Beans, Chickpeas, Pulses!

In these strange times, your weekly shopping may end up including some items you don’t normally cook with! Maybe you have had a food parcel delivered or have a bag from the food bank with some unexpected tins? Or perhaps you caved to the stock-piling pressure and bought some random canned goods that you wouldn’t normally consider? However it happened, you now find yourself staring at that tin of butter beans in the cupboard wondering: how on earth do you use them?!

Here at Kids Kitchen, we use a lot of pulses! Chickpeas, lentils and all sorts of beans are a mainstay of many of our recipes. I know a lot of people are unsure how they should use them so I thought I would do a blog to show you how great we think they are and share some ideas on how you can make them part of your family’s diet on a regular basis.

Nutritionally, beans and pulses have a lot to offer. They are high in protein but low in fat and rich in many vitamins and minerals, including iron. Plus they count towards your five portions of fruit and veg a day and are a great source of fibre. They are really cheap too so a great way to feed your family healthily whilst sticking to a budget. Contrary to popular belief, they can be super easy to cook with too…

Next week, our online session is on veggie chilli and beans are the main ingredient! This is a versatile dish that can be easily adapted to use whatever beans you have in the cupboard – kidney beans, butter beans, haricot beans, cannellini, even baked beans would work! Why don’t you join us and have a go yourself?

Another favourite dish of mine where pulses are the main feature is lentil and chickpea dahl. A simple but tasty curry dish that you can make as mild or as spicy as you like. Ideal as a low fat main dish with rice or as an accompaniment to another Indian recipe. There are loads of recipes out there and so many substitutions to be made. Have a look and try it out yourself.

Lentil soup is obviously a classic, and a firm favourite with my kids! But you could try adding beans to a lot of different soups to help thicken them and add a bit of extra protein too. Butter beans and cannellini beans, in particular, can work really well, especially if you are able to blend the soup after cooking to make it smooth and creamy.

Beans can also be used in vegetarian burger recipes, something which we will be exploring in an online session at a later date. Making falafels is a great option for chickpeas, and they are surprisingly easy to make too! My kids love them for lunch. It is one of the recipes that features in our ‘9 for 5’ recipe pack.

You don’t just have to cook dishes where pulses are the main feature though – you can add them to loads of different dishes! It can be a great way to ‘stretch’ a meal so it lasts more than one night or simply bulk out casseroles. If you are using tinned products they are really easy to cook with too – just drain and rinse then chuck them in along with the rest of the ingredients, they only take ten or fifteen minutes to cook but you can leave them in a lot longer too with casseroles etc. I find chickpeas work really well in curries and most beans go well in casseroles – beef casserole with a tin of baked beans thrown in is a regular feature on our weekly meal plan! If you want a stew with a thicker gravy just add some lentils to the stock, if you cook them for forty minutes or so they go ‘mushy’ and dissolve into the gravy completely. Delicious!

So have a look through your cupboard, dig out those tins and get cooking!

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