Legumes or Pulses are a class of vegetable that include beans, peas and lentils. They are a great source of protein and can be used as a substitute for meat. There are around 1000 different types of legumes from all over the world. Here in Italy there is a large and widespread consumption of legumes. Its one of the key contributors to the high life expectancy rate. Some of the most famous being cannelloni, chick pea and borlotti but there are many many more!!
Dried or Tinned/Canned Legumes?
- Soaking beans for a long time can increase nutritional value
- Cheaper to buy
- Less packaging
- Avoiding BPA from storage in tin/can
- Control over ingredients added such as salt and preservatives
- Longer to cook
- Must plan ahead when deciding to cook with them
- Quick and easy to use
- Most sources say tinned/canned beans are still very nutritious
- Much higher cost
- Added ingredients such as salt or preservatives. It’s important to always rinse canned/tinned legumes very well in a colander before using them.
- Exposure to BPA in tins/cans (although if I buy pre cooked beans I always buy them in a glass jar)
Cooking dried beans is a lengthy process so be patient!! When I’m cooking beans I usually cook a large quantity and then batch freeze them. Different beans take different times to cook. They can take anything from an hour to 3 hours depending on the variety and size. Cooking time also depends on the freshness of the legume. I find chickpeas are notoriously long to cook.
Steps for cooking beans
- Soak the beans in cold water overnight. This is not totally necessary but it does bring down the cooking time.
- Rinse beans thoroughly the next morning and cover with fresh cold water in a pot. Fill the water almost to the top of the pot as the beans will absorb a lot of the water.
- Bring to the boil.
- Once the beans have come to the boil skim off any foam that appears on the top of the water with a wooden spoon.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for anything from 1-3 hours. You will know the beans are cooked when they are soft. Beans will vary in cooking time depending on their freshness.
- Salt the beans when they are cooked. Some people say you can salt the beans when you start cooking. Here in Italy I was taught by my family to always salt them at the end and always use a wooden spoon not a metal one as this will help with the cooking process.
Compared to other types of dried beans, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare. They can absorb a variety of flavors from other foods and seasonings, are high in nutritional value. They are available throughout the year and are a must in any kitchen.