To soak or not to soak? How to cook dried lentils, beans and peas

Sarah Britton's roasted cauliflower with Lebanese lentils and kaniwa (or quinoa) - recipe below.
Sarah Britton's roasted cauliflower with Lebanese lentils and kaniwa (or quinoa) - recipe below. Photo: Supplied: Macmillan

How to cook dried legumes

Dried beans, peas, and lentils make up a large part of the plant-based diet. They are full of satiating fiber, good-quality protein, and health-promoting phytochemicals. Most people shy away from cooking their own because opening a can seems so much easier, but once you get into the habit, you'll see that it takes little time and the benefits are many.

<p></p>

 Photo: Macmillan

1. Select your legume: Choose organic whenever possible, and look for beans or peas that are relatively uniform in size and colour. Do a quick sort and discard any legumes that are cracked or broken, and any stones or debris.

2. Give the legumes a good rinse in a colander under cold running water.

3. Pour the legumes into a pot and cover them with a few centimetres of recently boiled water (warm water will also help break down indigestible starches). Add a couple of tablespoons of acid, such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons for each 1 cup legumes). Soak for 8 to 12 hours. Drain, rinse again, and return to the (clean) pot.

Fully-loaded breakfast bars.
Fully-loaded breakfast bars. Photo: Supplied: Macmillan

4. Cover the legumes with plenty of fresh water; it should reach at least 5 centimetres above the legumes themselves. Add a piece of kombu, 8 to 10 centimetres long, to the pot. (Kombu, an edible seaweed, has the unique ability to neutralize gas-producing compounds in beans.) Cover, bring to a boil, and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender—soft but not mushy. Remove from the heat and add salt: at least 1 tablespoon for each cup of beans, or more to your taste. (Adding salt before this point will prevent the beans from cooking.) Keep the beans covered and let them soak in the salty water for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. Drain, and rinse to remove any excess salt and loose skins. Although most recipes will tell you not to soak lentils and split peas, I always recommend doing so. It will greatly aid digestion and drastically reduce the cooking time. The chart below indicates the different soaking times.

Roasted cauliflower with Lebanese lentils and quinoa (or kaniwa) 

Lebanese flavours are some of my favourites. Cumin, fennel, cinnamon, lemon, garlic— could it get any better? Folded through some tender kaniwa, lentils, and caramelised onions, apparently it can. I make this dish when I have leftover grains and legumes in the fridge, as it comes together quickly when these have been precooked. Although I've paired the kaniwa and lentils with golden roasted cauliflower, any vegetables would be delicious on the side, such as carrots, pumpkin, or beetroot. Vegan, GF

1 head yellow cauliflower (white cauliflower is also fine)
Knob of ghee or coconut oil, melted
Flaky sea salt
125g kaniwa or quinoa
fine sea salt
200g green lentils
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3 small onions (about 350g), sliced
2 tablespoons cold-pressed olive oil
grated zest of 1 organic orange
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon raw honey
pink peppercorns, for garnish

Advertisement

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to  200°C. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

2. Cut the cauliflower head into slices. Toss them with a little ghee and salt, and then arrange them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until the slices are browning on the edges.

3. Meanwhile, rinse and drain the kaniwa (or quinoa). Put it in a small saucepan, add just under 1 cup / 225ml of water and fine sea salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

4. Rinse and drain the lentils. Put them in another small saucepan, add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. About 5 minutes before the lentils are finished cooking, add a few pinches of flaky sea salt.

5. Heat a knob of ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, and black pepper. Cook until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring often, until lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add the cooked kaniwa and lentils, stir to combine, and reheat if necessary. Remove the cinnamon stick.

6. Whisk the olive oil, orange zest and juice, lemon juice, mint, parsley, fine sea salt, and honey together in a small bowl. Pour this over the lentils and kaniwa.

7. To serve, divide the kaniwa-lentil mixture, as well as the cauliflower slices, among four plates. Sprinkle with chopped mint and pink peppercorns. Serve warm.

Serves 4

Fully loaded breakfast bars (vegan, gluten-free*)

There are plenty of pre-made convenience breakfast bars, cookies, and pastries on grocery store shelves these days, but if we look past the highfalutin' health claims and go straight to the ingredient list, are they really doing us any favors? It's time to ditch the plastic packaging and make your own handy breakfast-to-go. These insanely delicious bars are loaded with whole-food fiber, protein, healthy fats, real fruit, and even beans. Yes, it's true, and they still taste great! Perfect for kids, and for the kid in us all, so make a batch or a double batch, store them in the freezer, and have something to look forward to every single morning.

1 tablespoon chia seeds
3 1⁄4 cups (325g) gluten-free rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1⁄2 cups (250g) cooked white beans, such as haricot, white kidney
1⁄4 cup / 60ml coconut oil, melted
1⁄4 cup / 60ml pure maple syrup or raw honey
Grated zest of 1 organic orange
1⁄4 cup / 60g unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄3 cup / 70g chopped unsulfured dried apricots
1⁄4 cup / 30g raisins
1⁄4 cup / 35g pumpkin seeds
2 cups / 60g organic, non-GMO cornflakes (optional)

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and set it aside.

2. Combine the chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water in a small bowl, and set aside for 15 minutes to gel.

3. Pulse 1 /4 cups (125g) of the oats in a food processor until they resemble a very rough flour. Transfer the flour to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the remaining 2 cups (200g) oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

4 . Pulse the beans with the coconut oil in the food processor until the mixture is creamy. Add the maple syrup, orange zest, chia gel, applesauce, and vanilla extract, and pulse until smooth.

5 . Pour the bean puree over the oats mixture and stir until everything starts to come together. Add the apricots, raisins, pumpkin seeds, and cornflakes and stir to combine.you may need to use your hands at this point.

6 . Shape the dough into 10 equal balls, and then flatten each one into a patty shape. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the bars are golden. Let cool completely before enjoying. The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes 10 large bars
* Recipe is gluten-free if you can source gluten-free oats

This is an extract from My New Roots, by Sarah Britton, published by Macmillan, April 2015, $44.99.