BEANS and LENTILS – yum yum

Pulses – superfood


Definition…some countries include beans, other not, but the United Nations Food Agriculture Organisation recognises eleven catagories and they are:

1 Dried Beans

2. Dry Broad Beans

3. Dry Peas

4. Chickpeas

5. Dry Cowpea

6. Pigeon Pea

7. Lentils

8. Banbara Groundnut

9. Vetch

10. Lupins

11. Minor Pulses.

Our interest is mainly in the area of 1, 3, 4, 7. The rest are local and indigenous use. So lets sort out a little so we have a better understanding.

1. Kidney bean, Haricot bean, Pinto bean, Navy bean, Lima bean, Azuki bean, Mung bean, Black Gram, Scarlet runner bean, Ricebean, Moth bean, Terary bean.

3. Garden pea, Protein pea.

4. Chickpea, Garbanzo, Bengal gram.

7. Brown/Spanish, French Green, Green, Black, Yellow/tan, Red, Eston Green, Laird (a lareger Green) Petite Golden, Masoor, Petite Red, Mexican Yellow.

We dont know much about them… in fact I have trouble remembering them ever in my diet as a kid. We did indeed have green beans, we had green peas, my only other recollection is pearl barley, rice (both grains not Pulses) and split green and yellow peas. Mum also had a mix that came from the grocer called soup mix. With the soup mix and a good handfull or two of barley, she would add to a large pot with about six lamb shanks or knecks, an onion, some carrot and celery and allow the whole thing to cook for several hours. I loved this soup with bread and butter floaties. Its no wonder I have struggled with weight all my life.

A book I have lists 120 different beans world wide, although this is most likely to be local variants of major groups. My mother clearly knew little except she did know Baked Beans. For those not in the know, these are Harricot or Navy beans in some sort of tomato sauce. (see below for a recipe that makes delicious beans) Mum regarded them as sort of or almost legitimate, you could have them for breakfast or Sunday night dinner. On the subject of Baked Beans, the Brits hold the record as the worlds greatest bean eaters just because of Baked Beans. I am not sure that this is necessarilly a proud boast.

Maybe its of interest to know that the manufacturing and tinning process of Baked Beans started in the USA in 1895 and migrated to the UK nine years later. The process has always been the same, raw beans in tin, add the sauce, seal and process under steam. This has not varied, the sauce has.

Australia was a country where the rigours of war, food and living shortages formed the basis of pre-immigration life. As the war ended and shortages became less difficult, changes started to become very evident. In the 1940’s food was basic and very very simple… Lamb, Pork and beef, limited vegetables based on potato first and what you grew or the local greengrocer offered, but always seasonal, and groceries, including Baked Beans because they were seen as a cheap and simple meal. In my own case, we never ate pasta, rice or pulses in any quantity and beans maybe twice in a week, I preferrred them for breakfast.

Migration to Australia was mostly from the UK, Mediterranean and Europe. The Brits bought more of what we were used to, the Mediterranean’s bought pasta, rice, beans and whole different ways of cooking as well as a very VERY different attitude to food. It was this that changed so much and very quickly. Much of what they ate was here, just not in quantity… wine vinegars, garlic, pasta, rice were all available in cities, in Port Fairy, absolutely not! Vinegar was brown or white, garlic smelled and was not ever seen, pasta was in a tin, rice was sold in small bags. Beans came in tins, never saw chickpeas, Lentils simply did not exist.

Many of the migrants were from countries that experienced poverty. Ireland and the horrendous Potato famines brought a huge influx of Irish to this country, their influence was more political and religious rather than dietary. The same sort of thing happened with Italian and Greek migrants who brought to this country the ability to survive in very difficult conditions and to make use of what was availble locally as food. The use of cheap Pulses as an important protein source was normal, it was not long before they began importing these staples. Food like risotto became a revelation. I recall the first time I tasted it. We lived in South Yarra and had connected with a very stylish Italian lady who was travelling, she came for a meal and offered to cook risotto. It was a simple white risotto, but a total revelation. We all realised that what we had known and experienced from childhood had, in that one moment, been swept away and in the future we would all view food through very different eyes. She was a little short of  money and had collected a few things on her travels in Bali, amongst was a shawl that had connection to the royal families of Bali and I bought, it remains one of the things I love, it is hand woven Ikat and utterly beautiful.

