Prioritising pulses

We have all seen a rise in food prices during our weekly shops. Higher food prices, rising energy bills and tax hikes are all clashing to create a frustrating sting on household budgets. A lot of us are being forced to re-think food choices, opting for cheaper alternatives or buying less. 

Canned foods have a bit of a bad reputation, most likely because it is assumed that foods that come out of a can are ultra-processed. Yes, of course, we should be mindful of high sugar and salt containing canned foods, but it is important to understand that not all canned foods are necessarily unhealthy. Canned pulses such as kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils can provide our diets with good sources of protein and fibre, are low in fat and are cheap to buy.  

The body of research on the health benefits of pulses continues to grow. Unfortunately, pulses score few popularity points among UK consumers, despite being widely consumed around the world. Earlier this year, World Cancer Research Fund revealed that dried pulses were one of the nation’s least favourite store cupboard ingredients. 

Pulses are versatile ingredients, and you’ll be surprised at just how quickly you can whip together a good, nutritious meal for all the family. In defence of pulses, we’ve pulled together our favourite pulse-based recipes to give you some inspiration for your next supermarket shop. 

Meal idea #1 Baked beans on toast

Yes, you can eat beans on toast any time of the day, and it’s not just a meal for students! With winter around the corner, beans on toast is a cheap and easy comfort meal. If possible, opt for low salt and low sugar canned beans when browsing the supermarket shelves. Why not try adding herbs and spices to your can of baked beans? Oregano, paprika, and garlic add more flavour without having to reach for the salt.  

Image: The minimalist baker

Meal idea #2 Carrot, chickpea and garlic soup

This quick and easy recipe (inspired by Jack Monroe) serves four and can be frozen once cooled. 

  • x3 carrots
  • x1 can chickpeas
  • x3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • x1 onion
  • ½ stock cube (800ml weak vegetable stock)
  • Seasoning – a pinch chilli flakes, ½ tsp cumin

Drain and thoroughly rinse chickpeas. Wash, peel and chop carrots. Peel and finely slice onion and garlic. Brown onion in a pan with olive oil. Add garlic. In a pan, add stock and bring to the boil, adding in all the ingredients. Reduce temperature and bring off the boil. After 20 mins, remove pan from cooker and allow to cool. Blend and serve. 

Meal idea #3 Baked potatoes with spicy bean topping

This is a quick lunch or main meal idea (inspired by WCRF) which requires few ingredients. This could be used as a speedy topping for oven or microwave baked potatoes. 

  • 1 x 210g can kidney beans in water, drained
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon mild paprika
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened low-fat plain yoghurt

Heat the beans and tomatoes in a saucepan over a medium heat for five minutes, then stir in the cumin and paprika. Add yoghurt to taste and to make a nice “creamy” sauce.

Meal idea #4 Fishy bean salad

This recipe uses not only tinned butter beans but tinned fish, providing a good protein-rich meal (inspired by WCRF). 

  • 1 x 120g tinned fish, eg. tuna in spring water
  • 100g cucumber, chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 x 400g can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • Small handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ lemon, juice only
  • Freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl mix together the tuna, cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions, beans and parsley. In a second bowl, whisk the olive oil, mustard and lemon juice and season with freshly ground black pepper and any other fresh herbs at hand. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.

Annie Anderson & Suzanne Zaremba

Images: Unsplash