This year I have started what I think will become an enduring love affair with dried peas and beans.  It’s rather surprised me; pulses don’t sound exciting, and I’m old enough to remember the rude comments they attracted in the 1970s and 80s when vegetarianism was for hippies.   

My first experience of dried peas was many years ago with pea and ham soup.  To be honest, that soup made me fart awfully and I blamed the peas, so I didn’t make it very often and gave up after a while.  Interestingly though, no one in our household has encountered any such problems this year.  My personal understanding is that it’s the combination with excess sugars that makes the awful difference, not the pulses per se.  So don’t be put off by worries about wind. 

I first set out to explore dried pulses for environmental reasons:

  • Legumes are increasingly being recognised as a useful cover crop to improve the chances of success in regenerative farming.   I want to encourage this in my own small way by expanding the market for their consumption. 

  • Hodmedods has a fabulous business ethos, which I want to support.   I am working my way through their range.  

  • Pulses are an excellent way of getting protein into vegan dishes – and I’m expanding my flexitarian repertoire.

  • I feel we need to decrease our consumption of input-dependent grains and do so by eating locally-grown alternatives.   

  • Dried pulses seem to me the most efficient form for transport and storage, rather than canned.

Our household operates a tough rating system for new food and each dish has to score highly on its first outing if it’s to be accepted into the repertoire.  So if we’re still eating them, you know it’s not because they are worthy.  These are the ingredients that have made the grade so far:

  • Black Carlin peas.  As a traditional British crop, these appeal to the historian in me.  They need a long soak and quite a lot of cooking, but they are worth it for their superior flavour over chickpeas.  We like them best in a cream-and-brown houmous, or in a mediterranean vegetable salad with a vinegar-based dressing.

  • Borlotti beans.  We grow our own and either freeze or dry them for use over winter.  Our preferred bean for chilli sin carne. 
  • Split fava beans.  I was first attracted by their short soak/cook time, but they are fast becoming our favourite all-rounder as well.  I’ve just started baking and seasoning them to make a tasty pre-dinner snack;  cheaper and healthier than roasted nuts.    

My top tip:  Soak and cook a big batch of your chosen pulse, then freeze in portions for later use.  It saves time, electricity and effort and means they are instantly available when you want to cook.

Next on my list is pea flour.  It’s a key ingredient in vegan ‘meatballs’, and I’m looking for an alternative to sausage for our pasta sauce. 

Text and Images (C) Claire @theslowfix A slow food devotee, Claire is constantly searching for new ways to enable us all to live sustainably.

The Slow Food blog welcomes contributions on the topics of Food, Farming and Agriculture. The contents may not entirely match the views of Slow Food, but reflect the journeys of the authors. To write for us please click here