mixed beans and grains
Mixed beans and grains is a recipe from Forever Beirut, which Barbara Abdeni Massaad has kindly let us reproduce. Beans are an important staple in the Lebanese diet, not yet in the UK. While one half of shorkk grew up eating beans at least once a week, the other half had a less than healthy appreciation of these nutritious wonder plants. Was it something to do with the fact that mothers feared toxic poisoning from kidney beans or that beans were “baked” and came from a tin, so were therefore slightly frowned upon?
Living in Lebanon there was no avoiding beans, pulses and grains. Mejadarra and madardara (lentils and rice) and balila (chickpeas) are now part of our household repetoire as we desperately try to recapture the taste of “home”. Now these dishes have taken on a new importance in Lebanon. Often eaten on Fridays, the combination of beans with grains, so much a part of Lebanon’s culinary heritage, provides an essential source of nutrition. The economic crash in Lebanon, which started in October 2019, has spiralled out of control resulting in rocketing food prices. Buying meat is beyond the reach of most. Since food is now priced in dollars, this leaves most of the population, paid in local currency, with uneviable food choices. There’s a glimmer of light in that the Lebanese understand the importance of plant based nutrition. Dishes such as this matter.
Together beans and grains provide you with a complete protein meal, essential if you’re reducing your meat intake. You don’t have to stick to the beans suggested, use what’s in your cupboard, most will need to be cooked for the same amount of time, but all will need soaking overnight. Cooking them in a pressure cooker, this will cut down cooking time considerably.
100g dried chickpeas
100g dried red kidney beans
100g dried pinto beans or another variety of white bean
60g brown lentils
50g coarse bulgur wheat
3 tablespoons Zejd’s extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, ground
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to season
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to season
lemon wedges to serve
- Soak the kidney beans separately from the others overnight in plenty of water. The next day, rinse thoroughly.
- Put all the beans in a large saucepan and cover with 1,75L of water. Bring to the boil, skim the surface and boil for about 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat, cover and cook for an hour. You’re after a tender bean, so depending on the age of your beans adjust the cooking time accordingly. If you have a pressure cooker, this will speed up the process.
- In a frying pan, add the extra virgin olive oil and the onions. Cook on a gentle heat until soft for about 5 minutes. Then add the cumin and cook for a further minute.
- Add this to the saucepan of beans, along with the lentils and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes.
- Then add the bulgur wheat, salt and pepper. Stir well, and cover, leaving to simmer for another 15 minutes. Check that all is tender, and add water and continue to boil until all is soft. The mixture should be a soupy, porridge-like consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Ladle into deep plates while hot.
Serve with some lemon wedges, and a generous slick of extra virgin olive oil. Flat bread is nice to scoop up the beans with too. If you’re reheating the beans, remember to add some water and stir to stop them catching on the bottom of the pan.