Pulses: What they are and why you need them in your life
International Year of Pulses 2016
‘Pulses’ is a term you often hear, yet if somebody were to ask you for the exact definition, you’d quickly realise that you’re not entirely sure.
Well, no need to open up a new tab and Google it…we’ve got some basics for what you need to know about pulses right here.
What are pulses ?
Pulses are dried beans, peas and lentils (not fresh one such as petit pois). Examples of pulses include: dried chickpeas, red split lentils, mung beans, yellow split peas, green split peas, green lentils, brown lentils, and dried kidney beans.
How do you cook pulses?
Most pulses benefit from being soaked overnight before cooking them, as they absorb some of the water, which softens them in preparation for being cooked. With the exception of red split lentils (which are very small), I would recommend overnight soaking all of the pulses listed above. Pulses such as mung beans and kidney beans, must be properly cooked as they contain a chemical that can make you feel unwell. When you cook kidney beans and mung beans, cook them till they are soft and can be easily mashed with a fork.
There is a belief that sprouting pulses before cooking them can make them more nutrient dense. If you want to try this, it’s really easy to do. I personally don’t really tend to sprout pulses before I eat them. However, there is one bean that I do sprout, and that’s mung beans. They are so crunchy and delicious when sprouted. If you want to try this, it’s really easy.
Put the desired quantity of mung beans into a tupperware box. Cover the beans with water, make sure the water comes up about 2cms above the beans. Soak them overnight. In the morning, drain the water off, but leave the beans in the tupperware box. Do not wipe any excess water or moisture out of the drained box, as this residual moisture will help the beans to sprout. Put the lid back on the box and leave it in a part of your kitchen that does not receive direct sunlight. After a couple of days, you will see the beans will start to sprout. I like to allow the mung beans to sprout for 3 days, then I steam them until they’re cooked through and add them to salads for extra bite!
Popular food products that contain pulses or products made from pulses
Pulses are actually used daily in Punjabi (North Indian cookery) and feature heavily in Middle Eastern and North African food.
Onion bhajis (make with gram flour/chickpea flour)
Poppadums (made with chickpea flour and urid flour)
Dhal (Dhal is the Hindi and Punjabi word for ‘pulse’)
Hummus (made from chickpeas)
Falafel (again, made from chickpeas)
Why should I eat pulses
There are several reasons as to why pulses are a worthwhile addition to your diet…
– They are a plant-based source of protein
– They are economical
– They are kind to the planet (to grow 450g of pulses requires 43 gallons of water, whereas it requires 800-1000 gallons of water to raise the equivalent weigh of meat).
– When eaten with rice or wholemeal flatbread, they contain a complete set of amino acids (your body uses amino acids to make cells in your body. We need to get some amino acids from our diet as our body cannot make all the different types of amino acids on it’s own)
– Pulses are wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free,
How can I introduce pulses into my diet/to my family’s diet
If you are a meat lover, or members of your family love meat, the idea of introducing pulses can seem ridiculous. Now, as somebody who lives with two meat lovers, I can completely sympathise. However, there are some really simple things you can do to introduce pulses and gradually lower the quantity of meat used in your cooking.
Here are some of the things I do to increase my intake of pulses and reduce meat intake (and these methods have been approved by the said meat lovers!):
– Adding green lentils to Bolognese meat: In our household we would normally use 2 packs of mince (500g per pack) to make spaghetti bolognese. Simply replace one of the packs of mince with 1 1/2 cups of cooked green lentils.
– Adding chickpeas to lamb mince: When making stuffed peppers, we used a similar method to reduce the quantity of lamb used and increase our plant-based protein intake. Substitute 1 pack of lamb mince for 1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas.
– Adding red split lentils to sausage pie/casserole: We make a delicious sausage and lentil version of shepherd’s pie. The base of the dish features red split lentils, along with the pieces of sausage, and it is topped with a sweet potato mash.
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