Lentils & Beans

21/07/2012 14:34

Beans, split peas and lentils are often referred to as "pulses" are the edible seeds of legume plants.
Legumes are wonder foods as they are low in fat and absorb the flavour of spices and herbs, making them tasty to eat. People have been eating legumes for thousands of years and these foods are the main source of protein for people in many cultures all over the world.

Bags of dried beans and lentils are always good to keep in as a cupboard stand-by as they keep well. The canned ones are also good to keep in too. Canned beans and lentils won't require as much cooking so if you want to add them to the recipe instead of the dried, then reduce cooking time or add them nearer the end of cooking.

Split Peas are dried peas that have been mechanically split along a natural seam, so that they cook faster. You can buy either green or yellow split peas. Unlike whole pulses, split peas don't need soaking, but they do require rinsing and sorting.

Yellow dried split peas are commonly known as dal in Indian cookery. They have a meaty yet sweet flavour. They can be included in soups, stews and Indian vegetarian dishes. They were traditionally used to make pease pudding- a savoury dish of boiled peas flavoured with salt and pepper, which was served with ham or salt pork.

Lentil seeds vary in size, shape and colour and so a variety of different lentils are available.They are a popular vegetarian food, and are often served in winter soups and casseroles because they are very filling. Unlike dried beans, lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking. However they do require sorting and rinsing. Once you’ve measured the amount of lentils you need, put them in a strainer and sift through them with your fingers, looking for grit or small stones. Then run water over the lentils until it’s clear.

Puy lentils are a small slate- green lentil with a peppery taste. They are one of the best lentils to use as they will hold there shape and texture whilst cooking. Just add them to soups and casseroles or they go really well with fish and poultry dishes, or even used in salads. True Puy lentils come from the region of France, Le Puy, which has a unique climate and volcanic soil in which the lentils thrive.

Red lentils are the most common type of lentils, these small bright orange discs disintegrate on cooking and form a thick, soft purée. Split red lentils are widely used in Indian cookery and are the basis of the popular spicy vegetarian dish, dhal. Red lentils add a delicious flavour as well as a smooth texture to soups and stews.

Green and brown lentils hold their shape fairly well if not overcooked and can be added to salads and other dishes.

Chickpeas are the essential ingredient of houmous, chickpeas break down into a wonderfully smooth purée that makes them ideal for creamy soups too.

* Dried beans must be soaked and cooked before use. Soak them in water for several hours or overnight.

Black ~ These are small North American beans that have a distinctive sweet flavour and soft texture when cooked. They can be added to a variety of soups, stews and casseroles or included in salads and pasta dishes.

Black-eyed ~ Small, cream beans with a black spot. They have a nutty, earthy flavour. They are available canned or dried. Use them in stews and casseroles.

Borlotti ~ Oval shaped, pale brown plump beans that have a sweet flavour with a creamy, smooth texture. Buy borlotti beans dried or canned. Great used in salads, bakes and casseroles.

Butter ~ Large white beans which have a rich, creamy texture. They are available canned or dried. Cannellini or borlotti beans can be substituted for butter beans in many recipes.Use them in salads, with chicken or pasta dishes and in soups and casseroles.

Cannellini ~ Small, oval, cream in colour and one of the haricot bean family. Available canned or dried. Use them in slow-cooked casseroles, especially pork recipes, salads.

Flageolet ~ Small, pale green beans and are in fact haricot beans harvested while young and tender. Use them as a salad vegetable or serve hot with meat, especially lamb or a firm-fleshed fish.

Haricot ~ These beans are probably best known covered in tomato sauce and called 'Baked Beans'. They are small, oval, creamy coloured beans. Haricot beans are also known as navy beans because of their extensive use at sea during the 19th century. Use them in slow-cooked casseroles and salads.

Red kidney ~ North American beans which have a slightly sweetish flavour and a floury texture. Butter or cannellini beans can be used in recipes instead of red kidney beans - they have a similar texture. These beans are associated mainly with Mexican cookery, especially chilli con carne. They can also be used in casseroles or as a vegetable.