We love pulses here at Demuths. They feature constantly in our recipes, not just for their nutritional merit but also for their flavour and versatility. Pulses - which include beans, peas, and lentils - provide a complete protein when combined with grains or nuts, making them a great staple for vegans and vegetarians. But all lovers of great food can appreciate the power of the pulse: they're economical, healthy, easy to cook with, and endlessly adaptable to all kinds of cuisines, from Brazilian Black Bean Stew to Lebanese Rice & Lentils to Tuscan Chickpea Soup. They're also a great store cupboard staple during the Hungry Gap, that time of year when fresh seasonal vegetables are sparse.
We want to encourage you to explore the exciting world of pulses, so bring to you this post full of top tips and our favourite vegetarian and vegan recipes using beans and lentils.
Large whole pulses need soaking overnight in plenty of water in a large bowl, as they will triple in size. Next day, drain and rinse and cook in plenty of water until tender, the time of cooking depends on the bean, but it should be a minimum of one hour. Never add salt when cooking pulses as this hardens the skins and lengthens the cooking time. You can use a pressure cooker to cook pulses and this will halve the cooking time.
It’s worth cooking up a large quantity of beans and then freezing in measured amounts for ready cooked beans for future recipes.
Tins of beans are a great store cupboard standby, but they do have less texture than home cooked pulses and cost over twice as much. Make sure you buy sugar and salt free varieties.
Lentils don’t need soaking, but I do soak whole lentils as this reduces cooking time. Whole lentils take the longest, while split de-husked red lentils cook the quickest. Rinse all varieties of lentils well and always check for stones before cooking.
Try tempering your lentils...
To enrich your pot of lentils (or dhal) and add depth to the flavour, fry spices such as mustard seeds, cumin seeds, whole chillies and curry leaves until they pop – but before they burn – in butter ghee for the richness or for a cleaner, vegan flavour in sunflower oil. Then pour over the hot dhal and serve at once.
La Ribollita: Tuscan Soup with Beans and Greens
All images by Rob Wicks of Eat Pictures except for header image and tarka dhal.
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