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Monday, 16 May 2011

How to soak and cook dried beans, pulses and legumes

Most beans, pulses and lentils are available tinned in the supermarket and are fairly cheap.  Dried beans and pulses are useful if you are really watching your pennies or just like to prepare your own from scratch.  Lentils, beans and pulses are great for making meals go further and are also high in protein and fibre, contain iron and and contain no fat.

How to soak and cook beans
Most beans will almost treble in volume when cooked.  The length of cooking time varies depending on type of bean, and the age and size of the beans so cooking times are approximate.

Overnight method
Place beans in a saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water to 1 cup of beans. Soak the beans overnight in cold water. The beans will have softened but they still need to be cooked. Replace the soaking water with fresh water and simmer the beans for 1-3 hours or until tender but not soggy.

Quick cook method
Place beans in a saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water to 1 cup of beans. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes, then leave to stand for one hour.

Now they are ready to cook, return the pan to the heat and simmer the beans until till soft 1- 3 hours.

Kidney Beans and other similar sized beans simmer for 2-3 hours.

Soy Beans 3-4 hours.

Chick Peas 1-2 hours 

Since beans require long cooking which uses electricity, cook several cups at a time and freeze them. You can add a frozen chunk of beans directly into boiling soups and stews.

Ensure all beans are thoroughly cooked before serving.

Useful Tips/Tricks
Kidney beans in particular can cause tummy upsets if not properly cooked. During cooking a 15 minute period of rapid boiling is recommended for kidney beans. Cooked beans should be tender but not mushy.

A dash of oil in the water will help prevent foaming

Do not salt the cooking water as that will make the beans tough not tender.


Lentils

Lentils don't need soaking or precooking, they can be cooked in boiling liquid and drained or simmered until cooked and all liquid has been absorbed – just like rice really.  Split red lentils will cook in around 10-15 minutes, brown and green lentils take up to 40 minutes.  Lentils can be used in place of, or as well as, meat in all sorts of dishes.

Add lentils to mince dishes to extend them. Red lentils can be simmered in your sauce as long as there is plenty of liquid or they can be precooked (simmer for 10-15 minutes) and stirred in. Brown and green lentils take longer to cook so precook them before adding them to your dish. Try in bolognese, lasagne, chilli, burger patties, cottage pie and meatloaf .

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