Although they're humble ingredients, beans, chickpeas and lentils are extremely versatile. Soups, braises, salads, purees - they all work well with pulses. Pulses are 20 per cent to 25 per cent protein by weight, double the protein of wheat and three times that of rice. Dried pulses need to be soaked overnight to help them cook more evenly.
I use Ord River chickpeas from the Kimberley region of Western Australia; they are creamy with excellent flavour. The earthy taste of most pulses lends itself to big flavours, such as grilled beef, juicy pork sausages or roast game.
Baked beans are a good way to start the day if you need energy: crunchy toast, crushed avocado, warm baked beans and a crumble of feta cheese, that's it. Add a quick coffee and you're good to go.
The finishing of the beans below with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup is what makes them stand out from the rest.
CHICKPEA, CALAMARI AND CHORIZO SALAD
8 small calamari (about 40g each)
80ml olive oil
1 red eschallot, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground tumeric
2 lemons, juiced
100g chickpeas, soaked overnight
4 chorizo, thickly sliced into rounds
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
10 mint leaves, torn
25 ml cabernet vinegar
2 cups rocket leaves
Remove and discard the head and insides of calamari, including cartilage, then rinse well under cold running water. Use a sharp knife to open out body lengthways. Scrape out and discard membrane, then score flesh lightly in a cross-hatch pattern and cut into strips. Combine calamari, 50 millilitres of olive oil, eschallot, garlic, spices and three-quarters of the lemon juice in a bowl and marinate for 20 minutes. Place chickpeas in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender. Drain, place in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil, then taste for seasoning. Heat remaining olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add chorizo and cook, turning once, until crisp (2-3 minutes). Add to chickpeas and return pan to heat. Drain squid from marinade, add to pan and cook quickly until squid just turns opaque (1-2 minutes), then add to chorizo mixture. Add marinade to pan, cook briefly until eschallot is tender (1-2 minutes), season to taste, then pour over squid and chorizo mixture. Add parsley, mint and vinegar, toss to combine and serve immediately on a plate with rocket.
375g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 thick rashers streaky bacon, cut into 1cm strips
2 red capsicum, seeded, cut into 2cm squares
400g can tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
3 tbsp maple syrup*
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 160C. Rinse beans, then cover with cold water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, strain and rinse with cold water. Heat oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish and saute onion, garlic, carrot and bacon for 5 minutes. When onion softens and bacon sizzles, add capsicum. Puree tomatoes and juice in a food processor and add to casserole dish with beans and remaining ingredients, except syrup and vinegar. Mix well. Add cold water to cover beans by 4 centimetres. Put casserole dish, tightly sealed, in oven and bake for at least 4 hours. Stir well after 2 hours and check beans are still quite moist (add a little water if too dry and reduce oven temperature). After 4 hours, stir in syrup, vinegar, salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. The beans should be in a rich sauce. If too thick, add a little extra water; if too runny and the beans are tender, increase oven temperature and continue to cook.
*Or use treacle, golden syrup or honey.