Five ways to cook tinned pulses

They are the starting part for some great dishes - here are a handful.

From tiny lentils to chunky butter beans, tinned pulses are the store cupboard staple you shouldn’t be without.

There is much ignorant snobbery about tinned foods. Tins of pulses in particular are culinary gold, the basis for many rapid and economic dishes. They're pretty healthy too, but don’t hold that against them. Unlike tinned tomatoes you can tell the difference between cheapo and dearer brands, so it’s worth going upmarket in this instance. But, whatever their price level, always rinse and drain plain pulses before using as their liquid is not pleasant.

1. Salads

This salad is a standby of Relais Routier buffet tables, ready in seconds but better if left for an hour to let the flavours blend. Crush two garlic cloves, chop plenty of onion and a handful of parsley and mix into lentils, then dress with mustardy vinaigrette.

Claudia Roden’s classic A New Book of Middle Eastern Food contains some wonderful bean salads. The Turkish dish Piaz - made with haricot beans, boiled egg, tomato and olives - is a fine first course.

2. Stews

Pulses provide bulk to stews – the bigger the better, so butter bean best here – and they only need to warm through so wait until the last 15 minutes cooking time to mix them in. The chickpea lends itself to hearty curries.

3. Croquettes and rissoles

There are innumerable variants of these two delights to explore, from gooey falafel to chilli-hot bean cakes – Nigel Slater is the king of these. All you need to do is break a slice of bread into crumbs, dice an onion into tiny pieces, mix a chilli and two cloves of garlic into paste and, taking care to leave some texture, add a 400g tin of beans such as haricot or butter. Mix in a bowl with a beaten egg to bind, season, and with floured hands form into flat cakes. Roll in that same flour then fry gently in oil, turning when crisp.

4. Soups

Have you ever suspected that Tuscan bean soup in some restaurants is finely diced carrot, onion and pepper sweated in oil, then cooked for five minutes in good chicken stock with tinned borlotti and/or cannellini beans? Lob in thickly-sliced salami to make this more substantial. Rachel Allen has a rib-sticking recipe along similar lines.

5. Accompaniment

Little beans make the perfect partner for lamb. Warm flageolet beans in olive oil and butter with some chopped garlic and fresh parsley, add some salt and pepper and you only need the meat and some good bread to complete a meal. This is a simple idea Antoine de Pomiane explored in his inimitable style in his Cooking in Ten Minutes.

Have you got any tinned bean recipes to share? Let us know in the Comments box below.

Some further ideas you may like to try
Black bean soup

Veggie minestrone

Butter bean bruschetta

Sicilian pork stew

Winter pot roast


Be the first to comment

Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature

Copyright © All rights reserved.