowl.
  • Mix the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper into a vinaigrette and pour over the beans while they are still warm.
  • Add the onion and parsley and carefully turn it all over.



A fuller definition of PURGATORY is:

an intermediate state after death for expiatory purification; specifically :  a place or state of punishment wherein according to the souls of those who die in God’s grace may make satisfaction for past sins and so become fit for heaven

Well, I’d be happy to take my punishment–I love beans!

Wind or no wind!







“Pork and beans”


These little white beans are called purgatory beans

I originally published this recipe (I’d watched Gordon Ramsay demonstrate it on YouTube), four years ago almost to the day.

It was a bitingly cold February back in 2012.

My, what a difference four years makes!

We are eating this in a sunny courtyard with the first daffodil peeking round the corner, looking as surprised as we are.


Faux Printemps is all very well but one has to be a little anxious.


Jack Frost can be a patient fellow….


“Bonjour, Madam–deux cotes d’échine, s’il vous plait.”

Spare rib chops are tastier and less prone to dry out than loin chops–and they are the less expensive cut.


These two cost under 3€ (about $3.30 or £2.40).

“Elles sont trop cher, Madam!”

Our Lautrec Friday market pork butcher looked confused--until she heard the woman next to me laugh.

The rosemary needles take on a nice crunchiness and are worth eating, as is the garlic.

for 2

2 spare rib pork chops

Sprigs of rosemary and thyme

3/4 cloves of garlic–squashed, peeled and halved

olive oil

salt and pepper

heat the oven to 200C/400F

  • Dribble some olive oil and sprinkle some salt on a shallow oven tray.
  • Scatter over a couple of the cloves of garlic.
  • Place the chops on top.
  • Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  • Strip the rosemary needles from the stem over the chops.
  • Do the same with the thyme (not so easily done).
  • Dribble more olive oil over the tray.
  • Put it in the higher part of the oven for about 20 minutes.
  • (The cooking time depends on the thickness of the chops.)
  • Best to cut into them to check–the juices should run clear.


Frittata with celery & red onions

Needs must, when the cupboard is almost bare….

No option but to improvise when supplies are depleted.

I thought there would be leftover spicy cauliflower in the fridge from dinner a couple of nights ago–enough for an interesting new spin on a frittata–the slow-cooked Italian omelette.

I went through the very male thing of looking in the fridge and not finding it and assuming it must be there because of the very male thing of looking in the fridge for something, not finding it and then Meredith looking and finding it.

This time Meredith looked– and didn’t find it.

Conclusion: It isn’t there!

So–what is?

A still use-able bunch of celery.

Never thought of celery in a frittata before–but why not?

Helped by a couple of red onions–all sliced thin.

We’ll see, I thought…..

6 eggs

1 bunch celery– remove any damaged outer leaves and flowery tops and slice thinly

2 red onions–outer casing removed and sliced thinly

2 tbs olive oil

100gm/2 oz parmesan–grated

salt and pepper

1 tbs olive oil to heat in cooking pan


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide-ish pan and add the celery and onion.


Cook on a medium heat–about 20 minutes–until the chopped vegetables soften.

Leave to cool.

Beat the eggs in a bowl.

When the onion and celery have cooled, empty them into a mixing bowl and season well.

Fold in the grated cheese and then the eggs and mix well.


Heat a 10″ frying pan to HOT and add a tablespoon of oil.

Carefully pour in the egg mix and smooth it flat.


Turn the heat down to the lowest temperature and cook on until there is just a hint of a pool left on top.

Heat the oven grill to HOT and slip the pan under for about a minute–possibly less! You don’t want it to burn the frittata or dry it out.



My invention today registered a distinct DING for Meredith.

That still leaves the opportunity to try frittata with spicy cauliflower–when I can find it!



Taken while the eggs were a-poaching!

I’m a fan of Nigel Slater–his cooking and his writing.

