A simple pot of beans

A simple pot of beans

Cook once, enjoy on repeat

I rarely cook beans from dry.

I usually just chuck in a tin of beans here and there.

I know that freshly cooked beans taste better (and are far cheaper!) but the need to soak them in advance usually puts me off: I'm not organised enough for that!

But then I read a passage in Tamar Adler's wonderful book (An Everlasting Meal, my current favourite kitchen inspiration) and it completely changed my mind:

"The hurdle of soaking beans, a hurdle whose existence and gnarliness is a pure invention of food writers' proclivities for making cooking seem difficult."
"The way to keep beans soaking from getting in the way of your cooking beans is to detach the process from today's hunger and expectations and pour dried bans into a pot and cover them with water whenever you think of it."

It's such a simple thought, but it hit me like a little revelation: 

What if I the soaking really was only an imaginary hurdle? What if I just put a pot of beans (any beans) to soak anytime I thought of it, like, right now?

So I did.

I only got around to cook the beans 28 hours later, but so what?

I wasn't sure how much time I had to watch the pot so I put them in the slow cooker. I added a few veggie scraps and herbs, and a generous amount of salt and olive oil, as Tamar recommends. 

I went to work. I came home to a lovely pot of tasty beans in tasty broth, ready to spoon into a plate with a few bits and pieces. I'll be repeating this tonight, with a different mix of 'bits and pieces'.

Absolutely delicious. And I finally broke through the 'I don't have time to soak them barrier'.

I'm now 100% sold!

Yes, a can of beans would have been 'easier' but only marginally. 

And the deliciousness totally makes up for that.

Here are some more tips for delicious beans I picked up from the book (from the chapter 'How to Live Well'):

  • Rinse off the soaking water and fill the pot with fresh water.
  • The beans should be covered in water (they should be "bathing, not swimming")
  • Add a parmesan rind, veggie scraps (fennel, carrots, celery, onion), herbs (bay leaves, parsley stalks, thyme).
  • Be generous with the seasoning, and the olive oil.
  • Cook until done (about 3 hours). Says Tamar:
"Beans are ready when they are velvety to their absolute middles. You should feel, as soon as you taste one, as though you want to eat another. The whole pot is only ready when 5 beans meet that description. If one doesn't, let the beans keep cooking."

Now you got a pot of perfectly cooked beans, you got a delicious tasty base for a variety of simple, easy, wholesome meals.

The beans will last several days and they get better as they sit and keep absorbing flavours.

  • Serve as a soup, as a stew, or drained of their liquid (but never throw it away).
  • Eat as they are, with some crusty bread, perhaps a scattering of herbs or a simple sharp dressing.
  • Serve with rice, or pasta (pasta e fagioli is a classic)
  • Add cooked veggies (greens or roots).
  • Add cooked meat (pork has a special affinity).
  • Crack in an egg and poach in the bean broth.

I have even started adding soaked beans to my slow-cooker lamb stew. Cooking beans and meat together makes both even more delicious.


Even more ideas from Tamar from a book excerpt available online:

Not recipes for a pot of beans


All these are just a snapshot of the possibilities...

Get some beans soaking and enjoy!



PS: If you are worried about digestive side effects of a 'gassy' nature: Build up your tolerance to beans slowly. 

Why does this happen? Beans are high in several types of fibre. (Which is a good thing: fibre is indigestible for us but a banquet for our gut flora). Your gut bacteria feed on fibre, and if you don't usually eat a variety of fibre-rich foods, the bacteria will go mad feasting on all that great bean stuff and rapidly multiply in the process. Once the bacteria get used to getting regular fibre feeds their population stays more stable and they don't go quite as crazy, thus producing less gas.

Categories: COOK, EAT


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