Which beans are best for slow-cooking? And as a vegan baking aid? And which is the best way to cook beans? Read on to discover everything you need to know about cooking beans.
RED SPECKLED BEANS are also known as SUGAR BEANS and are probably the ones you’re most familiar with. Use them in soups or salads or add to stews to bulk them up. They’re an excellent source of protein and fibre.
BLACK BEANS are popular in Latin American cuisine and have a creamy texture when cooked. They’re also beloved in Brazil, where they’re used in feijoada, a pork-and-bean stew. They can also be used to replace eggs in vegan baking. After they’ve been cooked, the broth can be used to make soup or to colour other dishes.
RED ADZUKI BEANS, also called ADUKI or AZUKI beans, are most commonly cooked with sugar and mashed into a paste for use in many popular Asian desserts. They have thin skins that often burst while cooking so aren’t a good match for soups and stews
BLACKEYED BEANS are also known as COW PEAS and are popular in African, Indian, Chinese and Asian cooking. They can be eaten whole or made into a paste to thicken sauces. In the southern United States they’re used in a dish called Hoppin’ John, which consists of black-eyed beans, rice, bacon and onion. It’s traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day to ensure a prosperous year ahead.
BORLOTTI BEANS are also known as ROMAN BEANS in other parts of the world. They were first cultivated in Colombia but the bean we know was grown in Italy to have a slightly thicker skin. They’re best in soup and purées as they soften easily.
The best way to cook beans
Cook dried beans from scratch with a few simple tips and you’ll make a humble ingredient shine.
Soak your beans.
Opinions differ but soaking the beans overnight will reduce cooking time significantly. Cover your beans with cold water and chill overnight.
Transfer the beans to a heavy-based saucepan and top with water.
Make sure they’re well covered, there isn’t a specific ratio of beans to water. Bring to a simmer (don’t boil as they might break apart) and skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
Now’s the time to add aromatics.
Onions, herbs, chilli, whatever you like. Warning: don’t add salt or acidic ingredients such as tomatoes yet, as they may toughen the beans’ skins. Add them when the beans are almost finished cooking.
Cook, partially covered, until the beans are tender.
You can also season them at this stage. Taste the broth rather than the beans to check the seasoning as they take a while to absorb the salt. Plus, you can use the broth (the technical term is potlikker – “pot liquor” geddit?) for other things such as stock, for braising or for poaching. If you’re feeling really adventurous, use it to marinate vegetables or tofu. It also freezes well.
If you’re not using them immediately, allow the beans to cool completely in the liquid. They’ll keep in the fridge for about five days and freeze very well.
FORGOTTEN TO SOAK?
If you’ve decided you need to eat those beans tonight, you can hack the soaking process. Place the beans in a saucepan, cover with lots of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to stand for an hour.