I come to you today with an extension to the previous post on “easy cooking” to talk about pulses. Yes, pulses – not the ones that emanate from the heart, but rather the kind that make up that sub-set of legumes* (pronounced ley-gooms by most anglophoneswhich includes beans, lentils and dried peas.

(*Language note: the original French word légume(s) – pronounced ley-gyume in both the plural and singular – is used by francophones to describe vegetables. Lentils, peas, etc. are known as légumineuses.)

It’s perhaps not the sexiest of subjects, but a worthwhile one. Not only has the UN declared 2016 The International Year of the Pulses but, ever since Ottolenghi‘s books hit the mainstream and sustainable eating has nearly become a water cooler topic, the humble bean, lentil and chickpea have become de rigeur in the food world. Thankfully, they’re delicious as they are hip, and since pulses have a long history with food cultures across each continent, the recipe repertoire is vast and versatile.

I’ve slid pulses under the banner of “easy cooking”, simply because once you’ve made a few batches, it’s easy to incorporate them into different meals for the week, without too much trouble. On any given Sunday, when the kitchen becomes my workhorse, at least three of the four burners of the stove are on, cooking beans and chickpeas. I’ll soak them under cold water the night before so that they’re plump and rehydrated the next day. Then they just have to cook – usually anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending. Beans aren’t fussy. You bring them to a boil, lower the heat, let them bubble away on low until the timer goes off. No need to hover over the stove; you can more or less ignore them and tend to other things (Skyping, reading, lip-synching…) while they cook. Lentils are the same, except they don’t need soaking and are ready in even less time (20 minutes or so).

It goes without saying that you can use always canned beans and chickpeas in your recipes (there’s a supply stationed in my cupboard right now) (because none of us are 19th-century homesteaders that make everything from scratch, all the time), but if you have a little time, cooking beans from dried is a nice alternative – they retain a nice al dente bite and their flavour is a lot more neutral/natural than the canned versions.

If you’re new to cooking pulses, here are some practical tips to keep in mind:


  • most require pre-soaking before cooking; however certain beans, such as mung or adzuki, and split peas don’t require pre-soaking
  • they will not cook properly if you add salt to the boiling water (reserve salt and add when they’re almost done cooking, if using)
  • when cooking, add enough water to cover them by about an inch, bring to gentle boil, then leave the lid on but slightly ajar.
  • cooking time can range between 30-60 minutes, depending on the type of bean (see more info in the links below)


  • do not require pre-soaking before cooking
  • need to be picked over and rinsed before cooking
  • will not cook properly if you add salt to the boiling water (reserve salt and add when they’re almost done cooking, if using)
  • cooking ratio: 2 parts water, 1 part lentils 
  • red lentils are not the same as green, brown of Puy lentils; they cook faster and become softer (read: mushier) than other lentils. Two of my favourite recipes for red lentils are for Turkish red lentil soup and coconut dhal.


  • require pre-soaking before cooking
  • should be rinsed after soaking
  • will not cook properly if you add salt to the boiling water (reserve salt and add when they’re almost done cooking, if using)
  • when cooking, add enough water to cover them by about an inch, bring to gentle boil, then leave the lid on but slightly ajar
  • take about 1 hour to cook

For more information, visit these sites:

Combinations: during the week, I like having a variety of cooked lentilsbeans and grains (quinoa, farro, brown rice) in separate containers in the fridge. That way, they’re ready to be thrown into soups, stews, salads, pasta, etc.

Freezing: whatever won’t get used up in the next couple of days can be packed and frozen. Lay the cooked beans flat in one layer (e.g. on a baking sheet), allow them to freeze, then transfer to freezer bags or containers before putting them back in the freezer. The pre-freezing in one layer will prevent them from sticking together (same goes for dumplings, meatballs, etc.)

Quantities: if you’re going to spend the time cooking beans, go all the way. The idea isn’t to make portions large enough to survive the apocalype (in other words, no more than you can consume within the next few weeks) (freezer burn is a real thing), but make enough to have a small stockpile in the fridge/freezer of the different pulses that you like. That way, you’ll only have to set aside that time to cook beans about once a month/month and a half.

