Preparing Pulses (dry legumes – chickpeas, beans, lentils, peas)
The role of non-nutrients – why so many people don’t eat pulses
The outer skin of seeds (i.e. pulses, nuts and other seeds) contain non-nutrients such as saponins and phytates that are deterrents for animals, insects and humans to scavenge and eat them when their foremost purpose is to germinate, grow and spread itself across the land in order for the species to survive. These non-nutrients are bitter and many are toxic to a certain extent, making them unpalatable or non-desirable to consume. This is what makes many animals walk away and many humans passing the plate when it comes around – mission accomplished! Many also prevent the absorption of nutrients such as iron and zinc.
These non-nutrients are mostly the reason why pulses have a bad reputation for making people feel uncomfortable and bloated. While pulses hold tremendous nutritional value and benefit, the opportunity is lost when people refuse to eat it. However, once one understands the science behind this aversion it is easy to solve the problem.
Pulses need to be prepared in specific ways to extract and eliminate the non-nutrients. This can be achieved through various methods of sprouting, fermentation and soaking.
Bypassing the system through soaking and cooking
There are 6 steps:
- Soaking – soak most large and hard pulses overnight. These include chickpeas, red kidney beans, black beans, haricot beans, Adzuki beans, speckled/sugar beans, etc. Smaller pulses such as mung beans and lentils only need to be soaked for 2-4 hours.
Make sure to add at least double the amount of water than the volume of beans to ensure the expanding seeds will reach a saturated state and still be under water by the morning.
It is during this time that the outer layer of skin softens and the non-nutrients are easier to release.
- Rinsing – tip the pulses into a strainer /colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water the following morning.
- First boil – tip the pulses from the colander into a large pot (double the size of the expanded volume of pulse) and cover well with boiling water. Bring to a rapid boil and time this for 5 minutes.
- First rinse – tip the boiling pot of pulses back into the colander, away from you to prevent the steam from burning you!
- Second boil – this is the actual long cooking time. Tip the pulses back into the same pot and cover with boiling water again, making sure all are cover. Now start boiling rapidly, then reduce the heat and simmer for the remainder of the time it would take to soften the legumes, making sure it is covered with water at all times.
Boil without salt – that will prevent the pulses from softening. Add only in the last quarter of the boiling stage, if at all.
How long to boil? That depends entirely on how you like your beans, or what it’s going to be used for. Anything from 20 – 60 minutes are normal. Check regularly and make notes of the times while learning this process. If the beans are going into a patty it needs to be really tender and mashable. If going into a stew it could be boiled halfway only, the rest into the actual stew to absorb the broth and stock of the stew liquid – yum!
- Second rinse – tip the beans into the colander again, this time retaining the nutrient-packed liquid called “Aquafaba” – Latin words for “water” and “beans”. This water can be used to top up to a ‘tinned’ measure – 300g cooked beans topped up to 400g with aquafaba will give you the same measure as a ‘tin’. Alternatively simply add the aquafaba to a stew or freeze in ice trays for later use. In a future lesson we will have a look at what else can be done with aquafaba.
The cooked beans are now ready for use:
- In a stew
- Mashed or pureed into a paté
- Mashed into a patty mixture
- Roasted in the oven with a spice mix and olive oil