Wholefood Cooking

Category: Beans

On Beans and Being

Beans Picture

I’ve just arrived back home after nearly 5 weeks away on the east coast of Australia, teaching and I think a pot of simple beans are in order. This post on beans began some weeks ago, but is ending up somewhat differently to what I envisaged. It was to be a discussion on cooking beans, but now – well it’s more about being, how grounding a simple meal of beans can be and how they can remind you that simple is sometimes all we need. This is happening a lot for me lately – you will see it also reflected in the new book (due June, 2016) – elemental flavours, simple wholegrains and legumes, fundamental animal foods, simple vegetables, simple fruits – foods that are local, seasonal, ripe, and grown in great soil with great ethics. It’s the elemental that gets me, and it’s this elementality (yes it’s my made up word) that is the key. It connects you immediately to what is real and true, and what really matters in life – it takes us into our core, our heart and soul. I have been privileged in classes – especially the 4 day intensives – to see that when simple, good, organic and/or biodynamic food is around (and a lot of it) and when people are supported, something exceptional happens – they cry, they open, they connect to each other and to themselves.  It is never ever just about the food, it’s always about the energy that food carries and the context in which we eat it.  And good, real food ? Well that’s mighty powerful stuff, and it seems the simpler it is, the more powerful it is. There’s a lot of crazy food out there right now, and whilst it might suit the latest fad, or marketing campaign it doesn’t seem to suit many humans, or nourish on that deeper level.

But, sometimes we do have to know how to prepare that food, how to make it optimally digestible for our human tummies, especially that grounding bowl of simple beans. Beans are part of the legume family, and require a bit of attention. First up, a bit about how they grow – they are ridiculously easy to grow. In Australia, I often find organic beans impossible to cook properly (they are really old, and | or they are heat treated for entrance to Australia and thus never cook), so I try and grow what I can. This year I’ve added the Christmas Lima Bean and Bean Frost to my repertoire of Borlotti, they are easily available online from Diggers, or some wonderful person may share a seed with you (Belinda Jeffrey shared her Christmas Lima with me). But if you live in the U.S you will easily be able to access the glorious Rancho Gordo beans, which offer a huge range of young, heirloom beans.

I know you may have heard that you need to soak your beans, but when you look at the picture above you can see that when they are fresh of the bush, how moist they are (you can also see how lush the pod is, and how bright the colour when fresh, too). They don’t need soaking, as those sugars have not yet begun to convert to very long chain carbohydrates that are hard for us to digest. Once they begin to dry though, you will need to soak them. In lots of water to cover them by about 10cm, and for Borlotti, Frost and Christmas Lima, you will need to add an alkali – many people use a pinch of baking soda, but I prefer Kombu sea vegetable, with contributes minerals, and has a special enzyme that helps to break those long sugars down. A 2cm piece is plenty for 1/2 cup of beans, which when cooked will give you around 1 1/4 cups cooked beans. Leave the beans to soak for 12 – 24 hours in a warm place. Warmth is important as it will help encourage lacto fermentation, which will also help to make the bean more digestible, and help with getting rid of anti nutrients such as phytic acid.  Then drain and rinse, add to a pot with fresh water or stock with the soaking kombu, or use a fresh piece. Using a bone stock will help to make them even more digestible. Cook until they are done. The time they take depends on how old they are – beans under 1 year tend to cook from 45 – 1 hour | older – around 1 – 2 hours |older still – much longer, around 2 1/2 – 3 hours. If they are not cooked by then, they most likely never will.  They are ready when gentle pressure yields a creamy centre  – no pebbly bits. Pebbly bits are not digestible. I hear you saying ‘but where can I get kombu, as it’s not available in Australia?’ Kombu has been banned in Australia due to high iodine levels (crazy as we are a low iodine country, but go figure) – I buy mine online here, but you can also use Wakame which is freely available, it’s good, but it’s not quite as effective. (just a caveat about kombu, it’s great, but use it in small amounts, don’t go nuts with it).

Even though the weather is warming up, I hope you find time for this simple pot of beans in a cooler moment. But, you could always simply cook them as I have just described and use them to add to a salad with a delicious dressing. It was so wonderful to meet you all people in classes, thank you for enriching my life.  I’ll be back with some Christmas treats shortly…. x Jude








All Is Well


Ready to eat – my version of Red Beans and Rice

I don’t know about you, but the past few weeks have been wearing for me – finishing off a lot of classes, difficulties with the Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Program logistics – really, just life saying not so gently – no, don’t go this way, but rather this way. Sometimes it takes a great deal of surrender, but I have found over the years that there is always a higher reason and if I just breathe deep and become still enough, not hold on so tight to what I think is the right way, it always works out. Don’t get me wrong – I love teaching and classes, but I’m at that tired point right now but fortunately I have some space, time now to plan for program and logistics for the WNFCTP – no place to be, nothing else to plan for and it’s heaven. I’m going slow and cooking slow (and in some cases, thinking slow if the truth be told).

