Explore the magic of beans and pulses for National Vegetarian Week. Urvashi shows how they will get a good source of protein into your diet. She also shares a delicious recipe for courgette and urad dhal bhaji.
Being vegetarian can be difficult from a nutritional perspective. It’s all very well eating raw vegetables and a rainbow of fruits but few of those will contain protein. I know many modern day vegetarians who indulge in eggs, fish or meat every now and then to get their protein fix.
Incorporate pulses into your diet
But it is possible if you can incorporate beans and pulses into your day to day cooking. There are a few staples on my shelves that you can source in most supermarkets nowadays.
– these come coated in oil or plain. There is no difference really in the flavour. The oily ones last a little longer if you buy them in bulk as I often do. Soaking even for half an hour helps to get rid of the starch and speeds up cooking time. If you don’t have time, allow 30 minutes for boiling. These puree well so add to vegetable soups as a thickener or of course use them to make an Indian dhal.
– You can buy these split or whole. The split variety doesn’t need soaking and cooks in about 20 minutes. Just add a couple of handfuls to your rice. The whole beans should be soaked for about 4 hours and then take around 45 minutes to cook. Again these are great for dhals which can be made in bulk and frozen. You can also add the cooked beans to salads, use them as part of an empanada stuffing or even incorporate them into mashed potato.
Aduki Beans or Chori Beans
– In China and Japan these are used to make bean paste for sweet pastries. In my family we use them as a substitute for the red lentils or moon beans in dhals. They have a nutty, earthy flavour and are incredibly filling. You can use them as a substitute or to accompany kidney beans in Tex Mex style chilli, in place of black beans in a burrito or again added to soups or salads.
Yellow Mung Dhal
– This is one of my favourites. I add to rice and stir fry with a little cumin or I spice the cooked beans up with some chilli, onion and fresh coriander and use the mixture as a stuffing in parathas. I could also eat it plain and simply boiled seasoned with ghee and toasted cumin seeds!
– this comes with the little black casings still on or plain white as pictured here. It is a great base for making bhajias. Rather like falafel, these bhajias can then incorporate grated vegetables of your fancy and be stuffed into a pitta with salad leaves and mayo. Or you can smother them in yoghurt and create one of my favourite dishes called Dhai Wada – the bhajias become dumplings and are coated in yoghurt then topped with chopped coriander, spices and red chilli flakes.
Keep trying new varieties
These are just a few of the different varieties of lentils, beans and pulses. If you have an African, Asian, Turkish or Greek grocer nearby then they are most certainly worth a visit as these are a staple in those cuisines. I’m still discovering new ways to cook using them and have learned a lot from the friendly grannies doing their weekly shop!
Courgette and Urad Dhal Bhajias
1 cup urad dal
– white or split black urad dhal
1 inch piece of ginger
2 green chillies
½ tsp of bicarbonate
3 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 small courgette - You could also use carrots, spinach, kale, peas, leeks or broccoli.
Salt to your taste
To have as a dip
1 cup plain yoghurt
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tsp garam masala or ground cumin
2 tsp red chilli flakes
1. Soak the urad dal in water for 3-4 hours
2. Wash and drain the urad dal.
3. Put the oil on to heat on a slow to medium flame.
4. Prepare a large platter with kitchen paper to drain off your bhajias once fried.
5. Put the urad dal, ginger and green chillies into a blender and grind to a smooth paste.
6. Add the cumin seeds, bicarbonate of soda and salt to your taste and mix well till the batter is light and fluffy. It should be a thick puree the consistency of shop bought hummus. Add a little water if needed.
7. Grate in the courgette and mix it in well. Check for seasoning and add more as per your taste
8. Take two spoons and scoop some batter into one. Using the other spoon make a quenelle or ball shape and drop it gently into the hot oil.
9. Deep fry on a low flame till the bhajias are golden brown, for about 10 minutes.
10. Drain on the prepared platter of kitchen paper.
11. As they cool, make the dip by mixing all the ingredients together.
12. Eat while they are still warm and crispy.
If you don’t like deep frying, this batter makes a good fritter also. Just heat a shallow non stick frying pan with a little oil and then add the batter in spoonfuls flattening with the base of the spoon to make a small pancake like shape.
For a delicious onion bhaji recipe visit Great British Chefs.