Ok so beans don’t really need deconstructing, we all know they are there in their nice, easy to use cans. However, when it comes to the real deal, I often can’t remember which beans need soaking and which can be cooked straight away. It’s best to do your research otherwise you will end up doing what I did once and make your dinner guests wait until late into the night for dinner because you chose the wrong bloody beans which refused to soften up.
Considering that beans are the most amazing food in terms of nutritional content and taste, (especially if you are vegetarian/vegan) I really want to understand how to use them better. The best way to do this I figure is to get down to basics and start from scratch. So I am going to avoid the highly tempting canned beans and buy beans in their raw form. I hear that this not only tastes better but turns out to be more economical as well! Perfecto!
Each bean has its own unique quality, taste and cooking time, so I have attempted to break down the most common beans into two categories: short preparation time and overnight preparation time. So choose which beans you want to cook depending on how patient/organised you are :
Quick beans and pulses
The following beans are perfect to incorporate into your cooking more as they are quick and easy to use. Have a read to see how to cook them and why they are good for you.
Aduki beans are the beautiful looking reddish/brown beans. They are high in protein and easier to digest than most beans. As they have a slightly meatier taste they are great as a meat substitute and also taste good with brown rice, potatoes or as a paste. They need to be simmered for half an hour.
Black beans need to simmer for 1.5 hours to soften however it is worth it as these beans have a delicious taste and are great for South American and Mexican dishes.
Black-eyed beans always crack me up because they look so damn cute. They are a great flavoursome bean to use and need to be cooked for approximately 1.5 hours. They are nutty in flavour and great in salads, casseroles and Latin American dishes.
Puy lentils or French green lentils are brownish green in colour and are said to have the greatest amount of flavour out of all the lentils. They hold their shape well so are great for salads or recipes that require the lentils to stay firm. They need 35-45 minutes of cooking.
Red split lentils are the vibrant orange lentils which turn golden when cooked. Are great for dahls or soups. The best part, they only need 20-25 minutes of cooking!
Yellow/green split peas are dried peas that have been split along their natural seam allowing them to cook faster. They take about 45 minutes to cook and are perfect for soups, purees and curries.
Beans that need overnight soaking
Unfortunately a lot of beans require forward planning and need to soak overnight. Your best bet is to soak 500g of beans with 10 cups of water. Cover and leave overnight. However, if you are in a time pickle, there is a speedy shortcut to this method. Bring 10 cups of water to the boil and add in 500g of your beans. Boil for a couple of minutes, then cover, take off the heat and leave for one hour.
Butter beans are the most beautiful tasting bean and as their name suggests, have a lovely buttery flavour. After overnight soaking, you need to simmer for one hour. They are perfect for soups and casseroles.
Cannellini beans again have a great buttery, rich texture. These beans need to cook for about 1.5 hours and can be used in soups and Italian dishes.
Chickpeas are so easily bought in cans but cooking them from scratch really pays off taste wise. After an overnight soak, cook for 1.5-2 hours then use them to make your own delicious humus or include in a tagine or curry.
Borlotti beans are the lovely red and white speckled beans. They are often used in Italian cooking but also work well in casseroles and salads. Simmer for 1.5-2 hours.
Red kidney beans are the red brother of cannellini beans and also need 1.5 hours of cooking. Great for Mexican dishes such as chilli con carne and other rice dishes.
As part of my deconstructing beans series, I will be attempting to cook a variety of beans from scratch and including them in the following recipes: