Using dried pulses in a recipe may not sound like the most enchanting or exciting thing to do, or even anything new, but it has seriously changed how I do things in my kitchen, how delicious my meals are, how much time it takes to put them together and how much they cost.
Pulses are an amazing ingredient to include in your diet. They are high in complex carbohydrates, fibre and protein, and low in fat, while being loaded with vitamins.
I have moved from using tinned pulses to cooking my own from scratch, in big batches, and freezing them cleverly in portions, ready to make into hummus, soups or stews. They are so much more delicious and buttery cooked at home, and the process is one I love – running your hands through a bowl of dried beans is so satisfying, as is opening a freezer drawer packed with little ready-to-go bags of beans.
It is worth mentioning that the length of time it takes to cook a dried pulse will depend on how long ago it was dried. The older it is, the longer it will take to cook. I would encourage you to buy pulses from places where they are less likely to have been sitting around for a long time; supermarkets and anywhere that has loose pulses to buy by weight are good options.
Most beans will benefit from a little overnight soak in double their volume of fresh cold (ideally filtered) water. Soaking pulses makes them much easier to digest and reduces their famous side-effects, as well as their cooking time. It also allows them to cook more evenly. If you don’t have time to soak them, don’t fret, as there are a couple of other options.
Either give them a quick soak, for as much time as you have but ideally for two hours, or cook them without soaking – though, in my experience, the time you save by not soaking them will only be replaced by the extra time they take to cook.
To cook, drain the soaked pulses, put them into your largest pan, and cover with cold water to come about 3cm above the level of the pulses. Bring to the boil, then boil steadily for five minutes (10 for kidney beans) – this is important, as it deactivates the toxins in the pulses – and after that, turn down the heat to a very gentle simmer and cook until tender and creamy. Cooking on a low heat like this will make sure the skins stay intact and that they cook evenly. It is better to shake your pan rather than stir with a wooden spoon, as stirring will break the skins of the pulses.
A cooked pulse should remain intact but should collapse into a buttery, creamy mush when squeezed. Chickpeas will remain a little harder but should still be soft throughout.
I season my pulses once they are cooked, as seasoning them while cooking is said to toughen the pulses and give them a powdery texture.
You can freeze your cooled pulses in their cooking liquid, in portions as they would come in a tin, but I prefer to freeze them without their liquid.
I season them well, then drain the liquid and allow the pulses to cool before freezing them in meal- sized bags. If I have time I freeze them on a tray first, to stop them sticking together, and bag them up once frozen.
SOAKING AND COOKING TIMES FOR DRIED PULSES
Soaking time: 30 minutes + cooking time: 30–40 minutes
- Lentils and split peas
- Moth beans
- Mung beans
Soaking time: 2–3 hours + cooking time: 30–40 minutes
- Aduki beans
- Black-eyed beans
Soaking time: 4 hours + cooking time: 1–11⁄2 hours
- Borlotti beans
- Butter beans
- Cannellini beans
- Haricot beans
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
Soaking time: 8 hours or overnight + cooking time: 11⁄2–3 hours
- Fava beans
- Soya beans
30-MINUTE SWEET-POTATO CHILLI
- 1 × 750ml jar of passata
- 250g of home cooked Puy lentils or 1 x 400g tin
- 250g of home-cooked aduki beans or 1 × 400g tin
- 50g quinoa
- 1-2 tablespoons chipotle paste (depending on how hot you like things)
- 1 large sweet potato
- A bunch of spring onions (about 125g)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Coconut or olive oil
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 × 220g jar of roasted red peppers
- 1–2 deseeded green chillies
- A bunch of fresh coriander
- A few sprigs of fresh oregano or thyme
- 1 lime
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut yoghurt or good Greek yoghurt
- Usually the joy of chilli is that it has been blipping away on the hob building up flavour for hours, but this chilli is different. It’s a bit fresher and brighter, but it’s still packed with flavour from the chipotle and spices and is topped with a bright chilli and herb drizzle. A pot of this will keep a houseful happy for a couple of nights – or it will freeze and feed a few dinners for two.
- Get all your ingredients together and put a large saucepan and a frying pan on a medium heat.
- Empty the passata, lentils, beans and quinoa into the saucepan and add 400ml of cold water. Add the chipotle and cook on the highest heat for 10–15 minutes.
- Peel, quarter and finely slice the sweet potato, roughly slice the spring onions and peel the garlic. Put the spring onions and sweet potato into the frying pan with a little coconut or olive oil and fry for five minutes. Add the smoked paprika and fry for a further three minutes.
- Using a fine grater, grate the cloves of garlic into the tomato-quinoa mixture with the cumin and coriander and stir in.
- Take a ladleful of chilli out of the saucepan and add it to the sweet potatoes in the frying pan. Swill the whole lot around to get the goodness from the bottom of the pan, then pour it all carefully into the chilli pan. Simmer together for another 10 minutes with a lid on. Drain the red peppers, roughly slice them and add them to the chilli pan.
- While the chilli is cooking, put the green chilli and coriander into a blender with the oregano or thyme, the juice of the lime and two tablespoons of olive oil. Add four tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt and blitz until smooth.
- Serve the chilli in deep bowls, topped with yoghurt and the chilli drizzle.