Bean salad conjures images of sad tins and limp mixed beans presented to vegetarians after a last minute panic before a dinner party. Yes, I was a vegetarian once! A long time ago. Beans that have lived too long in saccharine sweet syrupy and salty water. Beans that once had flavour but that is now mainly erased. Beans too soft to be interesting.
Yes. Beans? They can be so much better.
The thing with beans is once you try them cooked from dried or take the time to cook them yourself, you spot immediately that there is a world of difference. It is also an incredibly frugal way to cook. A 500g packet of dried beans can cost as little as £1 and it will feed you for a week. Of course you won’t want to eat beans for a whole week, they would quickly lose their lustre. They freeze so well though, and I freeze them in 250g portions, the approximate equivalent of a tin.
But they take so long! Nah. Soak them overnight even if strictly speaking you don’t need to, or are told you don’t. It takes no effort and it saves on cooking time and improves on texture. Importantly it makes them more digestible and massively reduces any gaseous effects. Most small beans will cook in half an hour. Larger, in 45 minutes. Easy.
Which beans? Any and all. The ever present chickpea, adopted by so many cultures. As happy in an Italian soup bowl and a Spanish stew as in a Middle Eastern hummus. Butter beans! Small plump luscious ones from Greece and once twice the size from Spain called Judion de la Granja. Spain in particular has an enormous love for beans and sells them from enormous sacks in markets. Yes, Italy does too, but in Italy the selection is more focussed. I find new beans in Spain all the time. Continue reading