Yummy bits and bobs from my kitchen!
Beans and pulses are an ancient source of nutrition that have existed in some form since before the continents as we know them formed. They are the basis for a lot of fantastic food cultures but people in developed countries are eating fewer than ever before. Why is the western world shunning beans, lentils and other pulses?
In the UK, the most readily eaten form of beans has got to be the canned baked beans- I’m one of those people who will eat baked beans with their full English, I love them. I do think it’s a shame to ignore all the other great forms that beans and pulses can take, though.
Historically, beans and pulses have been eaten because they are cheap, readily available and a good source of protein. Generally though, as people have become wealthier they have taken up eating more meat and dairy, which has steadily consigned pulses and beans to the status of “poor man’s food”. This stigma means that we rarely get to see beans and pulses used in delicious dishes, and very rarely see them in our restaurants and cafes (unless you find yourself at a dedicated veggie café that is). Loads of restaurant worthy dishes from around the world do rely on beans and pulses though. Here are my top five pics of bean and pulse based dishes to help you along the way.
A friend of mine with a proud Asian heritage once told me that dhal was “poorly people food” because of how mild and easy to eat it can be- it can be made mild enough and soup like so that even people who don’t like spicy or “ethnic” food could enjoy it. It’s so versatile and can be enjoyed thick like a curry, to be eaten with rice, or thinned down to be enjoyed like a soup. However it’s eaten, this saucy dish is delicious, nutritious and filling.
Cassoulet is a great autumnal/ winter warming dish. It’s usually contains a mix of meat like sausage, chicken or duck. It always however contains beans in a warming tomato sauce. Its great as either a vegetarian dish, or a meat dish, but either way, the beans are the star of the show. In my veggie version I use a mix of veggie sausages and cured, smoked mushrooms instead of meat.
When you think of Tuscany, what do you think of? To me it congers up ideas of skiing holidays, vineyards, and classic romantic films (yes, I say ideas, because I’ve never managed to bop on over there). Pretty posh huh? This upmarket holiday destination has its own style of cooking, which seems to use white beans for all sorts. Soups, salads, sauces, casseroles. If it’s good enough for the Tuscans, then its good enough for me.
In east Asia, the most popular form of bean has to be tofu, AKA bean curd. It’s not to everyone’s taste though because of how mild it is and its mushy texture. Edamame beans seems like a more universally friendly bean based East Asian ingredient. It’s often eaten steamed as a side, but is great mixed into noodle salads and veg stir fries.