Tips and tricks for cooking dried beans from scratch.
"Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot."
Beans are such a versatile food that can be put in almost anything from salad, stew, chilli or curry. I especially love them when they've been cooked from dried rather than a can as they have much more flavour and a better texture. They are a great addition to your diet as they are packed with nutritious things such as amino acids, B vitamins, Folate, Potassium, Iron, Magnesium, Fibre, Antioxidants - and a lot more.
If you've not tried cooking beans from dried before it can seem a bit confusing as there is a great variety of instructions online. Cooking dried beans is really quite simple. Here, I've pulled together some tried and tested tips for cooking the three types of bean we currently have here at the shop: Butter Beans, Kidney Beans and Chickpeas.
The Benefits Of Pre-Soaking Your Beans
One thing that you will need to do ahead of time is to soak your beans for a while. There are a few important reasons why soaking them is better for you:
It reduces the musical effect that beans have on your digestion. - There is a type of sugar in beans, called oligosaccharide, that we can't digest normally as we don't produce the right enzymes. It reaches the large intestines undigested where a different process called bacterial fermentation starts. This produces a lot of gas and therefore flatulence! Pre-soaking beans helps to remove some of the oligosaccharide prior to cooking and eating.
It reduces the cooking time as they have already started to absorb water and swell. This in turn helps to reduce the energy needed to boil them, keeping your bills lower too!
As well as reducing the gas producing sugars, soaking reduces the amount of Phytic Acid found in the beans. Phytic Acid is normally known to be an anti-nutrient as it binds to iron, zinc and calcium preventing them from being absorbed by the body.
I thought it would be interesting to show the different stages of the beans, from dried to cooked. They do grow considerably after soaking overnight which helps to stop them from splitting during cooking. One of the other great benefits of beans is that the best way to hydrate your body is to "eat your water", and there is a lot in beans!
A quick note on lentils. They do not need to be pre-soaked as they don't have a skin and will cook very quickly. They also lack the gas producing compounds so all you need to do is inspect and rinse them before popping them in water, soup or stew to cook.
Two Ways To Pre-Soak
The first method for pre-soaking your beans takes a bit longer but it is the simplest method. It starts the night before:
Firstly, rinse your beans to remove any dust or odd bits left from harvesting.
Place your rinsed beans in a bowl or container and cover with fresh water. Make sure all the beans are covered by about an inch of water.
Cover the container and leave them to soak overnight.
The second method for pre-soaking doesn't need to be left for quite as long so it is great for spare of the moment beans!
Start by rinsing your beans as before to remove any dust or foreign particles.
Place the beans in a pan with fresh, clean water.
Bring to the boil and let it simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
Take your beans off the heat and cover the pan with a lid that fits well to keep the heat and steam inside as much as possible.
Let it sit like this for about an hour.
Cooking Your Beans
The key advice here is to always use fresh water when you go to cook your pre-soaked beans. Don't use the same water that the beans have been soaking in, even if you're using pre-soak method 2 where they have been part boiled and left to stand. There are two reasons for this important advice:
Beans (in particular Red Kidney Beans, Butter Beans, Broad Beans and Cannelloni Beans) contain Phytohaemagglutinin (also known as Kidney Bean Lectin), which can cause food poisoning. Soaking, or pre-boiling the beans releases this into the water which you should throw away. Also, this is the reason why it is important to never eat uncooked, or undercooked beans.
You have just been soaking out the Phytic Acid and the Oligosaccharide, which you don't want to then include in your cooking.
With your beans now in fresh water, you'll want to bring them to the boil and then let them simmer for between 60 and 90 minutes depending on the type of bean and the number of beans being cooked. You can check them with a fork for softness.
When they're done, drain away the cooking water and add them to your stew, soup, curry or dress them for a beany side-salad!
If you have any questions at all, please do let me know. I hope that you enjoy cooking with beans. I've got plans to share some beany recipes with you soon, the first on my list is a Butter Bean and Butternut Squash Curry - I can't wait!