Beans legumes and pulses

As a child I was raised on very simple food – Mum is Irish and Dad had shocking stomach ulcers which meant he had to eat very plain food. So it was meat potatoes and veg basically – nothing spicy or foreign! The first time I ate pasta or rice was as an adult. For many years I simply didn’t know what to do with some of the ingredients I saw in supermarkets, and assumed that I probably wouldn’t like them – well, if they were nice to eat why hadn’t we had them as children???

Over the years I became more open to trying new food, but since moving here, our diet has changed completely. Aside from the fact that we don’t eat meat or dairy, I decided that I would learn how to cook some traditional Spanish food. Of course, these days with the internet and You Tube it’s all become so much easier to learn.

Now there was a couple of food groups that I had very little experience with – beans, pulses and legumes (apart from having tinned baked beans of course!).

Chickpeas play a really big part in traditional Spanish food, and they have become one of my favourite ingredients to use. And if anyone had said to me a few years ago that I would love lentils, I would’ve pulled an ‘ewww’ face!

My nemesis though, is using dried beans – it doesn’t matter what I do, they either come out like bullets or mush when I cook them. I decided a while back that there was no need to make life difficult, and so now I just buy the jars of pre cooked beans to add to my dishes. I went through about €15 worth of dried beans trying to perfect cooking them – I have absolutely no idea why I just can’t get them right! I will have another go at some point, I don’t like to give up on these things!

There are about 400 different types of edible bean,and they play an especially important part of our diet as they provide us with both protein and fibre. As we don’t eat meat, it’s essential to ensure we’re still eating a balanced diet with all the nutrition we need.

So I thought I would pick my top three favourite recipes using beans to share with you … with all of these I have tweaked the recipe to our own liking … it’s what makes cooking fun!

1. Moorish Chickpeas (and they are very more-ish 😂). Serves 2 (generous portions), 30 minutes prep and cook time.

1/2 onion, diced

2-4 cloves garlic, chopped finely

2 carrots, diced

2 grated tomatoes or a tin of chopped tomatoes

Jar of cooked chickpeas (540g)

Red and green pepper, chopped

Vegetable stock cube

200ml water

Large handful of chopped spinach

Other veg, whatever you have! Green beans, peas, courgette …

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon dried coriander

1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon saffron

Use a large deep frying pan – put 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in and warm. Add the veg (except the spinach) and garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the spices and herbs and stir. Add stock cube, tomatoes and water. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the chickpeas and simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the spinach and cook for 1 minute so the spinach wilts. Serve with crusty bread.

Moorish Chickpeas – one of our favourite dishes!

2. Homemade baked beans

We can buy Heinz beans here in the bigger supermarkets, but I actually now prefer these ones I make!

Jar white beans (540g)

Tomato frito / passata (215g small carton or homemade)

Vegetable stock cube

60ml water

1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

Optional – small clove of garlic, minced

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a saucepan and warm. If using, add the garlic. Add the paprika, stock cube and water. Stir and cook for one minute. Add the tomato frito and simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken. Drain and rinse the beans and add to the saucepan. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Serve.

3. Lentil curry soup

I love this in the winter – this makes 4 generous portions.

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

2 carrots peeled and chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp medium curry powder

1/4 tsp dried parsley

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 cup brown or green lentils, pecked over and rinsed

4 cups veg stock

2 cups water

Salt & pepper

1 cup chopped spinach

Juice of half a lemon

Warm the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and carrot and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and parsley and cook for 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes, cook for 2 minutes. Add the lentils, stock and water. Season and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Optional – remove 2 cups and pop in a blender then add back in once blended (makes the soup a bit creamier).

Add the spinach and cook for a few minutes. Add lemon, season and serve.

When Rog was in the UK I made a big batch of this and just left it in the stove, heating it up as I wanted some for both lunch and dinner (I’m terrible at cooking just for myself when he’s away!).

Let me know if you try any of these recipes and what you thought if them!

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