There’s a lot of beany goodness going on round here at the minute, partly because I’m in the middle of this whole foods course, which involves a fair bit of bean enthusiasm, and partly because, well, beans are just great, aren’t they?
I must confess that, until recently, most of my beans came from tins. (Actually, I should probably clarify – I’m not talking about your average tins of baked beans here, which I have loathed since childhood, but about beans more generally). In the past, we’ve mostly eaten chick peas (which are ace), butter beans (which mash up into the nicest spread), and kidney beans (which I don’t have a particular fondness for, but which are excellently colourful, and cheap).
Now, though, my bean horizons have been expanded, and there’s no looking back.
I’ve been doing a fair bit of sprouting – mostly aduki beans (because there was an ancient packet in the cupboard), and mung beans (because we bought several bags on offer one day). Have you ever sprouted beans? It’s pretty easy – you soak them overnight, then rinse and leave to drain each day until they’ve sprouted a little shoot, and then you eat them. They’re deliciously crunchy and nutty – we eat them sprinkled onto everything, or just on their own, with cheese and bread.
I’ve got a couple of special sprouter jars, but you can make your own using any old jar and a bit of net curtain. There’s plenty of information here.
I’ve also been growing pea shoots – not technically beans, but dried peas look a little like dried beans, and I started them off in the same way, soaking overnight, and then leaving to grow a little bit, before planting them out into some compost.
I’ve not bought any salad for weeks! They taste just like peas, so fresh, and cost pretty much nothing at all to grow. I’ve just been using dried peas from the supermarket (they’re usually with the lentils, sometimes they’re labelled as dried marrowfat peas, but they’re the same thing). If you gave them enough room, they’d each grow into a proper sized pea plant – but these ones are fine all squashed together because they don’t need to get that big. I’ve been keeping them on the windowsill and just snipping them off when I fancy it. They grow back again too.
Another new thing for me is soaking beans. I’ve got a vague feeling I’ve tried this before, but without much success. Somehow I always figured it was too much hassle, and I didn’t like having to think about dinner two days in advance.
Well, I still don’t, but guess what – you don’t have to! On a Friday night, or whatever day I know I don’t have to leave the house at stupid-o-clock in the morning, I put some dried beans in a bowl (actually, it’s usually a jar as I don’t have much counter space), and cover with plenty of cold water. Then you just leave them overnight, and in the morning rinse, stick in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil, and leave to simmer away while you do something else.
They all take different amounts of time, but I’ve mostly been doing mung beans (still got plenty of those…) and black eyed beans, both of which only take about 45 minutes to cook. There’s a chart here.
Rather than trying to plan enough beans for just one meal in advance, I’ve been doing a pile all in one go and putting them in the freezer. So easy to just take a handful out in the week and throw into soup, stew, stir fry, pasta sauce, anything really, and they take barely any time at all to defrost. Mung beans are tiny, so I’ve been freezing them in ice cube trays and using them for my new favourite quick-and-easy weekday lunch of fried cabbage and mung beans.
(It’s not as mad as it sounds – slice some crinkly cabbage thinly (savoy, or any other dark green leafy veg will do) and fry in a bit of sesame oil. Add plenty of soy sauce. Heat up your mung beans (I’d usually add a little salt, or some kind of seasoning). Eat with cabbage. It’s better if your mung beans are a bit mushy, so if you didn’t overcook them the first time, you might want to mash them a little. Try it!
What’s your view on beans? How do you eat them?