Cooking With Pulses – Make It a Regular Thing
It’s no longer unusual to be vegetarian or even vegan for that matter – there are over 7 million people in the United States who don’t eat meat and 1 million of these avoid all produce from animals. However, for the rest of us who still choose to eat meat, we’re being encouraged to eat less to benefit our health. A high intake of red meat and especially processed meats such as ham and bacon, are linked with an increased risk of bowel cancer; additionally processed meats tend to be high in saturated fats, the fats that raise cholesterol level and increase our risk of heart disease. Meat lovers, who are sceptical of the need to reduce their meat consumption, usually play the card that red meat is essential for iron to keep anaemia at bay. While it is true that red meat is a very good source of iron, there are plenty of other foods in the diet that can provide us with iron – eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, nuts and pulses. It’s the last one that we're going to focus on. Peas, beans and lentils are often an overlooked part of the diet – not so much by vegetarians, but certainly by most of us who eat meat. It’s a shame, as not only are they a very healthy option, they’re also very versatile, so can be used in all manner of dishes.
Why eat pulses?
Peas, beans and lentils are a great source of vegetable-based protein, needed for growth in children and for your body to continuously replace old cells and carry out repair to tissues like skin and bone. Not only are they very low in fat, but they are high in fibre, so make a filling option – ideal for anyone who finds that they get hungry soon after a meal – and are beneficial for digestive health. They contain a type of fibre known as soluble fibre, which can help to keep your cholesterol level in check. Soluble fibre can also help to balance blood sugar levels – something which can become a daily battle for the millions of people who live with diabetes and who know the consequences if they don’t keep them under control; the prospect of blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage and in men, erectile dysfunction, necessitating the need to take the likes of Cialis med. Although not as high in iron as meat, pulses make a useful contribution to your daily intake; to aid iron absorption just make sure you include some fruit or vegetables rich in Vitamin C when you eat pulses - citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, green vegetables, peppers and tomatoes are all good for this - and avoid drinking tea or coffee with the meal.
Which pulses to choose?
Beans on toast isn’t a bad meal, but you’d soon get tired of having it week in week out. With so many pulses to choose from – black-eye beans, borlotti beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, kidney beans to name just a few – there’s no need to limit yourself when you have such a selection widely available in the grocery store. Most pulses can be bought dried and in cans. The dried pulses although cheaper, need to be well soaked for a day and cooked for an hour or more, so the canned variety represent a much more convenient option.
How to include more pulses in meals?
As a general rule for any dish where you have meat in a sauce or gravy, you can replace all or some of the meat with pulses. Good examples would include curries, soups, stews, cottage pie, spaghetti Bolognese, chilli and lasagne, but there are so many more possibilities. Pulses also work well in stir-fries and salads. Another way that they can be used is to make them into a pâté-style spread; all you need do is blend a can of drained pulses of your choice with a little non-fat fromage frais, some garlic, a drop of lemon juice and whatever herbs, spices or seasonings that take your fancy.
If you still aren’t convinced, try this quick and easy recipe for a kidney bean curry to see how good meat-free dishes taste.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp chilli powder
1 large onion, chopped
1 red and 1 green pepper, cut into strips
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1x 400g tin kidney beans, drained
1. Heat the oil in a pan and soften the onion for 5 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, curry powder and all the spices, cooking for a further minute, stirring throughout
3. Add the pepper strips and cook for 5 minutes, stirring periodically.
4. Pour the tinned tomatoes into the pan, thoroughly combine and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Lastly add the kidney beans and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
6. Serve with boiled rice or a chapatti.