Monday, 7 December 2015

Pulse Power (Part Two)

In Part One I covered the cheapest and most convenient pules; in Part Two I want to go over how to use pulses in cooking which will still be appreciated by the family.

I mentioned wooly red-lentil-bolognese in the last post.  Just pouring red lentils into a usual recipe will cause a wooly texture which although edible, and perhaps enjoyed by some, might not go down well with the family.  It is good to know which pulse will go nicely in a dish to help your purse, health and the planet.

Here are my favourite ways to mix them up:

Sausages, Ham and Bacon

Sausage Casseroles
Green lentils go beautifully in a sausage casserole. Slice the sausages, or make balls out of sausagemeat (we use this Lincolnshire mix with garlic and black pepper added - it is £1.00 and makes enough for a casserole.) Use your usual casserole recipe of brown gravy and vegetables with green lentils added (my Heritage Sausage Casserole recipe is here.)  It is a classic combination of flavour and texture; Nigella herself has published a traditional Italian recipe using the two ingredients together.

Ham or Bacon Casseroles
Although green lentils are great here, as in the sausage casseroles above, green split peas work nicely too.  Add salt before cooking to retain bite and only cook for around the 50 minutes (check packet for specific cooking times) to avoid it turning to mush. Split green peas and ham or bacon are a traditional combo.  Pass 'em off as simply "peas" or "mushy peas" if you have to.

Yellow split peas work beautifully with ham, and are another traditional combination.  To make ham go further for sandwiches, purchase stuff you can slice into little cubes or cubes of bacon; cook if necessary and then mix them into pease pudding for a ham and pease pudding spread.


Again, green lentils win here.  Although red lentils will disappear into the cooked mince, they create that wooly texture which albeit nice in a lentil soup, does not always seem right in a bolognese or chilli.  Green lentils will keep slight bite yet somehow still amalgamate pleasantly with the mince.

Use green lentils with the mince as above for Bolognese, and upping the kidney bean quantity certainly helps.

Chicken and Turkey

Chicken Casserole
We like to use white beans with our favourite chicken pieces in a casserole.  My grandmother always added butter beans to her chicken casserole, in equal quantity to the "real 'once-clucked' meat", and my meat-and-potatoes grandfather never even thought to utter anything but positive comments about it.  In fact, they ate it every Tuesday at 5 o' clock with very buttery mashed potatoes.

Pasta Dishes
As in the casserole above, we find that butter beans work very nicely to supplement chicken pieces in a pasta dish too.

Buy stuff that you can dice and so mix with stuffing for Chicken & Stuffing Sandwich Spread.  To boost the protein content, puree cooked or canned white beans to mix with the stuffing - this will make it creamy and more filling, then mix in the chopped chicken or turkey.

Spiced Dishes
Chick peas work beautifully in all curries to supplement chicken, but yellow split peas work nicely too as long as you add salt before cooking and do not overcook so that they retain some bite, as in my Rhubarb and Yellow Split Pea Curry.


Casseroles and Pasta
Again butter beans or other white beans work beautifully with fish - see Chicken and Turkey above.  With pinker fish, mottled beans would be very pretty with their speckles - lovely in a salad with our favourite tuna.

Puree white beans and blend with the mayonnaise for mixing with the fish.  Use as a sandwich spread.


I am going to break with my own rules here, because I find the most lovely supplement for beef in a casserole is a cereal rather than a pulse: barley. You must add salt before cooking and cook only as long as the packet instructs so it retains bite, but it melds so beautifully with tender beefy chunks.

Otherwise, small white beans or black turtle beans work best with beef.

Although mushrooms do not have as much protein as pulses, they will work well in the stew alongside pulses or barley to lend an umami boost, and I was prompted to let you know by this recipe (though, judging by the reviews and bearing in mind my above tip on cooking barley, I would give this a go with at least half the cooking time.)

Spiced Dishes
Again, I find small white beans work best with beef.  If the dish is quite oily then I have found red lentils work well.

Other One-Pot Dishes
Black beans work beautifully with beefy chunks in all sorts of dishes.  In fact, they also work nicely in a stir fry, even though I mean black turtle beans rather than the fermented black soy beans usually used in Chinese dishes.

Lamb or other oily/greasy dishes

This is where red lentils come in beautifully. The dryness of them all broken down is a lovely way to counter the fattiness of lamb or oily dishes (although I use this in my shepherd's pie, I always include plenty of fat along with rosemary and mint to create something that is reminiscent of the version I had in childhood, thankfully minus the stringy chewy lumps of gristle!)

Do you have a successful way to use pulses in your meals?  

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