ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ten of your Five a Day

If you read enough articles filed under 'health' you will, eventually, explode in a befuzzled ball of contradiction and confusion, and that's only if you haven't already starved yourself to death through abstemious fear.

According to the papers and newswebs, almost everything is bad for us - there are all studies that prove it'n'shit - and yet, according to someone somewhere else, the very same stuff is good for us. Because there are all studies that prove it'n'shit.

So for years and years, we were all told that fruit juices and smoothies were really healthy, but now that message is the sole preserve of the manufacturers of fruit juices and smoothies. Every other nutritiocunt bangs on about how much sugar is in them and how they're as bad as cola-type drinks, which are, of course, the number one cause of obesity on planet obesity.

Out of the mouths of the nutritionists

Red wine is good. Oh, no it's bad. A Mediterranean diet will protect your heart. Hang on, no, it'll give you cancer. Or both. Actually, neither. Low fat. No, high fat and low carb.

...and so on.

Eight on a Plate!
Nobody really knows what to think anymore, so we've mostly just gone back to the old fashioned 'sensible' thing of just having a little of everything in moderation and not being a complete fucking twat who eats every meal at Chicken Cottage.

The latest 'wisdom' to emerge from the voices in our collective head is that, despite successful Government marketing around the topic, consuming our 'five a day' isn't, in fact, nutritious enough for us, and we should really be eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Ten! Fucking ten!

And yet, it's not impossible. Not completely. I did it last night, in fact.

How to eat 10 portions in one meal

Now, I'm not suggesting that anybody seriously adopts the '10 a day' strategy, and even if you did it's likely that you'd distribute them throughout the day rather than eat the lot in a single sitting.

You'll want a light starter if you're aiming for 10 a day...
But I like a challenge, and by coming up with a new recipe, I've been able to devise a meal that achieves exactly this. And I don't mean just by cooking a massive vegetable curry or fruit salad, which anybody could do; I wanted to create an interesting, varied, dare I say 'balanced' meal.

Obviously eating 10 portions of anything puts the appetite to a test, so in order to manage everything, we'll need to keep meat and starchy carbs to a minimum, which sounds rather off-putting, but in many ways just adds to the challenge.

A very light starter is in order - just a few asparagus spears in Tabasco butter - and we'll finish with Reconstituted Peaches for dessert.

This means that we need to find eight portions of fruit and veg for our main course, and ideally a little bit of something to make it interesting.

And so, ladies and gentlecunts, I give you...

Eight on a Plate

This veg-intensive but very hearty plateful pairs a tangy Spanish-style bean stew with a sweet root vegetable mash and a pepper filled with mushroom stuffing on the side.

What's more, it all adds up to a massive eight portions of vegetables (yes, I know, some are technically fruits or legumes or poultry or something).

Ingredients - serves two:

Beans, 2 cans - e.g. Borlotti and Cannellini, drained 
Chorizo, about 6-7 inches, finely chopped
Onion, finely chopped
Tomatoes, 2, quartered

Red wine vinegar
Worcestershire Sauce
Chilli Powder

For the carrot and sweet potato mash:

Carrots, 4 large or equivalent, roughly chopped
Sweet Potatoes, 2 large or equivalent, peeled and roughly chopped

Black Pepper

For the Mushroom-stuffed peppers:

Peppers, 2 large (traditional shape, not the thin twisty ones)
Mushrooms, wild or chestnut, a couple of handfuls
Onion, finely chopped
Wholemeal breadcrumbs, a couple of slices worth
Mature Cheddar, grated

Olive oil
Garlic Salt
Black Pepper


The first thing to get cracking on is the bean stew, which will benefit from slow cooking, so it might be an idea to do this a couple of hours before eating.

Dry-fry your chorizo at a high temperature until the spicy oils are released, then use these to cook your chopped onion until softened.

Now you can add the beans and the wine vinegar and cook for five minutes or so, before adding the tomatoes and everything else.

Five more minutes and you can put a lid on it and turn the heat down to medium-low, maybe giving it an occasional stir and making sure it doesn't dry out.

This is destined to end up inside a pepper
Subject to Old Father Time doing his thing, that's the beans done and ready to plate up later, which means that we can start prepping our mushroom stuffing.

Melt a little butter in a frying pan. OK, a lot of butter, and chuck in your mushrooms and onion. About eight minutes on high and you're ready to sprinkle in some garlic salt, black pepper and sage.

Now you can whack the breadcrumbs in, take it off the heat, mix it all up and you've got a nice, vaguely Christmassy sort of stuffing.

The next thing to think about is probably your mash, which is pretty straightforward but might take longer than cooking regular potato mash.

Simply boil some salted water in a big pan and cook the chunks of carrot and sweet potato until they soften up, then drain them off, add the butter and get mashing.

Mid-way through you can add the black pepper and nutmeg and maybe even a little more butter - once the mash is suitably mashy, transfer it to a dish and you can keep it warm until you're ready to eat. If it tastes a little too sweet - which may depend on the variety of carrot - it's fine to temper it with more salt and pepper.

Go back to your roots - before they boil over!
The final step is to pare the cores from your peppers and scoop out the seeds, being sure to retain the overall shape and structure. Drizzle them with a bit of Olive Oil and a pinch of salt, both on the outer skin and in the cavity, and place the bastards on a baking tray in a medium oven.

After about ten minutes, take them out momentarily and spoon in your mushroom stuffing, before finally sprinkling on a bit of grated Cheddar for good luck and fair winds or whatever.

A few more minutes in the oven so that the stuffing warms up and the cheese melts, and we're done.

Obviously getting the timing right for all three components of the 'Eight on a Plate' will be tricky, especially if you have to factor in a starter and dessert as well, but the feeling of sheer smugness you'll get from cooking and eating it all makes it worthwhile.

'Pfft!', you'll find yourself saying to your friends and neighbours, 'Five a day?!? A mere five a day?!? Pfft, tish and buggering pish!'

1 comment:

  1. How do you know the quantities to count as 1 of the 5 (or 10) a day? It doesn't look that big.


Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.