Pulses are filling and full of energy, fiber, and minerals. On top of that, they are cheap. A pound of pulses, most less than $2, cooks up into 4-5 servings.. They lend themselves to hay box cooking, slow cookers, and pressure cooking. Some pulses, for example lentils and chickpeas, can be sprouted and eaten raw (exception – do NOT sprout red kidney beans, which will make you sick).
Here are five traditional dishes that offer great taste and in some cases, complete protein, at low cost.
- Hoppin’ John
- Coconut Rice and Beans
- Chana Dal
- Pork and Beans
Hoppin’ John – Black-eyed Peas or Cowpeas
Saute some aromatics – onions, garlic, celery, carrots – and add to two cups of black-eyed peas or cowpeas. Separately, cook a cup of rice (preferably brown). When the peas are done (tender, but not mushy), add to the cooked rice and garnish with chopped onions or scallions. Country ham or bacon is traditionally added, but is not essential. If used, saute it first, then use the rendered fat to saute the aromatics.
Coconut Rice and Beans – Black Beans
A few tablespoonsful of aromatics – onion, garlic – and a sprinkle of nutmeg
1 cup of rice (any long grain white rice will work)
3/4 cup coconut milk (reconstituted from powder is cheapest; canned is perfectly fine)
1 cup water
1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed, drained, and heated, or 2 cups cooked
Saute the aromatics until softened. Add the nutmeg and rice, and stir. When the rice is coated with oil and somewhat transparent, add the water and coconut milk, bring to a boil, and cook, covered, until done (about 20 minutes). Fluff rice and add the black beans.
Chana Dal – Chickpeas or Garbanzos
Bring to a boil 2 cups of chickpeas, a tablespoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of salt, and 2 quarts of water in a big saucepan. When it comes to the boil, immediately lower the heat to a simmer, partly cover the pan, and cook for 40 minutes. Not all the water will be absorbed. Separately, fry a minced, fresh chile or two, and some Indian spices – coriander seeds, whole cloves, and cardamom seeds, minced garlic – in two tablespoonsful of oil until very fragrant, then stir into the dal.
Pork and Beans – Navy or Small White Beans
Soak a pound of beans overnight; drain. In your slow cooker, or heavy stock pot, combine 6 cups water, 1/3 cup molasses, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, packed, a large chopped onion, 1/4 pound of your chosen meat (see note), and dry mustard powder (if liked).Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until the beans are tender. Stir occasionally.
Add the mustard and salt to taste when beans are tender.
Note. If using salt pork – most authentic, but expensive – dice soak, and drain before adding. Bacon or pork belly may be substituted – dice and parcook before adding.
Falafel – Chickpeas or Garbanzos
You can buy dry falafel mix, and it’s particularly cheap if you have a bulk store near you. The dry mix can be very salty, though, so make a small test patty and adjust the saltiness by mixing in mashed, soaked chickpeas or a little chickpea flour (also known as besan*, and sold in Indian stores or on Amazon).
If you’re making your falafel from scratch, don’t use canned or cooked chickpeas, which will give a mushy texture that won’t hold together in frying, or get crisp.
To 1 lb dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans, soaked overnight, add a medium onion, roughly chopped, a big handful of finely chopped fresh parsley, garlic to taste (the tubes are convenient, but 3-4 crushed cloves are cheaper), and seasonings. Salt, pepper, and cumin are typical. Bind the mixture with a tablespoon or two of chickpea flour. Shallow-fry small patties in a neutral oil. like canola or grapeseed, until crisp and browned. Makes great sandwiches, garnished with lettuce and tomato and your own “special sauce.”