The America’s from the traditional populations in the West Indies, Mexico and the USA are great Pulse eaters, in countries like Mexico, beans are used in many and various delicious ways. The West Indies has always embraced beans.

Beans and Rice


1 1/2 cups white or Basmati rice

1/2 tspn turmeric

1/2 tspn salt

1 tspn vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup coconut milk.

Rince and drain the rice, in a saucepan place the oil and add the rice and turmeric, saute (fry) for a minute or two, add the liquids and allow to cook on simmer until the liquid is absorbed.


1 1/2 cups of chopped onions

1 tbspn vegetable oil

1 fresh chilli minced (use the long red as it is milder)

1/2 tspn dried thyme

1/4 tspn allspice powder

1 large can (or two small) diced tomatoes

1 large can (or two small) red kidney beans – drained

Chopped green onion

While the rice is cooking, fry the onions in oil for 3 or 4 minutes, add the chopped chilli, cover and cook for 5 – 8 minutes with a lid on until the onions are soft, add the thyme, allspice, tomato and beans and cook covered for a further 10 minutes.

Serve the beans on a bed of the rice and scatter with the chopepd green onions.

Delicious with Jerk Chicken.

Baked beans homemade.

350 grams dried beans (Haricot, Navy, Borlotti or Cannelini) soaked overnight in water.

1 smoked Ham hock (remove the skin, but keep it to cook with the beans.. it adds a sort of depth to the flavour and texture, just remove it before serving.

3 tbsps of Olive Oil

1 large onion chopped finely

2 cloves of garlic chopped finely

800 gr can of diced tomatoes

1 tbspn Worcestershire sauce

1tbspn either Maple Syrup, Golden Syrup or Treacle

1 tbspn of Tomato paste (I like the organic paste)

2 tspns Dijon Mustard

Salt and Pepper.

Place the beans, soaking water and ham hock and skin (add extra water to be sure the hock is covered) and cook once it has come to the boil, for 30 minutes. Remove the hock and drain the beans, retain the water. In the same pan, add the oil, cook onions and garlic until they are translucent, add tomatoes, sauce, syrup and paste, then return beans and hock (or if you wish, you can remove all the meat from the hock and just add that, I like to keep the hock whole, looks great for serving) and enough of the cooking liquid to make a slightly soupy liquidy sauce and cook for a further 30 minutes (bone in and skin in if you have removed.. bone and skin = flavour). Salt and Pepper to taste after it is cooked.

Serve with good crusty bread to mop up the juices and when serving the beans, a lick of good olive oil on the final serving will not go astray.


From Indian Singapore

Green Pea Masala (a South Indian style)

1 cup green peas (frozen or fresh)

2 Onions medium chopped

2 cloves garlic peeled

1 tomato chopped

Coriander leaves 1 handful

3 Green chilli

6 Cashew nuts (unsalted and soaked in water for a bit)

1 tblspn yoghurt

1 tspn dried mint

1 tspn Garam Masala

1/2 cup liquid (1/4 milk/1/4 water)

2 tbsps. oil

Put the oil in a saucepan, add the onion, garlic, tomato, coriancer leaves, chilli, cooked until wilted (about 5 – 6 minutes) In a blender place the saucepan contents plus the yoghurt, cashew nuts and blend to a paste, return the paste to the pan, bring to heat and add the 1/2 cup of liquid, mint, garam masala and peas, cook until the peas are cooked. If it is too thick, add some more liquid. It should be thickish gravy consistance. Salt and pepprt to tase. Serve with flat breads.


Espinacas con Garbanzos [Spinach and Chickpeas]

1/2 pound (230 grams) dried chickpeas, cooked until soft and tender or two cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

6 tbspn olive oil

450 grams spinach, washed

A hefty slice from a country loaf, crusts removed and cut into small cubes

1/2 cup tomato sauce(sugo)

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 tspn ground cumin

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 1/2 tbspns red wine vinegar

1/2 tspn smoked paprika

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon juice, to taste

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add half the olive oil. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (in batches, if necessary) and stir well. Remove when the leaves are just tender.

Heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bread for about 5 minutes or until golden brown all over, then the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic, cumin and pepper. Cook for 1 minute more or until the garlic is nutty brown.

Transfer to a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle along with the vinegar, and mash to a paste. Return the mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot. Season with salt and pepper.

If the consistency is a little thick, add some water. Add the spinach and cook until it is hot. Check for seasoning and serve with paprika on top, or on fried bread toasts (as the Spanish do).


