Cooking Beans, legumes, pulses etc

This post is really about the obvious end of the vegetarian diet -when you go vegetarian legumes become an important source of protein in your diet.

If you start cooking vegetarian food you quickly realize that doing beans out of cans is expensive. Dried beans are cheaper. Unfortunately they take a long time to cook in a pot on the stove. You can also end up with pot-burning disasters if you are like me and you wander off while cooking your beans and boil them dry.

Your remaining two options are slow cooker and pressure cooker beans.

Slow cooker beans

Slow cooker beans are great. Rinse the beans under cold water and discard broken, and odd looking beans. They do not need soaking, with the exception of red kidney beans, which need to be put in a pot and  covered with boiling water and left to stand for at least 1 hour. Once the red kidney beans have been soaked, then rinse them, cover them with water in the pot and bring to the boil, letting boil for 10 minutes. Transfer them to the slow cooker and cook for the remainder of time.

Bean/Legume Water for 500g Cook time
Black 1600 6-8 hrs
Pinto 1900 7-9 hrs
Cannelini 1900 7-9 hrs
Black eyed peas 1600 4 – 5.5 hrs
Chick peas 1750 4.5- 6 hrs
Brown Lentils 1250 3-4 hrs
Red Kidney Beans 1900 5-6 hrs after  1 hour hot soak and 10 min rapid boil

Pressure cooker beans

Not everyone has a pressure cooker but if you are making a commitment to eating at least 3 meals a week of vegetarian foods it soon becomes obvious that a pressure cooker is very useful. I have ended up getting some pressure cooker envy going into small appliance retailers as I use my cheap old-fashioned one, I picked up from a charity shop…here is hoping my family realizes my next big birthday is within a couple of years and I would really, really, really like one of the fancy ones!

Understanding pressure cooker times is what matters, and the different ways of reducing pressure once cooked. Also most beans (red kidney beans the MAJOR exception) can be cooked from hard rather than soaked, but if you do soak the cooking time of many beans is seriously short.

This link is excellent and has all the information you need on cooking with a pressure cooker. Most of our pressure cookers work at 15 PSI.

Pressure cooker beans

Storing your beans

If you are cooking up bulk beans, spreading them thinly on a tray to cool then freezing them so you can then put the free-flow into a container is a great idea. I have learned to label my recycled ice-cream containers extremely well to avoid disappointment of going into the fridge and hoping there is ice-cream.

Green Bean Salad

  • 500g green or runner beans, cut to 2cm lengths.
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped spring onions
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar.
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil.
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves.
  • ½ C vegan Parmesan cheese substitute (about 45g)
  • Freshly ground black pepper.

Most people leave runner beans too long before picking them. Ideally they should be not much bigger than regular green beans or they get kind of chewy.

Bring a large pot of water seasoned with 1 TBSP salt to the boil. When it is a rolling boil dunk a colander or sieve with your prepared beans into the water for 1 minute. Remove and run under cold water for 1 minute. This blanches the beans and makes them more flavoursome and less chewy for little people.

Mix vinegar oil, basil, cheese substitute together. Stir into beans. Season with pepper to taste.

This is another great salad if you hear people saying “salads are boring.

On Pesto – traditionally pesto is made with basil, but you can do it with just about anything green and pungent flavored…so try other herbs such as oregano.

Courgette and Lentil One Dish Meal

  • 1 C brown rice
  • 1 C french/puy/brown lentils – well rinsed

Cook together in a pot using an absorption method (i.e.3 C water, bring to boil, cover with tight fitting lid, reduce to a low heat and cook for 40 minutes. Switch off and let stand for 10 minutes)

  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 325g tomato tinned tomato OR 500g fresh tomatoes chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and then saute the onion and garlic until soft then add all other ingredients and cook until vegetables are tender.

Layer into a casserole dish (rice and lentils, vegetables, rice and lentils, ending with a vegetable layer).

