Get Your Fingers on The Pulse For Vegan and Allergy Free Cooking

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Kieth Squires, author and presenter and the chef at Dru Yoga Centre talks about healthy eating and bringing back lentils and beans in to our diets

These days a lot of people are vegan, or flexitarian where they are using more vegan foods. Also many others have allergies and can’t eat dairy, wheat and many other products. It’s hard to find an ingredient that everyone can eat. Particularly if they are vegan with a wheat or nut allergy. So unless you want a menu full of different versions of the same thing it’s good to find ingredients that everyone can eat.

Part of the answer is vegetables. The colours, textures and tastes make a perfect base for fantastic gluten free, dairy free or vegan meals. There is lots of scope to make amazing dishes from them. But is it going to be satisfying and nutritionally balanced. This may not be a huge concern if your customers are just visiting once but you do not want then leaving feeling hungry.

At our Dru Yoga Centre in North Wales people stay for at least a weekend and sometimes up to 10 days. We are in the middle of the national park and the nearest other food outlets are a 30 minute drive away. It is quite a responsibility to make sure the meals are substantial and nutritionally balanced.

So we want to make sure there is enough protein and carbohydrate. One of the best sources for vegans are pulses. These are also not so much of an allergy worries you may have with nuts and seeds. Like vegetables they are colourful versatile and cheap and a little goes a long way. A kilogram bag of lentils costs about £2 and the bulk will triple when cooked so it works about 70p per kg. So they are by far the cheapest form of protein.

Other sources like meat, cheese nuts and seeds are 10 times more being £5 to £12 a kilo. They don’t go off either when they are dry they will just sit on the shelf.

Pulses are incredibly colourful and versatile. I start off by cooking off a batch of lentils to make a thick orange paste, or mung beans to make a green one. Aduki for red and split peas for yellow. This becomes like an artist’s palate for you to create a masterpiece.

These purees are a great basis for soups and stews to fortify and enrich them. Pulses really bulk up a soup save a lot of time chopping. It also ‘beefs up’ the protein and fillingness of a dish in a perfectly vegan way. The puree can be added to tomato sauces or vegetable purees to make any dish more substantial.

When cooked pulses are left to stand they go thick like a pate. So any of my lentil paste that hasn’t gone into a soup or stew can be used like hummus. As a sandwich spread or even a savoury filling for tarts and pies. It sort of sets so will hold its shape if you turn it out so you can even create layers from it.

Pulses of course have an earthy beany flavour. I think split peas and green mung beans have a nice taste when plain. But their flavour is not over powering and will not mask the subtle flavours of vegetables or herbs. They are fantastic as a curry base, or with Mexican or other Asian spices.

Cold pulse purees can even be piped to make incredible shapes. Here are a few examples so just let your creativity soar.

Lentils (orange)
Wash and rinse well. Add about 3 times the weight of water. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the water is absorbed. If you want it thicker leave the lid off and stir so it doesn’t stick. Intensify the colour by adding a little turmeric. Carrot, squash or sweet potato. Liquidise for a smooth bright orange puree.

Uses
Soups and stews, mix with tomato sauce as a filling.
Cold as a pate or filling. Can be soft shaped into a bake or rissole. The smooth puree can be piped and baked.

Aduki Beans (Red)
Wash and rinse well. Add about 3 times the weight of water. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until the water is absorbed. If you want it thicker leave the lid off and stir so it doesn’t stick. Intensify the colour by adding a little paprika, beetroot or tomato. I cook the beetroot first the liquidise it into a thick puree. Then add it to the beans for an amazing result.

Uses
Soups and stews, use as a readymade red filling.
Cold as a pate or filling. Can be soft shaped into a bake or rissole. The smooth puree can be piped and baked.

Moong Beans (green)
Wash and rinse well. Add about 3 times the weight of water. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until the water is absorbed. If you want it thicker leave the lid off and stir so it doesn’t stick. Intensify the colour by adding a little spinach and turmeric to brighten the colour. I cook the spinach first then liquidise it into a thick puree. Then add it to the beans for an amazing bright green result.

Uses
Soups and stews, use as a readymade green filling.
Cold as a pate or filling. Can be soft shaped into a bake or rissole. The smooth puree can be piped and baked.

 

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