Monday, 27 June 2011

Feeling the pulse

I've been thinking about pulses quite a lot recently, as the French value them and use them a lot. I sometimes think New Zealand, along with quite a number of English speaking/Western countries are out of step with the rest of the world in that (apart from baked beans in tomato sauce), pulses are not regarded highly at all - either as a cheap source of protein or as a delicious, versatile and nutritious addition to meals. Throughout France the cassoulet is a traditional dish, and French green lentils - especially Puy lentils, are highly prized. (More on Puy lentils here).

The other day I bought an 800g tin of green flageolate beans - not well known outside France, but regarded as the king of beans here and  very cheap. I tossed some prepared onions (2) and eggplant strips (300g eggplant) in some oil, and started them roasting together while I finely chopped lots of garlic, (6-8 large cloves) which I added to the roasting onion/eggplant with about 350g sliced courgettes and two sliced red capsicums. Salt, lots of pepper, roast until cooked then add about 1/3 cup of tomato paste mixed with about  2 cups water,  plus some mustard mayonnaise (1/4 cup). Add 4 chopped tomatoes and the drained, rinsed beans  and bake, covered, at 180 C for 30-40 minutes until heated through. Adjust seasonings.  Very tasty! (And if you have to have some meat, chop a small amount of some tasty and good quality sausage into it - chorizo, for example).

Don't overlook other pulses such as beans and split peas  in your cooking either, like lentils they are cheap, versatile, sustaining and nutritious.  They have a high protein content, especially when eaten with grains.  They also contain carbohydrates and fibre, but are low in fat, and are important sources of some ‘B’ vitamins. They are available tinned, but these seem outrageously expensive compared to buying in bulk and cooking them yourself.  You don’t need a pressure cooker, but if you’re likely to forget to soak them overnight, a pressure cooker certainly makes life a lot simpler as there’s no need to soak and cooking time is usually more than halved.  Cook in 3-4 times water to beans.  Don’t add salt until after pulses are cooked, as this can toughen the skins.

If cooking in a slow cooker, pulses must be soaked overnight and boiled for 10 minutes as slow cooking does not reach the temperatures required to destroy some toxins.  Cook more than you need at one time, as all pulses freeze well and defrost quickly.  Pinto beans are not quite so ‘earthy’ as kidney beans but either can be used in dishes such as chilli beans, refried beans or fritters for tasty, nutritious and inexpensive meals that can be prepared very quickly.  Baby lima beans are great for adding to stews and soups, and of course we need chickpeas for making falafel, hummus and various salads as well as curry dishes etc.

                                   Soak/Boil                              Pressure Cook
Chick peas                  2 1/2 hours                           30 minutes
Pinto beans                 1 1/2 hours                           30 minutes
Lima beans                 1 hour                                   25 minutes
Kidney beans              1 1/4 hours                           25 minutes
Split peas                   30 minutes                            10-12 minutes
Soya beans                3 hours                                 50-55 minutes

Image credits:   Put lentils from wikipedia, jar of pulses from Microsoft clip art collection

1 comment:

lamina@do a bit said...

Love pulses.. thanks for the cooking times... very handy :)