Celebrating pulses

Did you know that today, 10th February is World Pulses Day? And why not, as pulses — beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils – are awesome for so many reasons and play a key role in a whole-food plant-based diet.

But why have they been designated their own special day? As with most international or national ‘days’, it’s really a campaign to increase awareness of the importance of pulses in our global food system. And for us as humans, the impact of climate change, growing populations and food scarcity and security, finding a sustainable food source that provides excellent nutrition and minimal environmental impact is key to our future survival on this planet. And pulses may just be the answer.So what difference can pulses make?

Firstly, they are good for health. And in a world where chronic health problems are on a massive increase, that’s a major factor. Research shows that pulses can contribute towards reducing health problems like heart disease and obesity, a major issue in countries that have an excess of food products but malnutrition (ie: getting too much of the bulk nutrients, not enough of essential micronutrients). Equally, they are great for those populations that still suffer from food scarcity and undernutrition. Because beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas are packed full of wonderful nutrients ranging from plant-base proteins to tiny rainbow phytonutrients. This infographic explains more.

As well as being good for us, they’re also good for the environment. They enrich the soil they grow in, reducing the need for harsh chemicals and fertilisers, which is better for the local ecosystem and waterways. They grow in harsh environments, areas of the world where many things won’t grow, a plus for remote populations. And they also have the lowest carbon footprint of any food group, requiring fewer natural resources. For example, approximately 1800 gallons of water is needed to produce 1lb of meat, whereas only 43 gallons are needed to produce 1lb of pulses. That’s a huge difference.

There are so many different ways to use pulses in every day meals, ranging from super snacks like hummus and falafels, to curries, savoury bakes and even bread. Here are links to some of my favourite recipes where beans, lentils, peas or chickpeas are the star.

If you want to know more about pulses and World Pulses Day, have a look at their website https://pulses.org/what-are-pulses – there’s some fascinating information on there.

So on World Pulses Day, are you going to celebrate with a special dish? Do let me know what you choose to eat!

Witches brew

I’m often asked by frustrated parents how to get kids to eat more vegetables. Whilst I would never claim to be an expert on the matter, I have over the years been pretty successful in getting my own kids to eat the green stuff (and red, yellow, orange…..), so now if they are away from home and are not getting enough fresh fruit and vegetables, they really notice it. It’s somewhat satisfying to ask “what do you want for dinner” to get the reply “anything with vegetables in!”.

I think having an overactive imagination and a silly sense of fun makes a big difference. Plus the willingness to make lots of soup. Halloween always reminds me of one of my first successes with soup, suitably named “Witches Brew”. Both were still pretty young and I was still nervous about letting them go out trick or treating (is it not begging with menaces…..?), so I decided they could each have a friend round for tea, we would play some games then go and knock on a few ‘safe’ doors in our road, whilst I hovered in the back ground. Not really too sure what I thought was going to happen to them!

Menu choices were a bit limited at this time, as both were expressing their independence through their food choices. Fortunately, mine also had good appetites, so it was often who could hold out the longest!  So going along with the Halloween theme, I served up “Witches Brew” soup, followed by “Monster Fingers” (coated chicken fingers) finishing up with the ever safe web-decorated fairy cake. As you can see from the photo, the soup is bright green, but not one of the four children sat round the table hesitated to gobble it all up, fully embracing the whole Halloween experience. I even sprinkled a few peas on top too and told them they were witches warts – the more ghoulish the better!

This soup also tastes gorgeous, which helps too, and thick and creamy despite being dairy free,
and once they had tried it once, it opened up a massive variety of soup experiences, some with names(holiday soup, sunshine soup), others without. As long as the texture is right, i.e.: not lumpy, the ingredients pretty simple and they taste good, soups still go down well today, which is perfect as we head into the cooler months and start to desire nourishing comfort foods.

Witches brew is so simple and super green due to the peas and lettuce. These also make it a little sweet, appealing to younger tastebuds. So often dismissed as a valuable veg, peas are actually packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and phytonutrients. And their nutrients are retained because peas are usually frozen within a few hours of being picked. Lettuce, too, is contains a whole load of nutrients, plus lots of water. These can be lost when heated, but because it’s going into soup, many are retained in the cooking water, so good news!So as it’s Halloween, why not try this Witches Brew out on your little, or big, monsters; you may be surprised how tasty witches can be!

Witches Brew (Pea and Lettuce soup)
1 small onion, diced
1 slender leek, washed, trimmed and chopped
1 medium potato chopped
splash olive oil
400g lettuce
400g peas
750mls vegetable stock
salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon
Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large pan and saute the onion, leek and potato for a few minutes. Add a little of the stock if it starts to stick. Once soft, add enough stock to cover and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the potato is cooked. Rinse and chop the lettuce, then add to the pan. Add some more stock to just cover, and cook for 5 minutes (remember the lettuce will release water). Add the peas, add more stock if needed to just cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Once done, turn off the heat. Now you need to decide how thick your want your Brew – we like ours really thick and gloopy so I blend everything in the pan with a stick blender first, then add more stock if needed to thin it out. Ensure you blend until all the lumps have gone. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the lemon juice (this just freshens the flavour slightly).
Serve with a few whole peas sprinkled over the top if required. Feel super witchy!!