Spicy Indian Dal

2 medium onions sliced

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 tspn minced ginger

2 tbspns ghee

1 tspn chilli powder

4 tspns coriander powder

1 tspn turmeric powder

5 cloves

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 tspn salt

250 grams red lentils

1/2 cup water

Wash the lentils well and place in saucepan… for each cup of lentils add two cups of water. Bring to the boil and boil for and simmer for ten to twenty minutes. Drain when cooked.

Melt the ghee over a medium heat, add the onions, garlic, ginger and cook until the onions are browned, add the spices and lentils with the 1/2 cup of water and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Serve Option… add 2 chopepd tomatoes at the stage of frying the onion.. I like this and also a bit more oil.


Spanish Lentils

250 gram Brown Spanish lentils

6 tbspn olive oil

1 whole head of garlic peeled and chopped

1 brown onion peeled and chopped

200 gr of carrot chopped finely

100 grams of ham or bacon chopped

1 tbspn Smoked paprika

2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped.

125 mil white wine

Wash the lentils and place ion a pan with eough water to cover them by a centimetre or so. Cook after they come to the boil for 30 minutes on simmer, strain and retain the cooking water.

In a pan add the oil, cook the onion, garlic and carrot and then add the ham, followed by7 the Paprika and the tomatoes, add the white wine and allow to bubble and the vegetables become soft, add the lentils and some of the reserved cooking liuquid so that the pan is not dry. Add asalt to taste and a turn or two of black pepper, garnish with parsley, drizzle with another swish of good olive oil.

Serve with bread.



This delicious food is the most common street food of Israel, it is said to have origintaed in Egypt or some other Middle east country, but the Israeli’s have made it their own. This is simple and delicious, you will need to make the excelent Tahini Sauce.

2 cups dry chickpeas

1 small onion chopped

1/4 cup parsley

4 cloves of garlic chopped

1 1/2 tbspn of flour

1 3/4 tspn salt

2 tspn cumin powder

1 tspn corriander powder

1/4 tspn pepper

1/4 tspn cayenne pepper

pinch cardamom – ground

Soak the chickpeas overnight in water, drain and dry well and place into a food processor with all the other ingredoients, pulse until you have a paste. Cover and allow to stand covered for 2 hours.

Make the falafel into balls with about 2 tbsps. worth of the mix, do not compress them over much.

Fry in vegetable oil until golden brown all over. Serve with Tahini Sauce.


Tahini Sauce

1 cup of Tahini

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 tspn salt

2 tbspns olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tspn chopped parsley

Use a mortar and pestle and begin by grinding the garlic and salt, gradually add the tahini and lemon juice until all is well combined. If too thick add a lick or two of water. When custard pouring consistency you can add 1 tbspn finely chopped green onion and/or tbspn chopped mint. I like both.

I like to serve the Falafel in a Pita bread with some salad or pickled vegetable with Tahini sauce and a lick of yoghurt.. 2 falafel per.


Indian Red bean Curry

1 cup of red or pink Kidney Beans

4 Cups of Water

Salt to taste

1/4 tspn Turmeric Powder

Green Chilli – to taste

2 tbspn Oil

2 medium Onions – chopped

1 tspn finely chopped ginger

1 tspn minced Garlic

2 cups of finely chopped tomato

1/4 tspn Turmeric Powder

1/2 tspn Cumin Powder

1 tspn Coriander Powder

1 tspn Chat Masala

1 tspn Garam Masala

Wash and soak the Kidney Beans in 4 cups of water overnight.
Place the beans and soaking water in a saucepan, add some turmeric and green chilli to taste and cook until the beans are softened but not loosing shape.

In a separate pan, put the oil, bring to heat add the onions, garlic, ginger and tomatoes, allow to cook for 10 minutes on not too hot a flame. (You have a choice here of blending this to a puree or leaving it chunky… its your choice, I prefer it chunky)

Add all of the spices and continue to cook, add all the beands and 1 cup of water of the cooking liquid (or less) bring all to the boil, scatter with some parsley or cilantro… Serve with Indian bread.


Fats and Sugars in Pulses.

I am disinclined to believe everything or almost everything I read, there is a world of contradiction out there. But this was of some interest, but its easy to take things out of context and placing things into a bigger picture is important, so make of it what you will.

Enjoy these delicious foods, I do.

Peter Watson

~ by peterwatson on August 13, 2013.

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