Wondering what to do with that bag of dried beans? We’ve put together this useful how-to guide so you can whip up everything from sumptuous soups to spicy stews.
If ever there was a time to appreciate the deliciousness of dried beans, it’s now. Sure, they don’t look like much, but - when soaked and cooked properly - they have a level of flavour that you just don’t get from the tinned stuff.
While there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a tin of kidney beans or chickpeas to throw into a dish (particularly if you’re short on time), cooked dried beans tend to have a better texture and creamier taste than their tinned counterparts. But, they can be a hassle to get right. And - take it from us - there’s nothing worse than digging into a delicious plate of beans to discover that they’re rock hard.
So, we’ve put together this handy guide to ensure that you always get the best out of your (dried) beans. So, grab that bag of pulses gathering dust at the back of your store cupboard. A world of deliciousness awaits…
Soak your way to success
It may be disheartening to read that you can’t just use dried beans straight from the bag, but a little preparation can yield scrumptious results.
Before you start anything, check the date on your beans. While dried beans can last up to two years, the fresher they are, the better they'll taste. Then, simply soak your beans in salted water overnight before you use them. The salt will help the beans to cook faster, as it will break down their skins. If you’ve forgotten this step, don’t panic! A quick soak can be just as effective. Just put the beans in a lidded saucepan with enough water to cover them. Bring them to the boil, then cover them and let them sit in the warm water for 30 minutes. When you need to use them, drain, rinse and you’re ready to go.
Turn up the heat
When you’re ready to use your beans, transfer them to a saucepan, cover then with water and bring them to a gentle simmer. Cooked beans are always delicious, so they’ll be great if you just want to simmer them in salted water. However, for an even tastier dish, why not try adding some aromatics? The addition of bay leaves, black peppercorns, chicken stock and even a dried chilli can elevate them into so much more than just another bowl of beans.
The taste test
So now you’ve cooked your beans, how do you know they’re done? Simply scoop out a few of them and allow them to cool. The skins should be wrinkled and the insides should be soft, but not mushy. While they’re now ready to use, don’t throw out the liquid they’ve been cooked in - you can use it as a rich vegetarian and vegan-friendly stock. If you don’t want to use it right away, simply freeze it in an ice cube tray. You can pop these into a soup or stew the way you would use chicken or vegetable stock.
Time to get cooking
Now you’ve got your beans, it’s time to get cooking! If you’ve just cooked up a pan of butter beans or cannellini beans, try using them in our tasty Butternut Squash, Chorizo and Butterbean Casserole. Or if you’re looking for a dish which is packed full of flavour (and chickpeas), we’d recommend our melt-in-the-mouth Lamb Tagine.
What’s your favourite dish to make with pulses? Share your recipes, tips and tricks in our Facebook community or tag @CirculonUK on Instagram.