2016 has been named International Year of Pulses by the United Nations. Pulses include beans, lentils, chickpeas and dried peas and are all low-fat, high-protein, full of fibre and provide various vitamins and minerals. They are also climate-friendly to grow, requiring less water than most crops, only small amounts of fertilisers and even improve the ground they are grown in by adding nitrogen to the soil via their roots. Pulses are cheapest when bought in dried form but then require soaking and fairly lengthy cooking (except lentils) but they are widely available ready-to-use in cans or now even in microwaveable pouches.
The use of pulses in UK meals is rapidly increasing but still lags a long way many other areas of the world. Baked beans are a firm British favourite and we have more recently developed a taste for hummus (chickpeas), and frequently eat beans in Mexican dishes and lentils in many Indian curries but we still tend to overlook adding them to other everyday dishes to save money, add nutritional value and variety.
My own favourite ways of using them are adding lentils to bulk out mince in bolognaise, quick and tasty chickpea, tomato and spinach curry and butter beans with chorizo – mmm!
BUTTER BEAN AND CHORIZO STEW
- 200 g chorizo, sliced (or any spicy sausage)
- 1-2 red onions, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- Olive oil
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 x 400g tin tomatoes
- 1 x 400g tin butter beans
Gently cook the chorizo, onion and garlic in a little olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the smoked paprika, tomatoes and butter beans, then reduce the heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the lid in the last few minutes to thicken stew, if desired. Serve with crusty bread or baked potatoes and lots of green salad.