Pulses don’t get the attention they deserve. Dried beans, lentils and peas (collectively known as pulses) are super-nutritious, versatile and are one of the most effective ways to reduce your grocery bill.
I buy our favourite pulses (red lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and mung beans) in five-kilogram bags. They store well in the pantry for at least a year and buying in bulk means that many of our meals cost only a few dollars.
There’s no way I’d get away with serving beans as often as I do if I served them the same way each time. I experiment with different recipes. For example, I use chickpeas in salads, casseroles, soups, curries and hummus.
I also sneakily serve meals that my family doesn’t automatically think of as vegetarian. I use kidney beans to make jacket potatoes topped with home-made baked beans, or nachos. Lentils are made into a tasty lentil loaf or a bolognaise sauce to be enjoyed with pasta or in a lasagne. I also hide pulses in baked goods like chickpea chocolate cake or bean chocolate fudge or brownies (recipe below).
There is one potential downside to cooking with pulses – they typically require soaking and take a while to cook. Soaking pulses makes them easier to digest and decreases cooking times. Most beans and peas should be soaked for at least six hours. The larger the pulse, the longer they need to soak, and the longer you soak, the faster they cook.
Lentils are an exception. They don’t require soaking and cook relatively quickly, so are a good place to start if you are new to using pulses. Red lentils cook in less than 30 minutes and I use them regularly in dahl, lentil loaf, vegie burgers and soup.
For the remaining pulses, I cook in bulk and freeze as single serves, making them almost as convenient as the far more expensive tinned beans.
What I love most about dried pulses is that they are still alive. Unlike processed and packaged food with a similar shelf life, add water and most pulses will sprout to life. I like the idea of my pantry being full of life, rather than preservatives.
How to sprout Mung Beans
Most pulses can be sprouted. I nearly always have a bowl of mung beans sprouting on the kitchen bench – ready to pop into salads, vegie burgers, stir-fries or a batch of brownies.
You don’t need any special equipment to sprout mung beans. I use a glass bowl and a plate as a lid.
To make two cups of sprouts, place one cup of beans into a glass bowl, rinse and cover with water.
After at least eight hours, drain away excess water, rinse, and then drain again.
Rinse and drain twice a day for two to five days.
The sprouts can be stored in the fridge for a week.
Chocolate Bean Brownies
These brownies are high in fibre and protein and taste surprisingly delicious.
2 cups sprouted mung beans
2 cups cooked kidney beans
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sultanas or dates
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour into lined slice tray and bake at 180 degrees C for 30 to 40 minutes.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 4th August 2014.