Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flawed planning

Not many people use dried beans these days. They're very economical, but it can be a bit confusing knowing exactly what to do with them - there's all that soaking and boiling, and not all of them need to be prepared the same way. Basically, most most people shy away from using them because it seems like too much hassle.

But is it really such an effort? I had a chance to find out when making bean salad (p175) this evening. Ok, so I had to soak my kidney, haricot and lima beans overnight. Where's the difficulty in that? It's not like you have to stand there all night and keep watch over it - just put your beans in a bowl, pour some water over it and go to bed.

The only problem there is in planning ahead what your dinner is going to be the next night, something a lot of us do anyway - it's really no different from getting some meat out of the freezer to thaw for tomorrow night's dinner.

When I arrived home this evening, I embarked on the next step: drain whatever liquid is left from the soaked beans, then put them in a pot, cover them with fresh water and simmer for 40 minutes. Not very tricky, is it? 40 minutes may seem like a long time, but since I put it on and went to watch Masterchef, I actually ended up cooking them for a bit too long - at least, the smaller beans were a little overcooked, while the lima beans were, if anything, a little undercooked. That was due to my own inattention, though, and can't be blamed on the recipe or the beans!

I drained the beans and left them to cool, mentally congratulating myself for being organised enough to have the soaking and boiling done in time for dinner. That was, until I actually went to make the salad and realised I was missing a couple of the other ingredients. I'd been so busy telling myself that "beans are easy, as long as you plan ahead", that I'd actually forgotten to plan for the rest of the dish!

D'oh. A quick walk down to the local Supervalue remedied my lack of onion and parsley, and I was soon adding them to my beans to make the salad. Instead of the French dressing specified, I used some leftover mustard dressing from last week - after all, it's just a variation on the standard french dressing recipe. The dressing, along with some sugar and garlic, went in with the rest of the ingredients, and, after quickly tossing it through, my salad was ready.

I was fairly pleased with the results of my bean salad. It tasted good, and if I'd been a bit more careful when cooking the beans, the texture would have been better - it was just a wee bit furry. I'm sure I'll do better next time. That's right - I haven't been put off using dried beans by the soaking and boiling: in fact I found it quite easy. I just need a little more practice to get the beans right. And next time I'll remember it's not just the beans you need to plan ahead!


  1. Love beans! LOVE 'em!! and your bean salad looks yum!!
    I suppose if you boiled the beans staggered from large to small, they might cook more uniformly?

    I wanna give it a try! haha

  2. Yeah I was thinking the same thing - might try it next time.

    It IS yum - you should give it a go! can you get dried beans in Japan?

  3. It'd be even better if left in the fridge for a day for the flavours to develop. I think there's something with beans and toxins, maybe worth looking into. I love bean salad as well and have a largish recipe I used to make and have on hand. Yum Yum!!c

  4. That's interesting, because mine wasn't as nice today as it was fresh yesterday.

    The whole toxins thing is part of the reason for soaking/boiling - it's not just so soften them, you need to get rid of the toxins too. I'm no expert, but I know that this is really important for some beans, but not so much for others. Google's your best bet if you really want to find out!


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