Alright, let’s talk healthy! How to eat more legumes?
A great source of protein and high in micronutrients including iron and zinc, legumes are also remarkably versatile. Pureed black beans with Mexican spices are great for a healthy snack. Roasted garbanzo (chickpeas) work well instead of popcorn on movie night. Puy (French) lentils are great on salads (see Lentil Salad with Fresh Herbs and Basil Vinaigrette), and red lentils are my go-to for soups – see Curried Squash Soup Recipe, Vegetarian Greek Lentil Soup with Lemon and Feta and Easy Curry Lentil Soup with Kale.
For most people, this recipe is a walk in the park. I thought I would include it for first-time legume go-ers who may be daunted by the various different colours and shapes that make up the legume kingdom. Legumes can be purchased individually in the ethnic section of your grocery store, or come re-mixed. I found an “18 bean mix” which has everything from red lentils to split peas to kidney beans which I used for this recipe, but feel free to use whatever legume you can get your hands on.
“Legumes are not only great for your wallet and your waistline, they are also a super sustainable food. These nitrogen fixers help to decrease our reliance on conventional fertilizers through crop rotation by replenishing our depleted soils with nitrogen.”
If you are already familiar with this type of soup there are a few variations that I like to play with. Try it with less stock and a can of BPA free organic crushed tomatoes and some Italian herbs for something different. My friend Steph in Australia transformed it into an Asian style soup with mushrooms and zucchini added at the end, and miso in place of stock. The recipe below is a “winter” version – try adding any other winter vegetables that take your fancy.
How To Prepare Legumes
- First find the legumes. Usually in the bulk bins or the Ethnic food section of your grocery store on the bottom shelf,
- Rinse the legumes and pick out any funky looking ones or pebbles,
- For the larger legumes including kidney beans, black beans and chickpeas soak them overnight in triple the amount of water. This makes them quicker to cook. It also removes some of the phytates which can impact on the absorption of some minerals,
- Smaller legumes including lentils, as well as split peas do not need to be soaked. Some may prefer to to reduce some of the phytates and speed up the cooking process,
- Drain the water the legumes have been soaked in,
- Cook the legumes according to the recipe directions. Always ensure you completely cook your legumes, they should be soft and tender and not hard otherwise they will be difficult to digest,
- For most legumes it is best to add salt after they are cooked and not during the cooking process. This ensures they don’t develop a tough skin.
Legumes in no way should be scary and you don’t need to be organized to enjoy their wide nutrient profile. If you have a basic legume recipe and you haven’t pre-soaked your beans them don’t worry – canned beans can work as well. Just make sure you drain out the liquid and rinse them well. Smaller legumes such as lentils and split peas do not need to be soaked and most can be cooked in as little as 30 minutes. You can try this recipe with a mixture of red lentils, green lentils, barley and split peas and omit the larger kidney beans and black beans for a quick soup with no pre-soaking required.
Winter Warming Mixed Bean Soup
This is a simple winter mixed bean soup that uses dried legumes and pulses for a hearty mix of low glycemic index carbohydrates and plant-based protein. Option to use homemade stock or miso as the base.
- 1 cup bean mix* (lentils, green and yellow split peas and barley, large legumes)
- 6 cups vegetable stock**
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 2 carrots diced
- 2 parsnips diced
- 1 large potato peeled and diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley to serve
Assess of your legume mix needs to be pre-soaked and follow instructions provided above.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add onions and fry for about 5-7 minutes on a medium-high heat, until translucent.
Add the carrots and parsnips and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Next add the stock and bring to a boil. Now add the soaked and drained legumes as well as the chopped potato and bay leaf.
Turn down the heat to medium and simmer with the lid half off for about 40 to 50 minutes, stirring regularly.
Taste to ensure all legumes are cooked through. Season. I think the white pepper makes this dish but that might be a personal preference.
Garnish with chopped parsley to serve. Freeze any leftovers for an easy go-to meal.