Yesterday somebody asked me how to cook beans. It’s something I thought everybody knew how to do but when I think back to my pre-India/Brazil self, I also didn’t know how to cook beans! So some tips below on how to cook beans from dried. Especially as it is so cheap to cook your own and so much better for you than tinned/boxed ready prepared beans full of preservatives, even if they are easy. I prefer to ‘break in case of emergency’. Your own cooked beans will always taste much, much better. They’re an important source of protein for vegetarians and vegans and it’s so easy to make wonderful, delicious dishes with them, even your own baked beans are super easy (and so much more nutrional!)
To soak or not to soak
That is indeed the question. This is something I have always done to reduce the cooking time and also to reduce the ahem flatulence incurring effect, but Russ Parsons of the LA Times suggests this does nothing to reduce the flatulence and the benefit in cooking time isn’t proportionate to the loss in flavour when doing so. I’ve been separated from my amazing pressure pan so I’m boiling my beans on the stove and I’m keen to win that time back, so I will continue to soak my beans, but make your own mind up as to whether you will.
If you’re cooking your beans to store in the fridge and add to recipes as you go then measurement won’t be so important, but if you’re going to straight into cooking something like a veggie version of Brazilian feijoada, frijoles or a bean soup then you’ll want to preserve the liquid and then you’ll need a 1 – 3 measurement of beans to water. It’s better to have less water and add more as you go than trying to boil off loads of liquid at the end.
Whilst we’re on measurement, 1 cup of dried beans should cook up to be 2 cups and should be enough for two people to have a hearty meal or have a generous bowl of hummus.
Playing the waiting game
If I was you I would immediately invest in a pressure pan. Food is cooked in half the time, especially if you have a good one, like my lovely Nigro pressure pan from Brazil, and due to this it preserves many more of the nutrients, coming second only to steaming. My pressure pan reduced the cooking time of beans & lentils by at least half, so I was able to cook up black beans in 20 minutes. There are different ‘grades’ of beans and I believe the higher grade takes less time to cook. My recent forays with cooking black beans on the stove took about an hour to cook & weren’t the mushier consistency I prefer, although I am using a stove with bottled gas, which can tend to have a bit less oomph to it. Let’s see what happens tomorrow!
Different types of beans need different cooking times, with red/orange lentils, green lentils, mung beans & adzuki the fastest legumes in the pack (in incremental order), with chickpeas at the end of the scale, taking the longest.
Beans, beans good for the heart, the more you eat, the more you….
Maybe something for the Brits out there as I don’t think this ditty went over the water. You can fill in the gaps with a word association to beans to rhyme with heart. Dart. Part. Art? Nope. Fart. Beans are generally associated with making you fart, although I’d counter this with saying overeating, lack of exercise and processed foods will make you fart more than beans, and probably have another unwelcome side effect that rhymes with ‘sit’.
Beans contain complex sugars which the human body is not so easily able to digest and they pass through to the large intestine and ferment, producing gases.
The good news is that the more legumes (beans) you eat, the more your intestinal micro-flora adjust to the digestion process. Which might explain why I don’t seem to have a problem with them. No seriously, I don’t!
Also, whilst I don’t believe it is scientifically proven, I cook with 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds or Kombu (a type of seaweed – also very good for you!) if I can get it.
‘Season to taste’
it’s nice to season the beans with stock, but adding sodium too early in the cooking process is generally regarded a bad thing as it prevents them from softening and recommended to do once they’ve almost completely cooked or they have. Again, Russ Parsons of the LA Times suggests this doesn’t actually affect the cooking of the beans. In his experiments the beans cooked to the same level but the no-salt beans required twice as much salt adding to get the same flavour. With hypertension and heart attacks so prevalent in our modern world, more salt in your system has to be worse than a crunchy bean. Add it when you like!
How to cook beans:
1. Measure 1 cup of dried beans
2. Rinse & leave to soak overnight/8 hours
3. Drain liquid off beans, rinse and add to your pan
4. Add 3 cups of water to the pan per cup of beans
5. Add cumin/stock/kombu as desired to flavour the beans/reduce the flatulence
6. Bring to the boil and keep boiling until they start to soften – lentils & mung beans are about 20-30 mins, black/red/white beans are upwards of 40 minutes. You’ll work out the times according to your pans, beans & stove.
7. Boil until you get the desired texture of bean/the right amount of liquid, if you are saving the beans for the week ahead then cook until done, if you are going straight into making a dish then add the flavouring and vegetables a bit before they are cooked and cook in the broth. It’s at this point you would also add salt.
8. If you are saving the beans for the week ahead, drain, preserve and enjoy at a later date. If you’re enjoying your beans right now then serve as to your taste!
Let me know how you get on!