Beans are really easy to cook, and there are hundreds of ways you can use them. The flavour, texture, and versatility of dried beans can’t be beaten. They’re cheap and extremely nutritious, plus you can freeze what you don’t use.
SHOULD I SOAK THE BEANS?
Soaking (or not) is a personal choice. You will not destroy your beans, your dinner, or your gastrointestinal system if you soak or not. (I would ALWAYS soak red kidney beans!)
Option 1: Soak beans overnight in cold water. Drain, rinse and cook. This reduces cooking time, creates a plumper bean that cooks evenly and reduces any negative impact on digestive system.
Option 2: Quick-soak beans by covering with water, bringing to the boil, covering and removing from the heat and leaving in the water for 1 – 2 hours (depending on bean size).
Drain, rinse and cook. This method also reduces the cooking time
Option 3: Don’t soak your beans This method doesn’t require planning ahead, creates creamier beans because starch is not released in the soaking water, produces brighter colour beans because the colour does not leach out into the soaking water.
HOW TO COOK DRIED BEANS
1) Sort the beans. Toss out any stones and wrinkled beans. Give them a quick rinse under running water.
2) Soak or don’t – it’s up to you (see above for soaking options).
3) Add beans to a pot and cover with three inches of water. Do not add salt.
4) OPTIONAL: Season and flavour your beans with onions, red wine vinegar, lemon or lime, herbs and spices. There are lots of ideas on the internet if you want inspiration.
5) Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow, gentle simmer. Don’t let the beans boil aggressively or they will break apart and turn to mush. Add more boiling water if needed.
6) Add salt when the beans are edible but al dente. If you add salt earlier, it takes longer to cook the bean. If you add it later, the beans won’t be fully seasoned.
7) Test the beans every 15 minutes towards the end of the cooking time to determine when they are perfect for you.
Cooking time depends on the age of the beans and whether you soaked them, so there’s just no way of providing specific cook times when it comes to beans, but in general:
Small beans (black beans, black-eyed peas and navy beans): 45 to 90 minutes
Medium beans (Great Northern, kidney, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), pinto): 60 to 120 minutes
Large beans (large Lima, Cannellini beans, butter beans): 80 to 180 minutes
For soups and salads, take the beans off the heat when they are cooked through, and tender, but not creamy.
For beans as a side or in a dip, let them cook until soft and tender, but still intact. Test and cook until they reach your desired consistency.
Want really fast beans? Cook them in the pressure cooker!
USE THE COOKING WATER?
1) The cooking liquid can be frozen and added to soups or chilis to add body.
2) Let the cooking water reduce, stirring occasionally, to create a creamy bean broth.
3) Reduce the liquid until it is the consistency of egg whites and use it as an egg replacer.
STORING COOKED BEANS
Fridge: up to 4 days in the fridge
Freezer: several months
HOW TO USE BEANS
1) Add any beans to soups, salads, curries or stews.
2) Toss a variety of beans and vegetables in vinaigrette to make a protein-rich salad.
Chickpeas – their nutty flavour and buttery texture
3) Blend with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini to make hummus (a dip or spread)
4) Mix with any spice for a delicious side or snack
5) Make falafel by mashing chickpeas with cumin, garlic, chilli, and coriander, separate the mixture into small balls, and fry them until they are crisp
Cannellini beans – a fluffy texture and a slightly nutty, mild flavour
6) Mix with tinned tuna, French beans, red onion, a little grated parmesan and dress with olive oil and lemon juice for a store-cupboard salad
7) Stew with sage, garlic and tomatoes for a winter casserole.
8) Mash on toast in a cannellini bean tartine,
9) Blend to make a hummus-like texture for a dip
Carlin Peas /Black Badger/ Pigeon Peas (British grown) – a firm texture with nutty flavour and a great alternative to chick peas or Puy lentils
10) Soak overnight, boil till soft, fry in a little butter, eat with salt and vinegar.
Marrowfat peas – ideal for mushy peas!
11) Boil the beans with sugar (instead of salt) and mash them into a sweet red paste. T
12) Sprout the beans and eat the bean sprouts
Mung beans – a slightly sweet taste
13) Sprout the beans and eat the bean sprouts in salads and stir-fries.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF BEANS
Beans are rich in a number of important micronutrients, including potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and zinc, and are important sources of protein. They are among the only plant foods that provide significant amounts of the indispensable amino acid lysine. They are also rich in total and soluble fibre as well as in resistant starch and provide potent antioxidants.