He’s an everyday cook whose latest book–the third of the series–is a diary of his year in the kitchen.

Keep a daily record of what you cook over twelve months and at the end you have a book!

It is also of the moment–and thereby seasonal–the way I like to cook.

In fact I have no choice–the markets here are seasonal. You won’t find asparagus until March. Last Saturday was the second time the little white torpedoes called endive have shown up.

This idea of his–thick slices of green or white cabbage–the tight leaf variety–infused with a simple marinade and cooked in the oven on a high-ish heat–can serve as “the main item” on a lunch or dinner plate.

They are a meaty eat–best to use a serrated steak knife.


These heavy round cannon ball cabbages can be a bit inhibiting. Here are two types; either work well, but I favor the slightly looser leafed variety–the one on the right; it allows the sauce mix to penetrate more easily.

for 2

1 medium green/white cabbage

2 garlic cloves–peeled and pulped with a little salt

2 tbls lemon juice

2 tbls olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

4 tbls grated parmesan–or more, if desired

oven at 200c/400f

Remove the damaged outer leaves of the cabbage.

With great care, holding the cabbage firmly on its side, slice it in inch-thick slices.

Try to keep the same thickness as you slice–bit of a challenge.

Cover a shallow oven tray with foil and lightly brush it with oil.

Arrange the cabbage slices on it.


Put the garlic, oil, lemon juice and pepper into a jar with a tight lid, secure the top and shake it all about.

Brush the slices generously with this sauce.


Cook in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes (they should be tender).

Take the tray out of the oven and with a fish slice carefully turn over the slices.


Spread a tablespoon of parmesan on each…


then pop the tray back in the oven for 15 minutes.


I served them with poached eggs on the side.


The two cheese version–my alternative topping  of crumbled goats cheese on top of the parmesan, got the DING from Meredith!


(Braised fennel on the side)

And the winner is…

Through the morning haze of toast and coffee wafted the words, “the quiz was won by Meredith Wheeler…” from the radio on the desk in the kitchen.
It took a second’s delay for my brain to clarify the message.
Meredith Wheeler, the person enjoying breakfast in bed listening to our favourite Sunday morning radio show–Broadcasting House with the wonderful Paddy O’Connell–had been, according to the words that I was now sure I’d heard moments ago, the first to guess correctly the answer to the weekly quiz, audio clues to a notable news story in the past week*.
It took another nano second before I found myself rising from my chair and moving to the entrance hall–emitting a very loud whooping sound which was met from the landing upstairs by a similar primal scream of surprise and delight.
It was like our team had scored in the last second of the final–thus winning us the cup!
We then joined each other on the landing in an unashamed display of triumph.
This took the form of prolonged hugs and jumps and further yelps.
After a period of relative calm, confirmation that our ears had not deceived us came in email form from Bonnie in the BH production office, promising the dispatch of the coverted prize, a wooden spoon, as soon as new supplies arrived.


 *The story was about the 3-year-old Emma who managed to telephone the emergency services when her pregnant mother fell down the stairs at home and knocked herself unconscious.
Here is the report including the audio of Emma’s remarkable call:

Just back from filming two scenes in the second series of Poldark on location in deepest Wiltshire.

Footwarmers supplied for the long day in court–and they work!

Didn’t make the Reverend Doctor Halse any more warm-hearted–mean old thing–though he didn’t have it all his own way–Francis  and Ross see to that!


Weary and happy to be home.

Keen NOT to go shopping for lunch this morning!

Look in the fridge and find half a cabbage and half a large leek, a couple of carrots and celery stalks–battuto/sofrito!

Some half-cooked fresh tomatoes are in there too–preserved under a film of olive oil.

A large jar of white beans is on the shelf in the larder.


Enough to make a reduced version of the recipe reproduced below.

White Bean Soup with Cabbage from Healthy Eating for Life


An autumn/winter soup this–with a big presence.

