Jenny Chandler will be in the Demo Kitchen each Thursday of November, celebrating the 2016 UN Food and Agricultural Organisation International Year of Pulse. She gives us a preview of what she has up her culinary sleeve
Pulses have been a staple crop for millennia all over the globe. These miraculous little seeds are among the most sustainable crops on earth: they improve soil fertility, require relatively small amounts of water to grow and can be cultivated on marginal lands in some of the world’s harshest climates. Pulses are cheap, have a long shelf life and are an incredibly healthy source of protein and nutrients. And yet we eat relatively small quantities of dried peas, lentils, chickpeas and beans in this country.
This November, I will be cooking some of the great pulse dishes from around the globe, both traditional and cutting-edge. A huge diversity of incredibly tasty recipes will go to show that pulses are anything but the tasteless hippy-stodge that many doubters have in mind. Keen cooks often come a little unstuck when preparing pulses, so I’ll be offering tips and techniques along the way.
We kick off on in the Americas, home to all the phaseolus beans (such as haricots, pintos, black beans and butterbeans). Everyone needs a really good chilli con carne in their repertoire with a splash of beer or bourbon and healthy dose of heat. Mexican refried beans are one of those miraculous moments when a dish just seems better than the sum of its parts; heaven with a fried egg in my favourite brunch dish of huevos rancheros. We’ll finish up with a bit Peruvian flavour with a zippy and super-healthy salad of butter beans, avocado and quinoa.
Tips & techniques: soaking, cooking and testing for the perfect texture.
Africa is the next destination on our pulse tour. I’ll be cooking with fava beans, firm favourites in Egypt and Sudan, where fuls medames, one of the world’s most ancient dishes, is still widely eaten for breakfast. Harira, a spiced lentil stew enriched with a small cut of lamb, is a Ramadan staple in Morocco; it’s a breakfast designed to keep you on your feet from dawn until dusk and just shows how sustaining these little seeds can be. I’ll be cooking my own version of a peanut soup, a west African classic with a spectacular nutritional value.
Tips & techniques: batch cooking and thinking ahead.
We will head to Asia, home to some of the world’s most iconic pulse dishes. Dal in all its countless variations is eaten by millions on a daily basis and is a fabulously economical and satisfying dish. A hot, spicy tempering gives a comforting dal its magic, ginger and lime bring Afghan mung bean stew its zing and a bowl of chickpea chana chaat comes alive with sour mango amchur and cumin. Spicing is key, transforming frugal dishes into extraordinarily exciting taste experiences.
Tips & techniques: making the most of your pulses as a vegetarian, food combining to make the most of the nutritional benefits.
We finish up by coming home to Europe, throwing aside the humble reputation of pulses and looking at them as players in the indulgent kitchen. We’ll be making the most of the Market’s wild mushrooms with a creamy French lentil soup. We’ll head to Spain for a plate of garbanzos lechosos (the king of chickpeas) with prawns and aioli, and finish up in Greece with split pea fava served with griddled squid and capers.
Tips & techniques: upping the pulse with dining ideas, throwing aside the humble image.
I’d love to see you on our global tour, making the most of the Market’s fabulous larder and learning all about these magical seeds.
Join Jenny for tips, tastings and recipes every Thursday in November in the Market Hall, 12:30-2pm