Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter beans

Easter is normally associated with indulging in chocolate and hot cross buns, this year I went against the norm and switched my focus to beans! Over the long weekend I turned into a bean prepping machine in an attempt to diminish my reliance on tinned beans. Last year I was in a wonderful habit of planning out my meals for the week which meant that I would be organised enough to prepare beans from scratch more often than not. I still plan meals to a certain extent although I don't have a hard and fast rule about what we are going to eat on a given night. This provides more flexibility to cook what I feel like on the day but tinned beans have been the only viable option when I decide halfway through the day that beans will be on the menu that night.

Preparing beans from scratch has always given me a lot more satisfaction than simply opening a tin and rising off the brine. The process never fails to fascinate me, particularly observing the vast amount of water the little dried beans manage to absorb after the initial soaking period. Dried beans have several benefits over tinned ones as they are a lot more economical, use less packaging and there is no concern about controversial toxins like BPA in tin linings leeching into your food.

I've read about freezing batches of cooked beans before and with some spare room in my freezer it was the perfect time to make it happen. My plan was to cook up five batches of beans; kidney, pinto, black, cannellini and chickpeas. I ended up cooking an extra batch of kidney beans because we ate most of them straight away and I also prepped a batch of black-eyed beans when I found some hiding in the pantry.

Preparing a batch of beans takes a bit of time from start to end although very little of it requires any interaction. After rinsing the beans, leave them to soak in a bowl filled with plenty of water overnight or at least 8 hours. Rinse the beans in a colander with fresh cold water, place them in a pot and cover them up with about 5cm of cold water. Bring them to the boil and after a couple of minutes scoop off as much of the white foamy stuff as possible with a spoon. Turn the heat back to low, pop the lid on and let them simmer away. The time they take to become tender varies between the type of beans as well as their age. I usually start testing after they have been simmering for about an hour by removing one that looks firmer than the others, allowing it to cool slightly and then biting it in half. If the bean isn't totally soft and tender, I continue the cooking process and retest in another 10-15 minutes.

Many beans were consumed over the course of the long weekend too. We enjoyed kidney beans in chilli non carne, curried tofu scramble and a Thai red lentil chilli stew from PPK (this was the recipe that taught me a lesson about US chilli powder last year but this time around I didn't find the stew spicy enough). I also cooked up a saucier version of cheater baked beans from Veganomicon, a black-eyed bean hummus adapted from Appetite for Reduction and still wound up with the equivalent of more than 20 tins of a variety of beans in the freezer.

Easter wasn't totally about healthy eating as I did enjoy revisiting Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe's hot cross buns recipe which only needs a couple of simple ingredient substitutions to make them vegan. Even though the crosses didn't work out as well as the batch I made last year, I was thrilled with how delicious they tasted.

Black-eyed bean hummus (Adapted from Appetite for Reduction)

1 x 400g tin black eyed beans
2 tablespoons tahini
juice of half a lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne pepper
chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Place all ingredients (except the parsley) in a food processor bowl and pulse until combined, scraping the ingredients down the sides a few times. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve garnished with parsley.


  1. This is such a helpful post Mel - and might just inspire me to get myself organised in a bean sense! Growing up, my Mum almost always used the 'real' variety of beans (except for baked beans) but I have an unfortunate tendency to buy dried versions and then leave them in the pantry pretty much forever.

    The hot cross buns look great too :)

    1. Thanks Kari, I hope you get inspired to cook up some of your dried beans! Something I didn't mention in my post was the massive stockpile of beans I had in the pantry prior to Easter which had been sitting there for ages looking neglected and taking up space.

  2. I tend not to buy many dried beans (other than lentils) for exactly the same reason as kari - they just sit and sit and sit and feel neglected. I would like to use more dried beans and less tinned but just don't feel I can get much more organised with them right now but when I can I am sure I will be back here!

    Love the hot cross buns - I made mine vegan this year too and they were great - my crosses also didn't work as well this year - maybe it just wasn't the year for it!

    1. Dried lentils are so much easier to prepare than beans so I understand you not wanting to buy many.

      I loved both making and eating the hot cross buns again, I think it will definitely be an Easter ritual for me now. I was a bit slapdash with the crosses this time in comparison to last year.

  3. I didn't eat a single speck of chocolate over the easter weekend, and though I did indulge in other sweets, I am far more tempted by your savoury bean dishes. Rice and beans is on our menu tonight, to use up the last of the tinned beans!

    1. Well done on the chocolate front! I rarely eat chocolate and am always more tempted by savoury dishes. There are only a few sweet things that I really enjoy eating, hot cross buns are one of them!