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Vegan Parmesan cheese substitute

Sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs, if you wish add a couple of tablespoons of this homemade vegan Parmesan cheese substitute to your crumbs for extra flavor. Bake at 180 degrees until bubbling at the edges

Understanding the Planet Healthy Diet – Eat-Lancet Commission Report

Last week saw the publication of the report from the EAT-Lancet Commission.  EAT-Lancet outlines how to achieve a globally fair and nutritious diet. They are aiming to feed the 10 billion humans on the planet by 2050. It is the first report to consider the impact of nutrition on the natural environment.

  “Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts. Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”

Eat-Lancet Report

Target 1 is healthy diets. I have analyzed the report and created a table (below) with the food intake in standard portions. A copy of the report summary can be downloaded here. This is for people wanting to read the second target (sustainable production) and the 5 goals.  I examine a planetary healthy diet in comparison to current NZ eating patterns .

Food Item g/day    (range) Portion size Notes
Whole grains 232 30g 7.7 portions/day
Starchy vegetables 50 80g 3 portions/week
All other vegetables 300 80g 3.75 portions/day
Fruits 200 80g 2.5 portions/day
Dairy Foods 250 250g1 portion/day
Protein sources  
Meat and poultry 43 100g3 portions of 100g/week
Eggs 13 58g1.6 eggs/week
Fish 28 100g2 portions of 100g /week
Legumes 75 90g5-6 90g portions /week
Nuts 50 30g11-12 30g portions/ week
Added fats  
Unsaturated fats 40 1 tsp8-9 tsp/day
Saturated fats 11.8 1tsp2.5 tsp/day
Added sugars  
All sugars 31 1 tsp 6 tsp/day

This represents a fairly strict flexitarian diet.  Most people could achieve this eating patter with planning. It would be more difficult to eat like this if you were time poor or had limited cooking skills. Food manufacturers and retailers would have to change their offerings to be part of a sustainable food system.

Key differences

  1. Whole grains: We eat mostly refined grain foods  in NZ. It would involve both a shift to whole grains and increased amounts of whole grains in the diet.
  2. This would be less potato, kumara or taro than currently eaten.
  3. For most people this is a significant increase in non-starchy vegetables.
  4. Most people would be increasing their fruit,
  5. This a significant reduction in dairy intake.
  6. Only 6 of the 14 non-breakfast meals would have animal source protein, the rest would have legumes or nuts as primary protein.
  7. There would be a tight limitation on butter, with a liberal allowance of oil.  Added fat intake means frying and foods with added fats (baked goods) would be an occasional treat.
  8. The added sugar at 6tsp per day represents a big shift away from sugar sweetened foods. It would be biggest in the diet of younger people. 

Nutritional Adequacy

Concern has been expressed over iron and calcium intake from this diet. Again, this diet relies on good cooking practices to maximize non-meat source minerals. The caloric intake provided by this diet is approximately 10.5MJ or 2500kcal. This is approximately an “average” diet for an adult and some variation would be needed.

Many people would be reluctant to make these kinds of changes. If humanity is to protect the environment, while feeding 10 Billion people, we need to start making changes now and this is a good start. On a personal level following a diet like this will both reduce the risk of long term health conditions including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as managing them more effectively than the current diet.

I support and endorse the principles of this diet. Where possible I will demonstrate how to cook and eat within the limits outlined in the EAT-Lancet report. Please subscribe if you want to learn more.

Crustless Quiche – Curry in a Hurry

  • 3 TBSP oil (canola, olive or rice bran)
  • 300g cooked potatoes (ideally from the previous day) cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 large courgette grated
  • 1 large carrot grated
  • 3 spring onions chopped finely or one small onion
  • 1 can of chickpeas rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp of your usual curry powder
  • ¼ C self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ C trim milk

Heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put quiche pan in oven with oil to come to temperature. Mix all vegetables and chickpeas together. Add flour and curry powder and mix to distribute throughout the vegetable mix. Whisk eggs with trim milk. Mix through other ingredients – this will be quite sticky.
Carefully remove hot quiche pan from oven, swirl to coat bottom with oil.  Put quiche mix into pan, it will sizzle. You can compress it very slightly. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown and the egg is cooked.

Serving tips:

  • Garnish with coriander (if you like it)
  • Serve hot or cold with salad.
  • You may enjoy serving with a Raita of finely chopped cucumber and natural yogurt.