Manufacturers and marketeers of dried pulses, beans, peas and other desiccated legumes have been having us consumers over the barrel for years. These high-fibre, natural, healthy goods, which are normally purchased after a pique of soul searching, mirror staring and finger prodding, play an integral part in the ‘whole food’ machine. And whilst on the outside they seem to offer a route to a new lifestyle, new diet, new you; on the inside, dried pulses are inherently deceptive and evil. And why? Well it comes down to the simple fact that according to instructions on the packet, you have to ‘soak’ the bloody things.
This is my theory.
Some days you can find yourself in a supermarket, wandering around, feeling lethargic, turgid and morose and you happen to chance upon the whole food section. Beaming out towards you is a myriad of bags and sacks containing fanciful, colourful, strangely shaped nuggets of life-affirming joy; life-affirming because all the shelves and labelling is in green and there are pictures of wheat and corn and Gethin Jones everywhere. As the smarmy twat stares back at you, all fresh faced and vigorous, you think to yourself, ‘My God, this is just what I need, this will make me feel better.’ And so you scoop up an armful of mung beans, lentils and chickpeas and skip merrily to the checkout.
However, when you get home, full of ideas to whack on a casserole of hip thrusting goodness or to make a curry of fist pumping, hot, crazy, spunkiness, you read the back of the pack and crestfallen, you discover that soaking ‘for 8-12 hours or overnight’ is required. So everything gets packed onto the top shelf of the cupboard and whilst leaning against the side, you ruminate that you will cook up something simply gorgeous next week instead. And then you open the fridge to tuck into a pork pie.
Time goes by but every now and then, the inspiration returns. “It’s a cold day; let’s get the muthafrickin pearl barley out! You know, I feel all Spanishy today, fetch me the butter beans! We are poor and have no money till pay day; the kids are starving, what the frack is left in the cupboard? Dried kidney beans!!”
And yet bang, time after time, you get hit by the ‘soaking rule’ and with sad faces all round you say,“Sorry children, no kidney beans tonight, we'll have to do with some manky onions and an egg instead”. And back into the cupboard it goes, to accumulate dust and melancholy.
The real kick in the nuts comes when you actually remember to take the damned pulses out of the cupboard the night before and after gleefully snipping the plastic, pouring the contents into a bowl and some on the floor, you suddenly spot it:
Best Before: Jan 1997
And this is my point. They know this. Holland and Barrett et al, will happily continue to pimp their bags of dry, musty seed, knowing that we, the people, frail and susceptible, will always buy their horrible, flatulent inducing beans, go to use and cook, get scuppered by the 'soaking' rule; and then forget about them. And then go out to buy some more. Go to use and cook. Get scuppered by the 'soaking' rule. And then forget about them. And then go out to buy some more. Go to use and cook. Get scuppered by the 'soaking' rule. And then forget about them. Ad infinitum.
We are talking about food waste on a grotesque, criminal scale here. And somewhere, in some anonymous warehouse, sitting on a mountain of puy, is this Mr Burns figure. And he is laughing, throwing lentils into the air, imagining each tiny green speck as a shiny gold coin.
And this is all down to the ‘soaking’ rule.
It makes me feel sick.
But, after some investigation yesterday, I took the plunge on the advice from some more enlightened individuals and this is what I have learned.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO SOAK OVERNIGHT.
In fact, all you need to do, is to give whatever dried pulses you have to hand a bloody good boiling for a few minutes, wash off the scum and then soak for just a couple of hours more before cooking. Which is much more amenable. If you have a pressure cooker, you don’t even have to soak at all, which is even better. I don't have a pressure cooker, yet.
I did not know this and I don’t think many others know this either. So I want to spread the word and smash the system; smash it till this ‘overnight soaking’ message is gone, smashed out of existence. In its place I just want smashed chickpeas, unadulterated and pure.
Because I am quite fond of hummous.
What say ye? Are you with me? Can we do without soaking our pulses people?
Or am I wrong, Mr Burns?
From to this
To finally this, without having to soak overnight.