It’s something, isn’t it, with Sonja Bakker. For those who missed the show news headlines: the North Holland weight consultant is closing her diet empire. At the end of August, Bakker was accused by a number of food bloggers of stealing their recipes and accompanying photos. She quickly donned the robe. It was because of corona, working from home, less supervision and so on, and indeed, one of her employees had ‘made a mess of it’.
The media storm seemed to quickly subside, but flared up again last week when it turned out that stealing work within Bakker’s company is the rule rather than the exception. Many more recipes, both on her website and on her Instagram account and in her bestselling books, turn out to be the result of raunchy copy-and-paste.
Now you should know that copyright on recipes is wafer thin. Okay, literally copying someone’s recipe without citing the source is not allowed. But turn one teaspoon of thyme into half a teaspoon, or replace chicken with turkey, and you’ve already appropriated the recipe. Stealing without committing plagiarism is actually so childishly easy that you wonder why the diet guru hasn’t handled this smarter.
Anyway, forewarned counts for two. To prevent insults on the street and death threats in my mailbox – that’s what Sonja Bakker received; we are all so crazy – below I will explain exactly how today’s recipe came about.
For the charred green beans in fenugreek-tomato sauce with cinnamon yogurt that you see in the photo, I am primarily indebted to the Lebanese dish loubye bzeit. This classic consists of green or string beans stewed in a tomato sauce with lots of olive oil. As seasonings often no more than onion, garlic and black pepper are used. In all its simplicity, this is a very satisfying dish, but I would have liked something more spicy.
That’s why I picked up two books by London chefs Samantha and Samuel Clark. In Moro East the couple briefly pre-cooks green beans, to finally toss them in a sauce of fresh tomatoes with fenugreek seeds. That fenugreek in combination with beans and tomatoes is incredibly tasty. But the beans in this recipe remain crunchy, and I was craving soft beans.
In their book Morito stew the Clarks green beans for 45 minutes in a slightly less tomato sauce and serve with cinnamon yogurt. That is also very tasty, although to be honest I think there is too much olive oil in it. Perhaps 200 ml of oil on 400 grams of tomatoes and 500 grams of beans does more justice to the Levantine roots of this dish, but the bottom line is that the beans are swimming in oil. Anyway, that cinnamon yogurt on the side is a brilliant find.
We’re still not there, because for the sake of completeness I also have to Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi. The Israeli chef gives a recipe for charred and then slowly cooked string and green beans with green herbs and salted lemon. I made this dish last summer and thought it was a great idea to scorch the beans first. A trick that, I thought, could also be used in other dishes.
And so I stood in the kitchen one Saturday afternoon, the table full of open cookbooks. In the evening we feasted on the beans, which had exactly the spiciness, smoothness and slightly smoky I had envisioned and which paired heavenly with the creamy, garlicky cinnamon yogurt. And I thought: whose recipe is this?
Blackened green beans in fenugreek-tomato sauce with cinnamon yogurt
Fenugreek seeds come from a plant in the legume family. They have a spicy, slightly hayy and rather bitter taste, which is highly valued in Indian and Iranian, North African and Arabic cuisine. To temper that bitterness, the seeds are sometimes boiled up a few times, I learned Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark. So we do that in this dish as well. It allows us to take full advantage of the unique taste of fenugreek, without the bitterness dominating.
For 4 persons:
800 g green beans, picked;
1 the fenegriek;
80 ml of olive oil;
2 onions, chopped;
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped;
6 allspice balls, crushed in a mortar (or tsp ground allspice);
¼ tsp chili pepper;
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper;
½ cinnamon stick (4-5 cm);
1 kilo tomatoes, skinned and cut into pieces (collect moisture!);
½ tsp sugar
250 g Greek or Turkish yogurt (with 10 percent fat); ½ clove of garlic; ¼ tsp cinnamon; 2 tbsp coriander, coarsely chopped
Sets to scorch the beans, place a large (preferably sheet steel, but in any case not a non-stick) frying pan over a high heat and let it get very hot. Sprinkle over a third of the beans, or as much as you can in a single layer. Let the beans sear for about 7 minutes. Turn them a few times in between. Remove the (slightly) charred beans from the pan and fry the rest of the beans in the same way.
Doe the fenugreek in a small saucepan and just cover the seeds with water. Bring to the boil, let it boil for 1 minute and pour through a sieve. Put the seeds back in the pan, just cover with water, bring to the boil, and so on. Cook the seeds in this way for three short turns and let them drain in the sieve.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or stew pan or in a fireproof earthenware dish. Add the onions and a small pinch of salt and sauté gently for 10 minutes, until the onions are golden. Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes. Add the drained fenugreek seeds, the ground allspice, pul biber, black pepper and the cinnamon stick and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the charred beans, the tomatoes and their liquid, the sugar and half a teaspoon of salt and stir briefly. Place a lid on the pan and let it simmer for 40 – 50 minutes until the beans are tender.
Doe for the cinnamon yoghurt, put the half garlic clove together with a few grains of coarse salt in a mortar and grind fine. Add the yogurt, cinnamon and, if necessary, a pinch of salt and stir into a sauce.
sprinkle the beans in tomato sauce before serving with the coriander and serve the cinnamon yogurt separately.