By Food & Nutrition Co-ordinator, Alexis Sinclair
Today is UN World Pulses Day and the theme this year is #LovePulses, raising awareness of the contribution pulses play in sustainable food systems and healthy diets. At FarmED, we often talk about how legumes are too good for farmers to resist, but today we’re celebrating these edible seeds of leguminous plants, which are too good for everyone to resist!
We really should be paying more attention to pulses as a hugely beneficial addition to our diets. Pulses have been eaten across the world since ancient times, because not only are they easy to grow and store, they pack a nutritional punch too.
They are one of the best sources of plant protein as well as providing dietary fibre – a prebiotic that more and more studies are showing is crucial to the health of our gut microbiome, and therefore to our overall health.
Whilst improving digestion, reducing risk of diabetes by keeping our blood sugars stable and aiding heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol, pulses are also an excellent source of iron, potassium and antioxidants which all tend to be lacking in our standard western diets.
The wide variety of pulses – beans, chickpeas, lentils – can be used in so many delicious dishes using flavours from around the world.
There are a couple of top tips to get the best nutritional benefit from your pulses.
Firstly, they contain some but not all essential amino acids, but if you combine them with a grain such as rice, the full protein profile is achieved in one meal – perfect if you are vegan.
Secondly, pulses are rich in iron, but this can only be absorbed alongside vitamin C. So combine your pulses with some freshly roasted peppers or a squeeze of lemon or lime to make the most of your dish.
Pulses, beans and legumes are not only good for us, but they are also good for the soil. This wonderful family of plants not only feed us but they also feed the soil through their mutual relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The plants provide bacteria with sugars and other carbon rich molecules as a result of photosynthesis, and in exchange the bacteria ensure the plants have their own supply of nitrogen.
The story continues after harvest, but only when crop residues from these plants are left in the ground. Here they decompose and provide nutrients back to the soil food web. Properly placed in a crop rotation or herbal ley mixture these ecological fertilizer factories help farmers limit or even eliminate dependence on synthetic fertilizers while also contributing to the regeneration of soils.
We’re considering growing spring sown pulse crop as part of the rotation here at FarmED, and the pulses we serve in the FarmED kitchen will be sustainable sourced. We highly recommend Hodmedod, founded in 2012 to source and supply beans and other products from British farms. They’re committed to providing quality food from British farms that's more sustainably produced. https://hodmedods.co.uk
They are offering 25% off a big bundle of British pulses so you can enjoy a bean feast!
Meantime, here’s one of my favourite recipes – it is quick and easy to make as lentils don’t need overnight soaking, and it is served with rice and vegetables making it a real superfood supper!
CHILLI AND LIME TOFU AND COCONUT LEMONGRASS DHAL
INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2)
For the chilli lime tofu
1 block plain Tofoo, sliced into 6
chilli, finely chopped
Small handful coriander, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Juice of lime
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
For the dhal
2 fresh lemongrass stalks
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g red lentils
200ml coconut milk
400ml hot vegetable stock
Handful coriander, roughly chopped
Wedge of lime
Salt and pepper
For the cucumber yoghurt
3 inch of cucumber
2 tbsp yoghurt/soy yoghurt
Cooked brown rice
First, prepare the marinade – combine all the ingredients in a bowl, then coat the tofu, covering all over. Cover the bowl and leave to rest. You can prepare this the night before for an even fuller flavour.
Next for the dhal. Start by bashing the lemongrass with a rolling pin or something else heavy to split and bruise the stalk allowing the flavours to release.
Heat a little oil in a large pan, add the onion, chilli, garlic and lemongrass and cook on a medium low heat for 4 -5 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Add the lentils and coconut milk and simmer for 3 -4 minutes.
Start adding half the vegetable stock and let the dhal simmer gently. Keep adding a little more stock until the lentils have softened and started to break down – 20 to 25 minutes.
Whilst the dhal is cooking, slice the cucumber lengthways then into quarters and remove the seeds from the centre. Pat the cucumber dry with some kitchen towel to avoid a watery salad. Next dice the cucumber into cubes, then stir through the yoghurt.
Next, heat a frying pan with a little oil and when hot add the tofu. Keep any remaining marinate in the bowl. Cook on a medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes, then flip to cook the other side. Once fully cooked, pour over the remaining marinade and reduce the heat to allow it to thicken and provide a sticky glaze.
Season the dhal with salt and pepper, and heat the rice if you are having it.
Serve up the tofu on top of the dhal and rice, with a large sprinkle of coriander, the sliced chilli and a wedge of lime. Finish with the steamed broccoli and cucumber yoghurt on the side.
Photo courtesy of Hodmedods