Adapted from Leslie Forbes’ book:  A Table in Tuscany.

 for 4

carrots--chopped small

2 sticks of celery–chopped small

leeks–cleaned and chopped small

6 tbsp olive oil

3/4 tinned tomatoes–chopped up with their liquid

A sprig of fresh thyme

1 large garlic clove–pulped

Half a green cabbage–stem removed and shredded

The other half of the cabbage shredded thinly–this for a topping (see below)

1 tbsp olive oil

About 800gms/24oz  cooked white beans–canned or bottled or dried, soaked and cooked (see p?), drained but their liquid retained

1 pint/500ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes


Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the celery, leeks and carrots until they are tender–about twenty minutes.

Mix in the tomatoes, garlic and thyme and let them cook on for five minutes.

Add the cabbage, season with salt and pepper and cook on for ten minutes.

Purée three-quarters of the beans in a mixer with a little of their liquid.

Add the bean water and the bean purée to the soup and stir it all together.

Cook this thick mix for an hour–stirring it regularly to stop it sticking and burning.

Add a little of the stock each time you stir it.

This is meant to be a thick soup–up to you how loose you make it–just be careful not to dilute the depth of taste.

While the soup cooks on sauté the rest of the cabbage to serve as a topping when you present the soup.

Serve hot with swirls of the best olive oil you have.


*A battuto or sofrito is a flavor-base of finely chopped raw ingredients. Battuto is a derivative of the Italian, battere, which means ‘to strike,’and describes the a chef’s knife chopping on a cutting board.

Fennel gratin

“They don’t look too promising….” was Meredith’s verdict on the three fennel bulbs I had lined up on the chopping board.

I admit they looked like someone who’d had an extreme haircut.


(My guess: Frost had got the tops, so the make-up & hair department prettied them up for market!)

Appearances can be deceptive, as my mother must have cautioned me.

The customary clean-up revealed their core to be firm and useable.


They served perfectly.

Always on the lookout for “one-dish wonders“,  I found this one in Rose Elliott’s classic The Bean Book.

I treasure both my Rose Elliott books–the other being Not Just a Load of Lentils.

A prolific cookbook author, she has written over sixty books!

The topping here is red lentils and onions cooked down to resemble yellow mashed potatoes:


A sprinkling of parmesan and wholewheat breadcrumbs finishes off the dish so it browns nicely.


It worked so well, I plan to try it over seafood to create the classic fish pie that I’ve been missing since I was diagnosed with Type 2.

Oh boy! This opens up a whole new horizons!

I shall go pie-mad experimenting with this!


Serves 4

  • 6 oz red lentils–washed clear and drained
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion–chopped
  • 400 ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes (14 fluid ounces or  just under two cups)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1lb fennel bulbs (after removing outer leaves and coring)–chopped into large chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • a tablespoon each of wholewheat breadcrumbs and grated parmesan, mixed–more if you like.
  • juice of half a lemon

Choose a presentable oven proof dish and lightly oil or butter the base.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

In a medium saucepan, sauté the onion in the olive oil with the bay leaf until opaque–five minutes or so–stirring occasionally.

Add the drained lentils and stir in the stock.

Cook them, covered, over a gentle heat until they have softened and formed a loose mash.

Let it cool a bit then blitz with a hand-held blender to a smooth consistency like mashed potatoes.

Mix in the lemon juice.

In another saucepan cook the fennel chunks in enough lightly salted water to cover until just tender.

Remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to the oven-bound serving dish.

Season well with salt and black pepper and turn them over thoroughly.

Spread the lentil mash evenly over the fennel and finish with a sprinkling of the parmesan and breadcrumb mixture.


Drizzle over some olive oil and place in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes.

It should come out with a lovely sizzling brown top.


Serve as a main dish or as an accompaniment.


It was a perfect foil for some left-over red bean chili (another simple wonder from Rose Elliott) the other night.







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