There is a thing about your own cooking that embodies your preferences, and they were built from childhood food experiences, your culture, your climate and your food journey through life. So, like it or not, cooking is not formulaic. You twist and turn while following a recipe. You massage it here and there. You add and subtract. You compensate and accentuate. And you cook something that is pleasing to you and to those you love.
So it is with Ottolenghi. I love his recipes, but there are some things that don’t suit my preferences – or my climate. Although he does really well internationalising his dishes, unlike Nigel Slater who unashamedly cooks for an English audience, some things jar with me. For example, his over use of feta when it is not needed to enhance the dish is perhaps a fashion thing. Or maybe to enhance the visuals. Or perhaps the feta is betta in London. Or maybe it is just my preference to use only small amounts.
This recipe is great. I so love the way the carrots are cooked, almost a la Grecque style. The lentils are rich in flavour, and the feta, the bit that I did use, provided a lovely tangy contrast to the lentils and carrots.
I did twist and turn a little with the recipe, because Mung Beans are not “stuck in the 1970’s” for me, as the book claims. They are part of my kitchen staples, and I so often make Mung Soup (so easy) and also a range of dishes using Mung Dal (the split mung beans). But the twists and turns were mainly in technique, not in ingredients, although I was tempted to add mustard seeds to the tadka. I didn’t because of the feta. But next time I will leave the feta off and add mustard seeds, and perhaps some ajwain too.
Are you looking for other mung bean dishes? Browse our collection. You will find the recipes for Mung Soup, Mung Salads, and other delights there. Both whole mung beans and split mung dal are included. They both taste so different that it is hard to believe that they are the same lentil. Or explore our Carrot Salads here, and all Carrot recipes here and here.
Or perhaps you are an Ottolenghi fan? Browse our collection of Ottolenghi recipes.
Mung Bean and Baked Carrot Salad
source: adapted from Plenty More by Ottolenghi
prep time: 15 mins
cook time: 40 mins
serves: 4 – 6, depending on how you use it
140g dried green mung beans
60ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
0.5 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp salt
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm by 5cm batons
½ tsp sugar
green coriander or parsley, chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
60g feta or more, depending on taste, broken into chunks
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add the beans and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until they are cooked but still retain a bite. Drain, shake well and transfer to a large bowl.
Heat two tablespoons of oil in a small frying pan and add the seeds. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until they start to pop – about three minutes – then pour, hot oil and all, over the beans, along with the vinegar, garlic, chilli and half a teaspoon or less of salt.
While the beans are cooking, lay the carrots in a pan large enough for them to form a shallow layer on the bottom. Pour over about 150ml water – the carrots should be nearly submerged – plus two tablespoons of oil and half a teaspoon each of sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and keep on a high heat for eight minutes, by which time the water should have evaporated and the carrots become slightly caramelised but still crunchy. Drain some liquid, if needed.
Add the carrots to the bean bowl, along with the coriander or parsley, and stir gently. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl, sprinkle over lemon zest, dot with feta and drizzle with olive oil.
I am not a great fan of raw garlic, so I added sliced garlic to the tadka – the frying spices in oil – about 2 minutes in, and allowed them to brown and crisp up. Lovely.
I made the tadka in a medium pan big enough to take the lentils – I used a kadhai, an Indian wok, but just what you have. The benefit is that when the tadka was completed, I turned the heat off, and tipped the lentils into that hot pan which helped them (I believe) to absorb the beautiful flavours released by the spices into the oil they were sauteed in.
In this recipe above I have added the vinegar, chilli and salt to the mung beans with the tadka. Ottolenghi adds them to the beans five minutes before they finish cooking, then the remainder is poured off when the beans are drained. I have a great belief in hot lentils fresh from the pan to absorb flavour so well, I just added it to the drained beans. I thought the vinegar might be a bit strong, but it wasn’t. However you can reduce the amounts of vinegar and salt if you do it my way. I never reduce the amount of chilli, but that is personal preference.
Those carrots are extraordinary.
Enjoy! Love to you.