Pulses, or dried peas and beans are full of nourishment, being high in protein, calcium and vitamins, and they can often be served as a substitute for more expensive protein foods. The wide variety of beans which can be home-grown and dried provide numerous colours, flavours and shapes which can give a new look to soups, casseroles and salads.
Keep home-dried beans dry in a tightly sealed, moisture-proof jar or other container, and keep each type separate. If kept in a cool place at a constant temperature, pulses will keep well for a year. Soak pulses in cold water before using them. They can be left overnight, but 3–6 hours is enough to soften them if they have not been stored too long. Beans will generally need simmering for 1–2 hours after soaking, and they should never be salted during cooking or they will become hard. After draining, they can be well seasoned and served with a dressing of butter, or tossed in an oil-and-vinegar dressing to serve cold.
To speed up the preparation of beans and peas without soaking, try covering them with water, bringing to the boil and boiling for 2 minutes. Take off the heat, cover and leave to stand for 1 hour. Bring back to the boil and simmer for an hour until tender but not broken. This initial preparation is not necessary when pulses are to be used in soup.
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