onion, spices and vegetables ready to go

I want to go and listen to these guys but that would mean I would need to catch a plane and head east  and right now I don’t really want to go anywhere !!! I’m so loving being at home and BEING IN MY home, feeling it’s walls and space holding me. But if I was there in Bellingen, I’d like to go also and get my goat on and who could resist going to a gallery called ” Everything That’s Beautiful Galley” – not me. I’d go, I’d spend and I’d be really wanting to get one of Jay’s glorious vegetable embroideries. Yup. But, I’m not – I’m here loving and being at my desk, at my pace, in my home. But I need soul food and nothing says that more than Red Beans and Rice. Like perfume that brings a memory to consciousness, eating this I am immediately back in the French Quarter at a funky vegetarian cafe I’ve long since forgotten the name of. Red Beans and Rice is classic New Orleans soul food – honest, nourishing, cheap, easy and above all delicious – even Michael Franti has a song about it. Traditionally made on a Monday (washing day) it just does it’s thing simmering along ready for you at the end of the day. There are hundreds of versions, my favourites include those by Bryant Terry (I can heartily recommend both his books – Vegan Soul Kitchen and the new one The Inspired Vegan). This recipe here is a variation from the original in my book Coming Home to Eat – Wholefood for the Family, but I’ve chosen to highlight it here as I think many people just might overlook it. I’ve cooked mine this week with chicken stock I had in the freezer and I would recommend this if you have any digestive issues. It is also a classic example of frugal cooking – deeply nourishing and cheap home made bone stock ensures that you can utilise more of the protein in those beans.

Your beans are cooked when they yield a soft, creamy centre to gentle pressure from your finger. The two in the front are cooked, the one at the back not at all. 

But just a word about beans – organic beans can be problematic in Australia. I’m finding that many of them (black, borlotti, pinto, kidney, cannellini, great northern, etc) don’t cook – ever. What has happened is that many of them are sourced from China – coming into Australia they must be treated in some way. Because they are organic, they are heat treated (in China). You can see in the bean above at the back that it’s not creamy in any way, certainly not cooked and if you could look up close you could just see a little band around the edge of the interior of the bean. This is where the heat has seared it. They never cook. I tend these days in Australia to go for conventional beans. I dream of growing them myself or being in San Francisco at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and buying beans from Rancho Gordo. But, until then, I’m sticking with conventional. Organic chickpeas, split peas and lentils are fine – it’s the beans that seem to be the problem. 

Go and put a pot of these beans on the stove now. If your world is busy and life is throwing up it’s challenges, if money is tight, this will reassure you that indeed, all is well. Body and soul will be nourished.


I’ve made this version using pinto beans as it’s much quicker. Chicken stock will give a slightly sweeter end result, but vegie stock will do just fine. I’ve chosen to stick to a slightly more traditional format by adding greens at the end – in this case Tuscan Black Kale. I serve with brown rice. 

1 cup raw (dried) pinto beans, soaked overnight in lots of water to cover the beans by about 3 cm

The Next Day

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon ghee

1 onion – finely diced – if I have a red onion, all the better

1 teaspoon each dried basil and oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

pinch dired sage

2 fresh bay leaves

1 medium carrot cut into small dice

2 sticks celery sliced finely

2 cloves garlic finely diced/crushed

fresh chilli as desired finely sliced

freshly ground black pepper (I sometimes use a mix of black, white and pink) to taste, but generally about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon (or even more). Remember, pepper is an important part – it has taste as well as heat

pinch asafoetida (or if you have Kombu sea vegetable a 5cm strip

3 – 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

 I used 5 medium leaves Tuscan Black Kale, roughly sliced, but collard greens are the traditional ingredient

1 – 2 teaspoons wheat free tamari

1 – 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley

Add the oil and ghee to a good size stewpot ( I like a 24cm Le Creuset enamel coated cast iron). Add the onion, herbs and vegetables – saute over a very gentle heat for 10 minutes avoiding frying the onion. Add the garlic, chilli and black pepper after 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Drain the beans and rinse well. Add to the pot with the asafoetida (or kombu) and stock. Partly cover with the lid and increase the heat to bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 11/2 – 2 hours. Check where the beans are at – they should be just about cooked and most certainly yield a creamy centre to pressure. If they are still like pebbles, you most likely have heat treated beans or they are stunningly old. If so take a risk and put the lid back on and simmer until they are soft – if they still aren’t soft after 4 hours, I would give up. After this time, remove the lid and increase the boil to reduce the beans to a thick, saucy consistency – stirring often. You might like to mash some of them to help thicken the sauce. Before checking for taste and adding tamari and parsley, add the kale or collard greens – sprinkle them on top – I prefer not to stir them through, add the lid and over a very gentle heat, let them steam for 10 minutes or until just soft. Stir through then check for taste – adding tamari and black pepper as needed.

Other traditional ingredients for the dish include red and green capsicums, spring onions (whites and greens), ham or bacon bones or bacon drippings used for the fat. Onions, spring onions, capsicums, garlic and spices would be sauteed in the bacon drippings.