When I was growing up, my family never ate many dried beans, they just weren't something that was used much in NZ cuisine. If I did eat beans, it was always from a can (and most likely baked beans). And until recently I was still using beans from a can, but it can be difficult to get organic beans, and to find cans not lined with BPA. Then I had an opportunity to buy some organic dry goods in bulk, so I bought 5kg of kidney beans, 5kg of adzuki beans and 5kg of chickpea (garbanzo beans). I know, that is a lot of beans. And then I didn't really know what to do with them! Not just what dishes to put them in, but how to prepare them, I just didn't know what method to use. So I decided it was time to learn how to use all these beans that I bought, here's what I found out.
I started with an excellent ebook called The Everything Beans Book, from Katie at Kitchen Stewardship, which has lots of bean recipes, but more importantly, an explanation of how to prepare the beans. I had previously tried to cook adzuki beans and ended up with a mess, as they seemed to just dissolve in the water, and from that experience I had been put off cooking the beans and I had a vague idea that I might sprout them instead. I'm so glad I did some research first because it is definitely not safe to sprout kidney beans, due to a nasty chemical that they contain when raw called a lectin, which is extremely irritating to the intestines. Fortunately lectin is destroyed by heating to boiling temperature, so cooked or canned beans are safe to eat.
Interestingly, all legumes and grains contain some amount of lectin, but kidney beans are particularly bad, so they must not be eaten raw. I tried to find out more about other sprouted legumes, as I do enjoy my raw sprouted chickpea hummus, but I couldn't find anything for sure, although eating large amounts of raw sprouts is not recommended by Nourishing Traditions (everything in moderation), but sprouting and then cooking the sprouted beans is still beneficial (various nutrients are released, and phytates are reduced) and they don't need to be cooked as long if they are pre-sprouted.
How to prepare kidney beans
As kidney beans have a high lectin content, to be on the safe side, its best to make sure that they are cooked properly. I prepared kidney beans by soaking overnight in a large pot of water. In the morning, I discarded the soaking water and then added fresh water and boiled the beans for 10 minutes (lectin should be destroyed by the boiling, the soaking is for the phytates). Then I cooked the beans in the slow cooker all day. They came out perfect, not mushy at all. I could have skipped the boiling step, but there is some concern that the slow cooker doesn't get to a high enough temperature. I checked mine with a thermometer and it was up to 96degC, which is that close to boiling, you'd think it would still work, but as I'd just read about the nasty effects of lectin, I preferred to boil the beans just to be sure (and I couldn't find any references with the exact temperature at which the lectin is destroyed). I also made quite a large batch of beans, so I could put some in the freezer for later, so it really wasn't too much trouble to add that step. Now I can add beans to the long list of things I like to make in my slow cooker, and keep handy in the freezer!
How to prepare adzuki beans
As I said above, I have previously tried to prepare adzuki beans using the same method as the kidney beans and all I ended up with was MUSHY beans, they possibly don't need to be cooked for so long. This time I decided to try sprouting the beans first and then steaming them quickly. They take a few days to sprout and this should reduce the lectin content, so they could be eaten raw at this stage (depending on the amount of other raw legumes you've eaten recently). This also prepares the sprouts for cooking, so instead of the soaking and long cooking process, the sprouted beans can be steamed for about 10 minutes to remove all lectin, and then used as normal.
What to do with the beans
Most people use beans as a cheap form of protein to reduce the amount they have to spend on meat. We have 300 kg of beef in the freezer, so it doesn't really need extending! For me the attraction of beans is that they can be stored for long periods without refrigeration. I also planned to make more baked beans for breakfast, but then the chickens started laying through winter, so I didn't need them. For me, cooking beans was something I wanted to know how to do "just in case" we need to use them, more than thinking that we need to rely on them to provide us with protein at this present time. I think I will add them to meals occasionally, for example, any Aus-Mexican food I make.
|nachos with kidney and adzuki beans|