Following on from the earlier post about lentils Patsy Hollingum turns her attention to beans.
I am a fan of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme and earlier in 2022 the topic was beans, a subject to which the team devoted two episodes:
Listening to these programmes sent me scurrying to my store cupboard to check which dried beans it contained. Clearly, not enough, for my next shopping trip took me to what someone dear to me has described as “a wholefood heaven”. There I found a wide array of dried pulses amongst which, to my great delight, were dried butter beans. Soaked and home-cooked butter beans bear no resemblance to the tinned variety – I urge you to try them out.
Of course, the great advantage of buying tinned beans in water is the time saving aspect. It’s possible to make a late decision about cooking chilli when there are tinned kidney beans on the pantry shelf - from start to finish, the meal could be on the table within three quarters of an hour. Against this, cooking dried kidney beans requires advance planning – soaking time of around eight hours, followed by an hour and a half’s cooking time, whilst preparing the chilli before adding the beans.
It’s hard to calculate whether it’s better for one’s finances to buy a bag of dried beans and cook them, using fuel which we are all aware is very expensive. Set against this, is it better for the environment to not transport heavy loads of water packed in tins? And, there’s the question of the manufacture of the tin, plus the post-use recycling.
Bear in mind that a 500g bag of dried beans yields far more beans, post-cooking, than a 454g tin of beans, post draining. Cooking times for dried pulses are often less than stated in instructions, apart from in the case of kidney beans, which must be boiled rapidly for 10 minutes, and then simmered for at least 90 prior to use. There are, however, more ways than one to skin a cat, and you can always vary the type of bean you use in your Mexican dish of choice.
Go on, give it a whirl - try preparing dried beans or chickpeas, the finished article will be so different to the tinned one, the texture and flavour setting them head and shoulders above the canned variety.