Smoky white bean quesadillas + a launch party
My second book ‘A Modern Way to Cook’ has been published, it came out 3 weeks ago on the 16th of July. I couldn’t be more proud of it and thankful to the amazing people who helped me make it what it is.
It is all about eating joyfully and putting vegetables at the centre of every meal, but it’s also about cooking in a life friendly time, making the most of evenings and mornings when time is short and getting something vibrant and flavour packed on the table without too much fuss.
We had a seriously amazing party to send the book into the world in style on a balmy evening at Fifteen, the restaurant where my journey in cooking all began. It was really special to be able to look straight into the kitchen where first learnt to make fresh pasta, ice cream and a million other things. Lots of the people that are dear to be came along, including some of my old chefs and mentors at Fifteen, and the people who cooked as students alongside me. I gave a long and probably over emotional speech and everyone got a bit drunk with a mixture of London summer heat, incredible wine and iced tea cocktails. We were surround by flowers in ombre tones of orange and deep coral by my amazing friend Alex.
We drank Iced Rare Tea cocktails and frosty bottles of pastel coloured almond milk from The Pressery, we ate tiny versions of lots of dishes from the book, Green Goddess Salad, Beetroot and Buckwheat Pancakes, Fiery Pepper Topped Homemade Turkish Flatbreads and Smoky Pepper and White Bean Quesadillas before the Salted Caramel Chocolate Bars and Pistachio and Raspberry Brownies.
I was overwhelmed by how many amazing people made it along and how totally supported I felt by everyone there. Writing a book can be a pretty solo affair so to see smiling faces of friends flicking through it and clapping and whooping while I gave my speech was one of the best feelings in the world.
Here is the recipe for the quesadillas which I made on the night. They are my favourite sharing food and super easy for a party or with a salad for a quick lunch or supper.
Smoky white bean quesadillas
Quesadillas, like a lot of Mexican food, get a bad write-up as being cheese- laden and lazy, but they are a truly quick meal, and by filling them with not just cheese they become more nourishing and much more delicious. Here I have stepped away from the straight-up Mexican quesadillas and introduced some Spanish flavours. Roasted red peppers, smoky paprika and white beans – it makes me think of summer trips to Barcelona, and that can never be a bad thing. If you are vegan, leave the cheese out and double the white beans, which hold it all together; you may want to be more generous with the seasoning too. I mostly make these at lunchtime, but they are filling enough for a dinner – you might want some sherry-vinegar-dressed green salad on the side. If you are making these for a party, which I often do, the filling can be made in bigger batches really easily. The quesadillas can be stacked in the fridge, filled, and ready for frying.
SERVES 2 (MAKES 1 DEEPLY FILLED QUESADILLA)
2 spring onions
1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika
50g cooked white beans
100g jarred, roasted red peppers
1 unwaxed lemon
1⁄2 a bunch of fresh parsley
50g Manchego cheese (see above note for vegans)
2 wholemeal or seeded tortillas or wraps
a handful of cherry tomatoes
Get all your ingredients together. Finely slice the spring onions. Put a frying pan on a medium heat, add a little olive oil, the spring onions and smoked paprika, and cook for a couple of minutes, until starting to brown. Meanwhile, put the white beans into a mixing bowl and mash them with a fork, then roughly chop your red peppers and add half of them to the beans. Grate over the zest of the lemon, then roughly chop the parsley and add half to the bowl. Grate in your Manchego. Once the spring onions are browned, add these too. Lay a tortilla or wrap on your work surface. Spoon the red pepper mixture all over it, spread it evenly, then top with the other tortilla. Heat a frying pan and toast the quesadilla for a couple of minutes on each side –I do this dry, but you can add a splash of oil if you like your quesadillas crispy. If you find it hard to flip, a plate on top might help.
While the quesadilla is toasting, roughly chop the tomatoes, mix with the remaining peppers and parsley and squeeze in the juice of half the lemon.
Once toasted on both sides, remove the quesadilla from the pan and cut into six pieces. Serve in the middle of the table, with the salsa for spooning over.
Food images: Matt Russell
Illustrations: Jess Lea-Wilson