bean stew

Did you really think that we eat only fried breakfasts, carb loaded dinners and thousand calories a look desserts, uh?

Well, tonight we had for dinner my new best friend: kidney beans stew. Not that I make a habit of eating my friends, you understand.

While I still believe that the healthiest eating is the one that follows the Socratic principle of ‘moderation in all things’ I’ve been doing some reading on nutrition.

What I’m finding is that, sad as this is, I’ve reached the stage in life where I could eat anything and look and feel well.

Apparently, my nutritional needs have changed and the time to change the proportions of carbs and protein that I eat has arrived. Simply put, my body needs less carbs and more protein.

So far so good.

But here is the problem: I seem to be either allergic or sensitive to quite a few good sources of protein. Here is how I fair:

  • Eggs I can eat in moderation;
  • Milk is our of the question;
  • Yoghurt can do in moderation:
  • Fish and seafood are fine but I’m not too keen;
  • Love pork but it comes with bad fats;
  • Why do I always end up with chicken (cheapest thing on the menu)?

After a lot of searching, I got re-acquainted with beans.

All kinds of beans! Beans are jam-packed with nutritional goodness and cheap to boot.

Let’s look at the nutrition first. Here is what beans are known for:

  • Protein: beans are virtually fat free source of protein. They are oft referred to as ‘poor man’s meat’ (which explains why beans have a prominent place in the cuisine of my Balkan fore-fathers). Apparently, half a cup of cooked beans contains up to 10g of protein. Which is good.
  • Fibre. This is very good for keeping our digestive system in order (and clean). Half a cup of cooked beans contains about 30% of the daily fibre we need. This also helps lower cholesterol which, as we know, is very good. The fibre in beans releases glucose slowly which controls metabolism and can contribute to weight loss.
  • Carbs. Beans contain carbs but then again we need these for our brains and nervous system. Good news is that the carbs in beans are slow release carbs.
  • Vitamins and minerals. Beans contain variety of B vitamins (very important for us) and valuable minerals.

Here we have it: beans are food rich in protein and fibre, provides ‘good’ carbs, vitamins and minerals, is low in calories (half a cup of cooked beans is about 100 calories) and cheap!

If you know how to cook bean stew, beans are also delicious and you could avoid some of the side effects that give them bad press. Yes, I mean flatulence!

Here is what you do with beans:

You soak them in cold water for at least 8-10 hours. Then you throw the water away.

Kidney beans are a special case:

You have to soak them and throw the water away, boil them and throw the water away and only after that you can cook them.

Here is how to cook bean stew

Please don’t say that there is no point cooking bean because you can get canned baked beans for pennies.

You can do that and most people do. How many of you have read what is in the beans?

Yep, sugar and salt. Which completely deals away with the wonderful health effect that eating beans can have.

So, let’s get cooking.

You will need two things you may not have:

  • A pressure cooker; and
  • Paprika.

Paprika is easy and inexpensive: just remember to buy some next time you are in the supermarket or in an Asian shop.

As to the cooker, you may decide to use a normal pot. In this case, there is no way you could cook tasty and nutritious bean stew in thirty minutes. You’ll be lucky if your stew is ready in couple of hours – beans a tough little b*ggers to cook.

I have this pressure cooker and in it the beans are cooked in 20 minutes:

bean stew

Cooking the bean stew

This is the sequence for cooking the perfect bean stew:

  1. Soak the beans; this is best done the night before you’ll be cooking them. Also allow for the fact that the beans expand and absorb the water.
  2. Pour the water out and rinse the beans.
  3. Place the beans in the pressure cooker.
  4. Pour boiling water that goes about an inch over the beans (I don’t like watery stew but feel free to experiment).
  5. Close the pressure cooker and bring to the boil.
  6. Boil for 20 minutes.
  7. Open the pressure cooker.
  8. Pour some tinned tomato (how much depends on how tomatoey you like your stew).
  9. Bring to the boil without closing the pressure cooker.
  10. Chop some onion.
  11. Fry the onion in a small pen with some olive oil.
  12. When the onion starts smelling nice and looks golden put in a tsp of paprika.
  13. Stir for a minute or so (or until you can smell the paprika).
  14. Take the pen off the fire and pour the content in the boiling beans.
  15. Stir the beans and continue boiling for 3-5 minutes.

If your stew looks watery, you can dilute a spoonful of flour and mixed it in.

This is it!

Great on its own or as a side dish to go with chicken (how did I get back to the chicken) or other meat. In Spain, they put chorizo in the beans – delicious but there is some loss of health benefit.

You know the best part?

Different kind of beans taste very different cooked the same way. And the stew freezes well which means that I always have frozen lunch to take to work.

Try cooking this. Your children will love you and your bank account will be screaming with joy!