Below are some of my favorite recipes that use pulses – one with brown lentils, one with mung beans, and the last with chickpeas. They might even become your new back-pocket recipes.


Classic Lentil Soup – makes 6 servings; freezes well

Note: this recipe does not require any pre-planning (soaking/cooking). The lentils cook in the soup.

Classic Lentil Soup


  • 300 grams dried brown lentils
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 celery stick (about 1 cup), finely chopped (reserve some celery leaves for garnish)
  • 1 medium carrot (about one cup), finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion (about 1 ½ cups, finely chopped)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peel removed and smashed
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups water or vegetable broth
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: olive oil and sherry vinegar for serving


1) Rinse and pick through the lentils (sometimes you can find tiny stones); set aside to drain.

2) Put a large casserole or soup pot on medium heat and add the 3 Tbsp olive oil. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic and cook until soft and the onion is beginning to turn golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Add the bay leaves and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Then add the tomatoes with their juice, stir and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.

3) Add the lentils and cover with the water (or broth). Cover and cook about 30-45 minutes over low-medium heat until the lentils are tender (check from time to time to see if you need to add a bit more water/broth). When they’re almost done cooking, add salt to taste.

4) Add salt to taste; serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of sherry vinegar and some of the reserved celery leaves. When reheating any leftovers, add some water to loosen the lentils.

Classic Lentil Soup

Classic Lentil Soup


Mung Bean and Carrot Salad with Feta – lightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4

Note: this recipe does not require any pre-soaking. Mung beans are ready to be cooked from dry.

Mung Bean and Carrot Salad


  • 140g dried green mung beans
  • 60ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm batons
  • ½ tsp honey
  • small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 140g feta, crumbled

Mung Beans


1) Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add the beans and simmer for 20 minutes, until they are cooked but still retain a bite. Drain, shake well and transfer to a large bowl.

2) About three minutes before the beans are done, heat two tablespoons of oil in a small frying pan and add the seeds. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until they start to pop – about three minutes – then pour, hot oil and all, over the beans, along with the vinegar, garlic, chilli and half a teaspoon of salt.

3) While the beans are cooking, lay the carrots in a pan large enough for them to form a shallow layer on the bottom. Pour over anough water to nearly submerge them, plus two tablespoons of oil and half a teaspoon each of honey and salt. Bring to a boil and keep on a high heat for eight minutes, by which time the water should have evaporated and the carrots become slightly caramelised but still crunchy. Drain some liquid, if needed.

4) Add the carrots to the bean bowl, along with the fresh coriander, and stir gently. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl, sprinkle over lemon zest, dot with feta and drizzle with olive oil.

Mung Bean and Carrot Salad

Mung Bean and Carrot Salad


Spiced Eggplant with Chickpeas and Yogurt – adapted from Molly Wizenberg
Serves 6; freezes well

  • 3 large eggplants (about 3 ½ lb)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeded (or not) and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 1½ tsp curry powder
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (or canned)
  • ¾ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup whole-milk plain yogurt
  • Salt, to taste
  • Garam masala, for serving


1) Preheat the oven to 450° F. Put the eggplants on a rimmed baking sheet, and pierce them all over with a knife. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the skins are blackened and the flesh feels very soft when pressed. Let cool slightly, then slice them open lengthwise and, using a spoon, scrape the flesh from the skin into a large bowl. Mash the flesh coarsely and set aside (this part can be done a day ahead and refrigerated).

2) Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they begin to sizzle and pop, about 10 seconds. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft and beginning to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add the jalapeño, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, paprika, curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and stir well. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

3) Add the eggplant, stir to combine, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the cooked chickpeas, and warm through. Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the cilantro, half of the yogurt, and salt.

Serve hot or warm, with remaining yogurt and sprinkled with garam masala. Partners well with basmati rice or naan bread.

(just so you know – this photo was taken in bad lighting, under a tungsten bulb; in real life, the colour is deeper richer, and less pink.)

Spiced Eggplant with Chickpeas and Yogurt