Beans – Aside from the nutritional value they are actually good for you
The lines from the eighties group the B-52s song “Butterbean” have been the soundtrack to my craving this week.
And not just these large white beans, but cannellini, borlotti, black beans, and haricot have all been in my mind. Aside from their nutritional value of being high in fibre, low in calories, free from cholesterol, packed with antioxidants, potassium and healing zinc, their silky richness in dishes is the perfect antidote for November.
Beans were among the first cultivated crops with archaeological evidence dating back nearly 10,000 years to prove their existence.
Early farmers who grew beans also grew grains, making for a symbiotic and harmonious relationship in which the amino acids of each complemented one another and formed the perfect protein. This combination is reflected within regional cooking and examples include rice and beans in Caribbean culture, lima beans and corn in Latin American cooking, chickpeas and couscous in Middle Eastern cuisine and pasta e fagioli (beans) in the Italian kitchen.
The estimated global harvest of beans is around 18.7 million tonnes on an estimated 27.7 million hectares of land. Beans are one of the “three sisters” of traditional agricultural crops reported by European colonists in the United States. Native Americans planted maize, squash, and beans in the same place providing a sound environment that capitalised on their various characteristics.
The first recipe this week uses dried butterbeans in a stew. You’ll need to soak dried beans in cold water overnight to remove potential toxins. After they’ve been rinsed, cook them with vegetables, smoked paprika and tomatoes until soft. The stew is paired with a cornbread – perfect for lapping up the sauce at the bottom of the bowl.
Lentils are another healthy source of protein packed with nutrients. They’re cardio- protective, anti- viral, help to manage blood sugar and are great for managing blood pressure and cholesterol. Here they’re also prepared in a stew with potatoes and aubergine and topped with yoghurt made smoky by smoked paprika. This is a warming, zingy dish. Both of the recipes this week are vegetarian, more by accident than design.
Pulses are great soaker uppers of flavour. Not having meat doesn’t mean forgoing the taste. Better to have pulses than poor quality, cheap meat. Lentils and beans are substantial and filling – the perfect food for the autumnal weather.