Saturday, 6 April 2013


I am a bit of a cafe junkie.  Is this something you can relate to?  I find myself seeking out quality cafes more than any other type of establishment.  This is largely because I prefer to read, research, write and work at cafes rather than at the library or from home.  Somewhat counter-intuitively, the ambient bustle and buzz helps me focus.  I sit, headphones cradling my ears and cappuccino by my side, at once a part of and separate from the surrounding environment.  But I am particular; there are many conditions which must be met, disparate elements that need to align in order for a cafe to repeatedly lure me back.  I am magnetically drawn to natural light, excellent coffee, comfortable seating, and a considered spatial and aesthetic design.  We artsy folk can be a bit...finicky.  We can be total suckers for aesthetics.  Or maybe that's just me.  At any rate, I love cafes and am constantly in search of new ones to fall for, to adopt, to casually and productively sit in for hours, to make my unofficial home.  

I was lucky to have found out about The Orchard less than two weeks after I first moved to London.  It's a short 10 minute walk from my house, but as it is not situated directly on the main road or within my typical walking route, it could have easily been ages before I discovered its wonders.  For me, The Orchard ticks all the boxes: unbelievable food (at relatively affordable prices), comfortable couches and tables, a simultaneously chic and cozy design (part of the space is divided by a large fish tank encased in an dark chocolate hued bookshelf, overflowing with well-aged publications ranging from works by Ralph Waldo Emerson to a 1960s edition of the Guiness Book of World Records--WHAT! Amazing), and a friendly, laid back atmosphere that is conducive to delving into work (or a divine meal or conversation with friends) for hours.  It's probably the first place in my life where I've ever truly been 'a regular'.

Casual café by day, buzzing restaurant and bar by night, The Orchard serves some of the best food I've had the pleasure of eating in London.  The simplest way to describe their cuisine is by using of some terribly vague pseudo catch-phrase, like "modern pan-continental bistro", but that's ultimately because the type of food they create is difficult to pin down--which is part of its appeal.  With a seasonally-influenced and regularly changing menu, one will find culinary influences spanning Britain, Asia and the Middle East, all with a contemporary twist.  Whether it's in the form of lightly battered and crispy calamari topped with teriyaki sauce, toasted sesame seeds and impressively thin strips of fried leeks or a saffron pudding cake laced with pureed figs and served with homemade butterscotch sauce and pistachio ice cream, the flavors are always surprising and always abound. 

One of the best dishes on offer at The Orchard in the past few months has been these incredibly aromatic and hearty chickpea cakes served with sautéed greens, homemade hummus, and a broad bean (fava beans, to us American + Canadians) and mint dressing.  The flavor of the cakes bursts with fresh herbs and Middle Eastern spices, turning the modest chickpea into an exciting feast for the taste buds, blissfully satiating.  And what's more, the dish is totally vegan! (Props to The Orchard as well for always having interesting vegetarian/vegan offerings.)  Through an incredibly fortuitous turn of events, I have gotten my foodie hands on the recipe.  Being able to recreate dishes from The Orchard at home is one of the best things to happen to me as of late.  I am so excited to now extend that gift to you!  (And a big thanks to The Orchard for letting me write about and share one of your secrets.)

Chickpea Cakes with Kale and Minted Broad (Fava) Bean Dressing
Serves 3-4


For the Chickpea Cakes
2 15oz. cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup (60 g homemade; 110 g dry) breadcrumbs
1 lemon, juice + zest
2 large shallots, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 1/2 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
4 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. mint, minced
1 1/3 Tbsp. dried coriander
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. salt

For the Kale
2 big bunches kale, leaves removed from stems
1 garlic clove, minced
knob coconut oil (or preferred cooking oil)
sea salt
squeeze of fresh lemon

For the Minted Broad (Fava) Bean Dressing

1 cup (150 g) broad beans, removed from pod (fresh or frozen is fine)
6 Tbsp. (1/4 cup + 2T) cold-pressed olive oil
3 Tbsp. mint, minced
1/2 tsp. runny honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 lemon, juice + zest


For the Chickpea Cakes
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mash together with a potato masher, a large fork, or your hands.  Alternatively, if you have a Kitchen Aid/stand mixer, use that to mix with the paddle attachment (start on a low speed to avoid flying chickpeas). The mix should ultimately stick together quite well but still have bits of whole/partial chickpeas in it.
2.  Using your hands, form mix into six patties, each about 2"/5cm wide by .4"/1cm thick.
3-A.  If you have an oven-proof skillet, Pre-heat oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4.  On the stove/hob, heat a thin layer of oil in skillet over medium heat.  Place as many patties as will fit in the pan and cook until their bottoms are browned, 3-4 minutes.  Flip patties and place skillet in the oven for 3-4 minutes, until the other side is browned as well.
3-B.  If you do NOT have an oven-proof skillet, On the stove/hob, heat a thin layer of oil in skillet over low heat.   Place as many patties as will fit in the pan and cook until their bottoms are browned, 5-6 minutes. Flip patties and repeat until browned and warmed throughout.

For the Kale

1.  Thoroughly rinse kale and set aside, leaving some bits of water on the leaves (this will help it cook).
2.  Heat oil in a large pan on medium-low heat. 
3.  Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4.  Add kale to pan (it may be overflowing but will significantly cook down), sprinkle with sea salt, and carefully stir to coat leaves in the oil.
5.  Cook until the volume of the leaves has reduced by almost half and leaves are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
6.  Once cooked, turn off heat and squeeze a bit of fresh lemon over the kale.

For the Minted Broad (Fava) Bean Dressing

1-A.  If using fresh beans, remove from pods and cook in boiling water until tender, 3-5 minutes.  Drain water and immediately transfer beans to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.
1-B.  If using frozen pre-cooked beans, place beans in a bowl of warm water to thaw.
2.  In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix together olive oil, lemon juice + zest, salt, mint and honey.
3.  Working with each bean individually, remove the outer skin and then put the bean directly into the bowl with the dressing.
4.  Stir to combine.

To assemble

1.  Place kale on plates.
2.  Top with 2 chickpea patties (hot from the stove/oven!), or however many you desire.
3.  Generously spoon dressing over the cakes and kale.  


  1. This dish looks incredible! I'm obsessed with favas and greens right now. Yum! Your recipes are written so nice and clearly. I like your site design, too. :)

    1. Thanks so much! Yeah, this dish is definitely a winner, I feel very lucky to have learned how to make it! Favas are great, I made a nice dip with them yesterday actually -- favas, lemon juice + zest, a bunch of herbs (basil, mint, dill), garlic, and a bit of goats cheese. So easy and fresh! Thanks for the compliments, it's so great to know that people are enjoying what I'm creating on this little part of the vast internet universe :).