Cooking With Legumes & Pulses

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Generally, legumes and pulses refer to the same group of foods, but there are a few minor differences. The word ‘pulse’ describes crops harvested for their dry grains, such as lentils or chickpeas. Pulses are part of the legume family, but the name ‘pulse’ refers only to the dried inner seed. The term ‘legume’ includes those dry grains, as well as fresh peas, beans and crops such as soya beans and peanuts. Think of legumes as the plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. Variances between the two terms are small, so it’s easy to see how use them interchangeably. Legumes and pulses come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and can be consumed in many forms including whole or split, ground into flours or separated into fractions such as protein, fibre and starch.

Cooking With Legumes & Pulses

One thing is certain, pulses and legumes are nutritional powerhouses and great additions to meals! They are rich in fibre and protein, and have high levels of minerals such as iron, zinc, and phosphorous as well as folate and other B-vitamins.

Tips & Tricks

You might think cooking pulses or legumes from the scratch is taking you too long. Perhaps reconsider the actual active time can be less than an hour. There are two  major steps to cooking dried beans - soaking and cooking. Here are some handy hints! 

  • Soaking allows the dried pulse to absorb water, which begins to dissolve the starches that cause intestinal discomfort. While beans are soaking, they’re also increasing to double or triple their size!
  • Change the soaking water once or twice during the long cold soak.
  • Do not use the soaking liquid to cook the pulses.
  • Cook pulses thoroughly as undercooked starch is harder to digest.
  • Thoroughly rinse canned or pre-soaked pulses before cooking.

Soak

Pick through your pulses or legumes, discarding any discoloured or shrivelled beans or any foreign matter. Rinse well. 

Soak with boiling water

This helps dissolve some of the gas-causing substances in beans and most consistently produces tender beans, lentils or legumes. In a large pot add five cups of water for one cup of dry beans then heat to boiling. Boil for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and soak for at least 1-4 hours.

Soak with cold water

PIace the dry goods into large pot or bowl add five cups of water for one cup of pulses or legumes. Cover and leave on the kitchen bench for 8 hours or overnight. 

Drain and rinse the soaked ingredients (by either method) with fresh, cool water. Some Lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas do not need to be soaked.

Cook

  • Place soaked pulses in a large pot, cover with cold, new water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover with a fitting lid. Simmer gently until beans are tender but firm.
  • Test if they’re cooked by pressing with a fork or spoon. The inside shouldn’t be hard or starchy (think of undercooked pasta). This can take anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size and type of your legume or pulse.
  • Herbs, spices and salt can be added later in the cooking process. Adding acidic foods such as lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes or wine can prevent the beans from becoming tender. Refrigerate any pulses not consumed immediately after cooking. You can use them for different recipes within 4 days of cooking or freeze to use later on.
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