Red kidney beans as you've never used them before

Magic bean chocolate cake.
Magic bean chocolate cake. Photo: Steve Shanahan

My memory of the 1970s is crammed with images of noisy shared houses furnished from Vinnies, with the compulsory turntable, massive speakers and walls lined with LPs in scavenged milk crates. Fashion crimes were abundant and often involved Indian toe thongs and wraparound maxi skirts. In the background of this joyous chaos was a large pot of red kidney beans and vegetables atop the faded green Early Kooka.

But if you would like to do something a little more exotic with that tin of kidney beans lurking in the back of the pantry, try these genius recipes.

With kidney beans high in iron, fibre and vitamins and claimed to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attack, I'm trying to increase our intake of these super legumes and cut back on meat.

Kidney bean curry.
Kidney bean curry. Photo: Steve Shanahan

The bean cake comes from a Thermomix recipe converted to a conventional method. You need a food processor. Or a blender and an electric mixer.

Although this dense, silky cake is far from conventional, it is equally at home as a kids' birthday cake or a dinner-party dessert. It's also low in sugar and gluten free. It's best served with creme fraiche.

Bean cake
420g can of kidney beans, drained
1 tbsp black coffee
1 tbsp vanilla paste
5 eggs, at room temperature
125g softened butter
160g sugar
70g Dutch cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder (can be substituted for other baking powder)
1/2 tsp baking soda
icing sugar and creme fraiche or yoghurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a food processor, puree the kidney beans, coffee, vanilla and one egg until smooth. Set aside.

Using the same bowl, combine the butter and sugar, processing until pale.


Add the remaining eggs to the butter and sugar one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the bean mixture, then the sifted cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda to the mixture, processing until mixed through and smooth.

Pour the batter into a 22-centimetre greased round cake tin or a silicone loaf tin. Bake for about 35minutes.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin before turning out. Dust with icing sugar and a dollop of creme fraiche or yoghurt, or topped with cream-cheese icing.

The comforting red-bean curry is a North Indian dish that is easy to make from basic ingredients from the cupboard. Unlike many curries, you can make this in less than an hour. Just make sure you have plenty of fresh ginger on hand. I spike the curry with extra chilli and serve it with Bombay potatoes as a side dish.

Red bean curry
Serves 4
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large green chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 fresh tomato, diced
240g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
850g canned red kidney beans, not drained
1/2 cup chopped parsley and coriander

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over a medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic, onion, green chilli and mustard seeds and sizzle for a minute.
Add the fresh and tinned tomatoes, salt and remaining spices and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the undrained kidney beans and a cup of water (if you would rather drain the kidney beans, add a little more water to compensate). Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve topped with a dollop of yoghurt and chopped herbs. Serve with bombay potatoes (below), rice and naan.

Bombay potatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
1/4 tsp brown mustard seeds
pinch of chilli powder
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
salt to taste
350g medium potatoes, boiled till soft, quartered and well drained

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, chilli powder, turmeric and salt, stirring for 30 seconds.

Add the potatoes and fry for about four minutes, until the potatoes are smothered in seeds and have crispy edges. Reduce the heat and cover the pan, cooking for a further five minutes. Serve with the curry.

>>Debbie Skelton is a Canberra food writer,