Dried beans feature in traditional cuisines
all over the world, from Mexican re-fried beans to Italy's pasta e
fagioli. They are nutritious, providing a good source of protein
when combined with rice, and are a marvelous store cupboard standby.
Black-eyed Beans : Sometimes called
black-dyed peas, these small cream-colored beans have a black spot or
eye. When cooked, they have a tender, creamy texture and a mild smoky
flavor. Black-eyed beans are widely used in Indian cooking.
Chana Dhal : Chana dhal is very
similar to yellow split peas but smaller in size and with a slightly
sweeter taste. It is used in a variety of vegetable dishes.
Chick-peas : These round
beige-colored pulses have a strong, nutty flavor when cooked. As well as
being used for curries, chick-peas are also ground into a flour which is
widely used in many Indian dishes such as pakoras and bhajees.
Flageolet Beans : Small oval
beans which are either white or pale green in color. They have a very
mild, refreshing flavor and feature in classic French dishes.
Green Lentils : Also known as
continental lentils, these have quite a strong flavor and retain their
shape during cooking. They are very versatile and are used in a number
Haricot Beans : Small, white oval
beans which come in different varieties. Haricot beans are ideal for
Indian cooking because not only do they retain their shape but they also
absorb the flavors of the spices.
Kidney Beans : These are small,
round green beans with a slightly sweet flavor and creamy texture. When
sprouted they produce the familiar beansprouts.
Red Split Lentils : A readily
available lentil that can be used for making dhal. Use instead of toovar
Toovar Dhal : A dull orange-colored
split pea with a very distinctive earthy flavor. Toovar dhal is
available plain and in an oily variety.
Soaking and Cooking Tips :
Most dried pulses, except lentils, need to be soaked overnight before
cooking. Wash the beans thoroughly and remove any small stones and
damaged beans. Put into a large bowl and cover with plenty of cold
water. When cooking, allow double the volume of water to beans and boil
for 10 minutes. This initial boiling period is essential to remove any
harmful toxins. Drain, rinse and cook in fresh water. The cooking time
for all pulses varies depending on the type and their freshness. Pulses
can be cooked in pressure cooker to save time. Lentils, on the whole, do
not need soaking. They should be washed in several changes of cold water
before being cooked.