Friday, 28 September 2012

Frugal Friday - Ways With Beans

Now that the weather has started to feel much cooler, our menus have begun to change.  Recently we've had lots of soups, stews and casseroles.  During the week, I soaked a large bowl full of mixed dried beans, which I then simmered on the stovetop for an hour or so.  That was all the cooking they needed - I then had the base for several different dishes, which we've been enjoying for our lunches and evening meals!
Beans are very versatile to cook with - and they are also very nutritious.  Add to this the fact that, especially if you buy them dried, they are also extremely economical, and they are really an excellent food source all year round, but particularly during the cooler months.  They can be used in so many different ways!

This week we have had a vegetarian chilli, tortilla wraps, Boston baked beans, and yesterday a beany shepherd's pie.  All this from one pan of pulses!  The mix that I use has 10 different varieties of bean and pulse in it including butter beans, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas (garbanzos), pinto beans and others besides.  To prepare them, I soak them in a large bowl of cold water for 12 or so hours, or overnight.  After this, I drain them, then put them in a large saucepan, cover them with boiled water, and bring them straight to the boil.  Some beans can be toxic if not cooked properly, so to be safe I always boil them for about 20 minutes.  After this I then turn the heat right down, cover the pan with a lid and then simmer the beans for around 1 1/4 hours.  They are cooked when they are soft enough to squash easily with a spoon. 

For a vegetarian chilli, I simply use a base of onion, canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper, chili flakes, maybe a little chopped fresh chilli, and the beans.  You can add meat or meat substitute to this, but we like it just with the beans.  Sometimes I add chilli powder as well for a bit more kick.  We usually eat this with boiled rice.  To make the tortilla wraps, I used the leftover chilli warmed through chopped fresh tomatoes, avocado, soured cream, coriander (cilantro) and grated cheese.  Simply warm some flour tortillas (or make your own!) and then use the ingredients to fill.  Sometimes I bake these in the oven with extra cheese on the top, and other times we have them just as they are.  They are also good cold, for a pack lunch.

The Boston baked beans I make in my slow cooker.  I add a can of baked beans (the sort that is in a rich tomato sauce, such as Heinz) and a chopped red onion, some molasses or treacle, a drop of red wine vinegar, some tomato ketchup and seasoning.  This cooks down into a lovely thick, rich, dish which is especially yummy with sausages or burgers.

Leftover Boston baked beans can easily be turned into beany shepherd's pie, simply by placing them in a casserole dish and topping them with some mash potato.  To make this dish extra scrummy you can add some grated cheese as well, before baking for about 20 minutes in a medium oven.

It's fun thinking of ways to stretch our leftovers a bit further - we've really enjoyed our autumn menu this week.  I'm already looking forwards to next week's meals - and hope to share some of them with you too.

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