I like beans. Jeff likes chicken. We compromise. There is more than one kind of "bean" present, however. There are green beans, du puy lentils, and chickpeas too. We started at the Calgary Farmers Market on Friday morning in search of fruits and vegetables to help appease our month long eat-a-thon. And then, I like to use what I have on hand. No special trips, no extra jaunts to the store. Certainly, there are more spices that could be added, or things done slightly differently, but sometimes it is more fun to work with what I've got. This is not exactly a fussy or authentic recipe, but something delicious that can be eaten for a couple of days, or to serve a small army. I like this kind of dish, as it serves my inherent laziness, and desire for food cooked from scratch. But I am a sucker. At the market, I saw these purple onions and it was all over. An onion is a vegetable you say, it counts, and I did want vegetables. And you would be correct, except that I immediately was called back to the best onion soup I've ever had, or even imagined, in Certaldo with their famous onions (I'll get to it don't worry!). When in Certaldo, in the Tuscany region of Italy, you find onions very similar to this, I had dare not say that the onions are the same as the onions in Certaldo, or the Certaldese would probably beg to differ that they are not the same... While these look like red onions, they are much more mild, less spicy and much more sweet than a red onion. I got so excited, I had to have them, and into the curry they went. To make this curry, white onions will do just as well, I was just using what I had on hand. I can't deny beautiful green beans either. Although, I normally prefer them with a smattering of salt and olive oil, Jeff wanted a gigantic VAT of curry. Curry, curry, curry in monster sized bowls. Green beans were also requested, and they were lovely. More things I had on hand: pot barley, du puy lentils, cumin, canola oil, passata, coconut milk. I suppose I could have saved these lentils, for something to really display their beauty, but again, this is what I had on hand. My favourite discovery was to use the passata, which is a type of tomato puree; it has a more refined texture than simply crushed tomatoes. I stock up when I find it at specialty shops, or if the grocery store happens to have it. Sometimes, I prefer it to make quick tomato sauces. In this case, I like that the passata enhanced the sauce, without becoming too noticeably tomato. A little bit more elegant, as it were. If I didn't have the passata I probably would have used crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, or whizzed some canned tomatoes in the blender. Somehow the spices, below, were all unopened, but purchasing whole seeds and grinding it is definitely the way to go. A little coffee grinder is perfect, and costs maybe $8. A mortar and pestle are good too. This has makes a world of difference. A lot of recipes say to toast the seeds before grinding. I rarely have the energy to do that, but do try to almost, and I mean only ALMOST, burn.... yes burn(!), the spices when I add them to the onions and garlic. When faced with the choice of cooking from scratch, or caving into one's own fears of not living up to the standard of Ferran Adria, not everything has to act as intimidation to prevent the simple act of putting food on one's own plate. It is better, and preferable for me, to prepare my own tomato sauce or my own curry, than to ever, EVER, buy it in a jar. Just go for it, chances are, it will be great. This is why I use full-fat coconut milk. So luscious. Chicken & Bean & Barley Curry 1 1/2 cups diced onion 2 tbsp canola oil 1 tbsp curry powder 2 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp ground coriander 1/2 tsp ground brown mustard seed 1 - 690g jar passata, or 4-5 cups tomato sauce, plus an equivalent amount of water 2 cups of du puy lentils, rinsed 4 chicken breasts 6 cups of cooked chickpeas (3 cans) 1 -400 mL can of coconut milk 6-8 cups green beans, or as desired 3 cups pot barley, rinsed 6 cups water salt, to taste 1. In a small stockpot with a lid, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Turn the heat to the lowest setting, and add the barley. Stir once. Replace the lid, and leave it alone. Check it in 10-15 minutes, and stir with a fork, once. When nearly all of the moisture has been absorbed, turn the heat off. 2. Using a deep-sided saute pan, begin by heating the canola oil on medium-high heat. Then add the onion, and saute until golden brown. Season with salt. The more the onion is cooked without burning, the better, although, just a touch of nearly "burnt" will be fine. 3. Add the spices to the heat for 20-30 seconds. 4. Add the passata, and an equivalent amount of water immediately following. 5. Add the lentils. Cover with a lid, lower the heat to prevent burning, and stir occasionally. 6. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add it to the pan, and cover. Continue to cook on a low simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 7. Meanwhile, clean the ends of the green beans. The beans can be sliced into smaller pieces, if you prefer, as the large beans can be slightly trickier to eat. 8. Add the coconut milk, green beans, and chickpeas. Allow the pan to simmer, but not so hot that it will burn. Continue to cook until the lentils are tender but still firm, and the beans are just slightly less than crunchy - approximately 20 minutes. The mixture will thicken as it cools, so if the temperature is too high, the sauce will still appear quite thin. Taste it, and adjust the salt, as needed. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving. 9. Spoon some barley into a bowl, and top with the curry and green beans. This is one of those dishes that really is better the next day.