Beans and pulses are rich in protein and fibre and low in fat
There are a variety of beans (and pulses) widely available in health food shops and supermarkets; too numerous to name here!
Some of the most common used in cooking include:
- Haricot beans - small, oval, plump and creamy-white beans with a mild flavour and smooth, buttery texture, they are the classic ingredient in baked beans. Haricot beans are widely used in the cooking of countries such as France, Spain, Portugal and South America.
- Borlotti beans are very popular in Italian and Portuguese cuisine - a variety of kidney bean; this is a large plump bean that is pinkish-brown in colour with reddish-brown streaks. Borlotti beans have a sweetish flavour with a smooth creamy texture.
- Cannellini beans are a popular variety in Central and Southern Italy - a small, white, kidney-shaped bean used in salads and casseroles. When cooked, they have a fluffy texture and a slightly nutty, mild flavour.
- Chickpeas - are a small legume, popular in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cookery. Once cooked chickpeas have a firm texture and mild, creamy flavour.
- Beans and pulses are rich in protein and fibre and are low in fat. They are the perfect store cupboard staple, available dried or tinned. Dried beans have a long shelf life and are inexpensive but need to be soaked and cooked before use. Canned beans do cost more but are convenient as they only need to be drained and rinsed before use.
This recipe is a firm favourite of mine and offers lots of scope for experimenting (see recipe variations below).
Sausage & borlotti bean casserole
6 good quality sausages (Toulouse or Cumberland are good)
Oil for cooking
6 slices of streaky bacon, diced
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and roughly diced
200ml of chicken stock, if you don’t have fresh try a good quality concentrate
200ml of white wine
2 x 400g tins of borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
A small bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
* In a large casserole, brown the sausages in a little oil for ten minutes over a medium heat. Remove the sausages from the heat and cut into large chunks. Cook the bacon in the same pan then add the garlic and cook until soft.
* Add back the sausages and the apple, cook for a further minute then add the wine and cook for three or four minutes. Add the stock and the borlotti beans and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes until the sausages are cooked through. Season and add the parsley.
* This casserole is delicious with creamy mashed potato or some crusty bread.
As with most of my recipes there is plenty of opportunity to experiment. I tend to use up any vegetables I have, try leeks, potato, red onion, parsnips or carrots. I like using the ‘woody’ herbs - thyme, bay leaves or sage are excellent. Try adding cider instead of wine or spice things up with some chilli flakes or chorizo.