Versatile and filling, pulses are an invaluable addition to any storecupboard. Use them in stews, soups, curries and salads.
Picking and preparing pulses
Pulses come from all around the world, and there’re plenty to choose from. Each has its own flavour and texture, from buttery, floury butterbeans, to smooth, creamy kidney beans.
Dried pulses can last for up to a year if stored in an airtight container. You can freeze cooked pulses; make sure they’re covered in liquid and stored in an airtight container.
Dried pulses must be soaked overnight to hydrate them before cooking. Tinned pulses just need to be drained and rinsed under cold water, then heated through or eaten cold.
After rinsing, cover dried pulses in cold water, bring to the boil then simmer until cooked. Add tinned pulses towards the end of cooking to stop them losing their bite.
Varieties and versatilty of pulses
Green and brown lentils keep their shape during cooking, but they have a softer texture and milder flavour than Puy. They’re great for thickening casseroles and soups.
Borlotti beans are a type of kidney bean. They have a sweet, nutty flavour and smooth texture and are a favourite in Italian stews and soups. Their pale, striped skin darkens once cooked.
Popular in Mexican cooking and grown across Latin America, pinto beans are traditionaly used to make refried beans. They’re beige with brown specs when dried, but turn a darker, more uniform colour when cooked.
A staple in Middle Eastern cooking, chickpeas are a key ingredient in houmous, but they’re also popular in Indian and Mediterranean dishes. They have a firm bite, even when cooked. Dried chickpeas can be ground to make gram flour, which is often used in Pakistani and Bangladeshi recipes.
No chilli con carne would be complete without kidney beans, but these creamy beans also feature in Caribbean cooking – they’re the peas in ‘rice and peas’. Always boil dried kidney beans for 10 minutes to remove toxins.
Puy lentils may only be grown in the Le Puy region of France (from which they take their name). They are prized for their mildly peppery flavour, and their ability to retain their shape during cooking, making them great for salads. Try cooking them in stock with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Red split lentils
Red split lentils are smaller than most other varieties, and will disintegrate during the cooking process, making them perfect for thickening soups and for making dahl.
Meet the Expert: Mashal Razaq, Tesco grocery
What’s do you like best about pulses?
They’re cheap, nutritious and versatile and are a good store cupboard staple. You can turn a tin of borlotti beans into a salad, and lentils are great for bulking out stews. Chickpeas are my favourite; I use them to make dahl – it only takes 15 minutes.
There are 14 different varieties of pulse in store. Where do they all come from?
Our suppliers buy pulses from all around the world, so we have red lentils from Turkey and Ethiopia, kidney beans and chickpeas from America, and borlotti beans from China. The farmers are all paid at the start of the growing season rather than at the end, so their income is guaranteed regardless of how the crop turns out.
What’s the difference between dried and tinned?
Dried pulses are simply in their natural state; they’ve just been cleaned and packed. But tinned pulses have been cooked, which softens and hydrates them so they can be used directly from the tin. They’re more popular than dried because they’re so convenient, but recently we’ve noticed more people are giving dried pulses a try. They can be even more flavoursome than tinned varieties, and cheaper, too.
Why not try Mixed bean shakshuka recipe featured in this issue?
As featured in Tesco Magazine March 2014.