cooking melbourne

Discovering Melbourne's Artisan Foods and Produce

Beneficial Beans

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Beans have been flying off the shelves of grocery stores to stock pandemic pantries around Melbourne. Who would have thought that canned or dried beans would be valued so much. Over the years any mention of a meal of pulses had the immediate effect of eye rolling and talk about how disagreeable to ones digestion they are. I confess I have always liked them, whether as a thick Tuscan bean soup, a robust stew of beans with veal or lamb shanks or as a salad of white beans with chopped tomatoes and herbs. I’m also a huge fan of a spicy chilli con carne made with dark red kidney beans and have very fond memories of Babka’s Georgian baked beans with feta on sourdough toast, which I often ordered some twenty years ago and it is still on the breakfast menu of this long-standing Brunswick Street bakery cafe. Beans are nutritious and tasty; they have an inherent nutty flavour but also absorb the flavours they are stewed with. A little pancetta or a ham bone can spin out the meal nicely, making them an economical way of feeding a family. No doubt, they are an excellent food in times of adversity and to keep everyone at the table happy through the night here is a good tip for eliminating or largely reducing those digestive gases. To remove the sugars that cause the flatulence you need to leach them out with a bit of pre-boiling. For fresh or soaked, dried beans boil them in water for about 10 minutes and then discard the cooking water and rinse before you use them. For canned, pre-cooked beans I would drain them in a sieve and rinse the beans well under the tap before use. Another tip is not to add chopped tomato until the beans are some way into the cooking process and starting to become tender as the acid of the tomatoes has a tendency to toughen them. So when you next gaze at your pantry bean stockpile wondering what to do with them all, I can recommend a hearty, garlicky and mildly spicy bean stew; my version of the Spanish dish, fabada. Casa Iberica in Collingwood or Alphington can supply you with a spicy chorizo and/or some morcilla to add a bit of Spanish gusto. Serve the fabada with bread drizzled with olive oil, toasted on the BBQ and then rubbed generously with a garlic clove to help with the social distancing.

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cooking melbourne • April 14, 2020


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