Thursday, September 16, 2010

Beans, beans, beans!

Beans, beans are good for your heart, the more you eat the more you..... I am sure you all know what comes next! But don't let that put you off eating them! Beans are a perfect food in so many ways. They are a good source of fibre, carbohydrate and protein and are also low in fat. Just 1 cup of cooked beans will provide up to 11 gms of soluble fibre which is a lot for such a small helping. We are all lacking fibre in our diets and this can cause all sorts of digestive issues if not addressed.
After my previous blog about where and how to get protein from a vegetarian diet, I am going to follow up with a few suggestions on how to purchase and prepare these little gems of superfood along with some fabulous recipes for you to try.

Pre-cooked canned beans are a great standby to have in your cupboard and can be used in an instant to make salads or dips or add to soups, however be sure to rinse them well and remove any excess sodium that will certainly have been added to the mix. The optimum way to eat your beans is to cook them yourself. Proper soaking and cooking time can reduce the overall amount of starch and sugars, as well as significantly reducing the oligosaccharide content which causes gas. Some beans take a lot more cooking and preparation than others but the results far outweight the effort involved. To cook dried beans, first of all rinse under cold water and remove any little stones that may have found their way into the packet, believe me, it happens and it can result in an un-welcome visit to the dentist! To re-hydrate the legumes, soak them in a large volume of water for a good 4 hours or preferably overnight. Chick peas, black beans and kidney beans benefit from a lot of soaking. I boil the beans in plain water with no added salt as the salt will prevent the beans from softening. Boil in a large quantity of water for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat and simmer for a further 45 minutes. At this point, I generally remove the cooking water and replace it with clean water and start the process again. Kidney beans in particular need a lot of cooking, so a good 2 hours should produce a nice soft result. Chickpeas and black beans can take less time, so use your palate to check the consistency before you stop cooking them. Once the beans are cooked, they are ready to be used in a variety of dishes. Lentils are much quicker to cook and come in many shapes, colours and sizes. They are a wonderful source of iron as well as protein so make sure you include them often in your regime. There are green lentils, red lentils, puy lentils and tiny black lentils, all of which have their own unique taste and texture, so check out your local shop and see what is on offer.

Black Bean Chili

1 onion, 1 green bell pepper, 2 celery stalks, 3 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 tbs of chili powder, 1 tbs of ground cumin, 1 tbs of paprika, 2 tbs of dried oregano,a pinch of cayenne pepper, 3 chopped tomatoes, 6 cups of kidney beans and 1 1/2 cups of water.

Sautee the chopped onion, chopped pepper, chopped celery, garlic and spices in a large heavy pan for about 8 minutes until softened but not browned.

Stir in the tomatoes, beans and water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the chili has thickened and the flavours have blended.

Serve on a bed of brown rice and sprinkle with chopped fresh coriander.

Cannellini Salad
300 g of dried cannellini beans, 1 whole head of garlic, 1 large lemon, a stick of celery and 2 or 3 bay leaves.
Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Drain them and place in a large saucepan along with the celery, garlic, bay leaves and the lemon cut in half. Cover with plenty of water and bring to the boil. After about 45 minutes of cooking, add a pinch of salt to the water and taste the beans for texture, they may need more cooking if they are a bit crunchy. Once cooked , drain off the water and set aside in a large bowl. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Take 3 anchovy fillets, 2 cloves of garlic, 5 tbs of olive oil, 1 tbs of lemon juice, a handful of basil leaves a tbs of chopped parsley and another of mint. Whizz the ingredients in a blender for a few seconds and then add to the warm beans. Let the salad rest for at least 30 minutes before eating so that the flavours can develop.

Mediterranean white bean salad
2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbs of lemon juice
1 tbs of olive oil
1/2 cup of minced red onion
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
1 clove of crushed garlic
1/3 cup of chopped basil leaves
Salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a big bowl et voila!

Lentil soup
2 cups of green lentils, 4 cups of water, 1 large can of chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of vegetable stock, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 1/2 cup of finely chopped red onion, salt and pepper.

Cook the lentils in the water until tender. Drain them and add to a large saucepan. Fry the onions and the garlic gently in a frying pan and then add to the lentils along with the tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat season with salt and pepper and whizz in a blender. A simple but highly nutritious soup full of protein, iron and leptin.

Chickpea and vegetable curry
4 cups of chopped bok choy (cote de bettes), 1 small chopped onion, 1 chopped red pepper, 2 cups of coconut milk, 1 tsp of minced fresh garlic, 1 tsp of minced ginger, 1 tsp of curry powder, 1 large can of cooked chick peas, salt and pepper.

Sautee the onion, garlic and ginger in a tablespoon of coconut oil. Add the chopped peppers, bok choy and curry powder. Stir together before adding the coconut milk and chickpeas. Simmer together for about 20 minutes and season to taste. Delicious served along with some flat bread or with brown rice. Experiment with different types of curry, I often use a hot and spicey thai mix along with a tsp of grated lemon grass. You can also add carrots, squash, pumpkin, courgettes is a very versatile dish and we love it!

I hope you have some fun in the kitchen with these recipes. Beans and legumes are very very versatile and whether you are a vegetarian or not, I believe you should include them in your weekly menus and so benefit from their majestic nutritional content. Bon Apetit!

In health, in the kitchen,

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