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Cuisine Fiend

How to cook beans and other pulses?

Sun, 14 November, 2021

You don’t have to be vegetarian to love beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, members of that wonderful family of vegetables called legumes (Fabaceae or Leguminosae). You might know them also as pulses, but that’s the term that refers to the seeds of the legume plants, usually dried for storing: all shapes and shades of beans, various coloured peas, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans and peanuts.

Until not so long ago the only form we used to eat pulses in Britain was as baked beans, on toast of course. Chickpeas and lentils were hippie stuff, and peas came from the chip shop or a tin. All changed, all changed now – everyone knows what a falafel is and we like our hummus. Daal doesn’t get confused with Roald Dahl and wasabi peas have replaced pork scratchings as a pub snack. On top of that hordes of vegans are trying very hard to believe that processed soybeans taste like meat.

Which is all (possibly except the last point due to ultra-processed results) extremely good news because pulses are nutritional bombs of goodness. They are rich in protein, a great source of fibre and can be turned into healthy, unsaturated fats: peanut butter and groundnut oil.

With the exception of soybeans which clearly need to be processed to become food (tofu, tempeh or soy milk), none of the other pulses need much preparation to turn them into brilliant dishes. And most of them come in tins, already cooked which makes for a completely easy-peasy (pun intended) dinner or lunch. Although I do think it’s worth making an effort sometimes to cook chickpeas from dried and lentils from scratch.

That’s how I like to make my lentils with mushrooms and lentils and chorizo. But if you prefer, grab a few tins on your next shop and then cooking spicy cheesy lentils bake will take only about 5 minutes to prepare for oven ready.

Tinned chickpeas are seriously better when organic so cough up 30p more or so on a tin, it’s worth it. I know most people do saucy chickpeas but I go crispy in this instance, like crispy roasted chickpeas or popping chickpeas with roasted red peppers. In the former recipe chickpeas can actually be stripped of all the additional vegetables and roasted just with the spices for an extremely moreish snack.

Beans! So many types, mind boggles. I like the fat, big butter beans, in this grilled butter beans and chorizo dish, but I also love the small, elegant haricot or cannellini beans for a hearty cassoulet; on this occasion I always cook them from dried, soaked overnight. It simply wouldn’t do to open a tin for a cassoulet!

Kidney beans are great in salads, with crispy pork mince and lettuce or with avocado and crispy garlic. Black beans go with sweet potatoes and pinto beans make the best vegetarian chilli. While in chilli con carne any colour beans are good – unless we are in Texas.

And don’t forget peanuts, which are not nuts but pulses too: in vegetarian sesame noodles or in kung pao chicken they are not the primary but definitely an essential ingredient.

The above selection doesn’t exclude meat but there isn’t much of it and that’s how I like it: reducetarians unite! Keep cooking well and eating better!

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About me

Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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