Beans, Peas & Everything in Between – Most of us are having to watch costs now, (unless you’re a banker, with exceptional bonus expectations!) and pulses are a great way of bulking out a recipe as well as providing protein. I’ve been particularly impressed with a range of products from Bold Bean Co, now stocked at Waitrose. These premium jars of heirloom beans are ancient varieties that prioritise flavour over yield, something that’s obvious when you taste them. Founder Amelia Christie-Miller, a private chef, came to realise that beans, with their millions of varieties, and soil rejuvenating properties, were the answer to so many food system issues. The problem? Everyone seemed to hate them. So, in 2021 she founded Bold Bean Co, a brand “on a mission to make you obsessed with beans, by giving you the best of beans”. The ingredients are just beans, water, and a pinch of salt – no sulphites or other nasties. I’ve been playing around with them in salads and casseroles and now I’ve even found a fabulous new cookbook that’s inspiring me to add even more beans to our diet on a regular basis.
Beans, Peas & Everything in Between by Vicky Jones was published last month by Ryland Peters & Small. It’s a hardback, packed with delicious, nutritious recipes for legumes from around the globe. Vicky, formerly the wine and food editor of House & Garden magazine, has travelled extensively collecting recipes and cooking techniques, as well as absorbing the food culture of different countries – something that’s very evident in the book. Over half the recipes are vegetarian, and the rest make creative use of modest amounts of fish, poultry, and meat. As well as lovely salads, soups and other recipes, there are even desserts such as Black Bean Brownies.
The book also contains information on the history and botany of pulses, advice on buying, storing, soaking, and cooking them as well as a summary of their nutritional benefits.
Here are a couple of recipes from the book – the Sorrel and Bean Soup are perfect if you are growing sorrel in the garden as it will be having a last burst of growth before the colder weather. And who thought you could make a cake with beans!
Sorrel and bean soup (Serves 4)
“Pale green in colour and subtly flavoured, this delicate soup can be rustled up in no time by using canned beans. Sorrel is very easy to grow in the garden and is becoming increasingly available in supermarkets. Its lemony freshness makes it an invaluable ingredient in the kitchen.”
30 g butter
1 large leek (about 175 g trimmed weight), trimmed and finely chopped
2–3 medium shallots, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1-litre chicken or vegetable stock
250 g cooked, soaked dried flageolet beans, or the contents of 1 x 400-g can drained
125 g fresh sorrel leaves, shredded
4 tablespoons single cream, plus extra to serve
salt and ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and sweat the leek and shallots together for approximately 10 minutes, being careful not to allow them to brown.
Add the cubes of potato and the stock and bring to a boil, then cover the pan and simmer for around 20 minutes. Add half of the cooked beans and reheat.
Stir the shredded sorrel leaves into the soup and cook for 1–2 minutes, then purée the mixture using a blender. Return to the saucepan, add the remaining whole beans and heat gently.
Stir in the cream, taste, and season the soup with salt and black pepper, then reheat very gently and serve with an extra swirl of cream.
Bean torta with walnuts and lemon (Serves 8–10)
“In Hungary and other Central European countries, they make a cake not with wheat flour but with cooked beans and maize meal. No fat is added, but it is moist and light, not at all what you might expect, and keeps quite well for several days. I used canned beans to save time, rather than soaking and cooking dried ones, and found they worked perfectly”.
350 g cooked, soaked dried cannellini or haricot beans,
or the contents of 11⁄2 x 400-g cans, drained
4 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
275 g caster/ granulated sugar, or to taste
grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
85 g walnuts, finely ground
Preheat the oven to 200∞C (400∞F) Gas 6.
Grease and flour a 23-cm/9-in. round cake pan.
Use a food processor to blend the maize meal or polenta/cornmeal and the beans into a smooth mixture.
Cream the yolks, vanilla extract, and 175 g of the sugar together until pale and creamy, then add the mixture to the bean mixture with the grated lemon zest. Blend together thoroughly, then transfer to a large bowl and fold in the ground walnuts.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then carefully fold them into the bean mixture, using a metal spoon. Turn the mixture into the greased and floured cake pan and bake in the oven for about 30–40 minutes, turning the temperature down to 180∞C (350∞F) Gas 4 after 20 minutes.
While the cake is cooking, warm the lemon juice with the remaining sugar to make a glaze. When the cake is lightly brown on top and nicely risen, take it out of the oven and pour the lemon juice and sugar mixture over the surface, then allow it to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. As it cools, the topping will form a crunchy icing.