Thursday, 4 April 2013

How to cook and store dried beans

Today I'm going to show you how to cook and store dried beans. This method also works for dried chickpeas.

I use quite a lot of beans and chickpeas in our weekly menu because they are cheap, nutritious and tasty! They are really easy to make aswell. I think a lot of people avoid using them, or buy tinned, because they think cooking from dry is a lot of effort, but really it's not at all.

First things first, you need to sort through your dried beans and take out any that look discoloured or odd shaped. Rinse them well in cold water then put them into a large pan. Fill the pan with fresh cold water, making sure the water covers the beans by 3-4". This allows room for the beans to swell.

Leave the beans overnight to soak. I sometimes leave mine for 24 hours as this helps their digestibility. The water will darken quite a lot if using dark beans and the beans should swell to about double the size they were dried. The picture above shows the before and after soaking for black eyed and black turtle beans. When the beans have finished soaking, drain them and rinse them well with cold water. Add back to the pan with some fresh cold water, a bouquet garni and two bay leaves. I usually add a good amount of freshly cracked black pepper and a good pinch of mixed herbs aswell.

Bring to the boil and cook on a rolling boil for 10 minutes, removing any foam that gathers on the top. After the 10 minutes is up, reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to cook for 40 minutes, or until the beans are soft.

Drain them and leave to cool. I lay mine in a large oven tray and just leave them out on the side for about an hour until they have cooled. You are then ready to transfer them for storage. I usually freeze mine in little plastic freezer bags as they can be reheated once, straight from frozen.

As far as portion sizes go, I usually allow about half a cup cooked beans per child and one cup cooked beans per adult, per meal. I usually put two cups in each bag so I know I can take one bag out for one meal. Adjust your bags to suit your family.

To use from frozen, simply make up your sauce as required for whichever recipe you are using. Bring it to the boil then add the frozen beans. Bring back to the boil, then allow to gently simmer for 30 minutes. If you prefer, you can leave them in the fridge for up to 3 days, and simply add to your sauce for the last 10-15 mins of cooking. Make sure your beans are fully reheated before eating and do not reheat more than once.

If you are not sure of what you can make using beans and chickpeas, you can check out some of my recipes as we use them quite a lot :)


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