Eat beans, pulse and legumes: Year 2016 is International Year of Pulses

Puy Lentils, Apricots and Walnuts. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman

The year 2016 is being observed as “Year of Pulses” by the United Nation.

NewsGram view: Pulses, legumes and cereals are a great source of protein. In India, they form part of the staple diet. However, in the rapid rush of urban life and attraction towards non-vegetarianism, let us recapitulate the benefits of pulses and legumes.

Pulse: Called daal in Hindi. 

Legumes: examples include- peas, soy, peanut.

By Clarissa Hyman (Zester Daily) –

The great food writer Waverley Root condemned “pulse” as a “picturesque little word” used to describe the diet of ancient hermits — all gas and gruel, one imagines.

Yet, as he pointed out, it simply refers to beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas and the like. Or, to be strictly correct, the edible seeds of legumes, which have been a major staple food since earliest times.

The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. I don’t know who thinks up such things, but it’s a splendid promotion of these great little ingredients full of protein, fiber, and micronutrients. Although their fresh season is short, drying is a simple way to preserve them so they retain all their goodness and flavor.

Buttery Saffron Beans with chopped parsley. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman
Buttery Saffron Beans with chopped parsley. Credit: Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman

Legumes pack nutritional punch

As well as their nutritional importance in potentially tackling chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes, legumes also play a major role in agriculture through their nitrogen-fixing capability and water efficiency — improving soil quality and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has created a short video highlighting the way pulses can contribute to the future of food and reduce the environmental footprint of food production.

Pulses are usually stored and cooked in the whole form, although some are ground into flour. Their diversity comes from the variety that exists, sold both whole and split. The taste and texture of pulses vary enormously as well, from creamy to mealy, nutty to meaty, subtle to sweet, smooth to earthy. The assortment of shapes and colors — shiny black, tobacco brown, ecru, sage green and orange-yellow — offer a multitude of options in the kitchen. They can be served as simply as you like or as part of a complex, slow-cooked casserole, gently simmered, baked with a crisp topping or mashed to a velvet puree.

And, if all else fails, I can recommend eating ready-baked beans straight from the can. I think you know what I mean.

For ideas on how to celebrate the International Year of Pulses, visit Food Tank online.

Puy Lentils, Apricots, and Walnuts

Prep time: 15 minutes (not including soaking time)

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

Yield: Makes 6 side servings


2/3 cup dried apricots (soak for 15 minutes if not ready to eat)

Half a stick unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Handful chopped walnuts

2 cups cooked Puy lentils

Chopped coriander leaves for garnish

Diced feta for garnish (optional)


1. Cut the apricots in half and gently fry in the butter with the onions until both are softened. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the mixture of apricots and onions plus the walnuts to the cooked lentils and heat very gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the lentils do not dry out.

3. Add chunks of feta if you wish and serve at room temperature sprinkled with chopped coriander.

Buttery Saffron Beans

Prep time: 10 minutes (not including soaking time)

Cook time: 2 hours

Total time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 side servings


1 cup dried beans, soaked and drained

1 large onion, finely chopped

Large pinch of saffron strands

Half a stick unsalted butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped parsley for garnish


1. Place the beans in a pan with the onions, saffron, and butter.

2. Cover with water, brings to the boil and simmer, covered, for about two hours. Check the sauce level: If it’s too thick, add a little more water; if it’s too liquidy, remove the lid until it reduces.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot sprinkled with parsley.

Kashmiri Rice and Chickpeas

Prep time: 10 minutes, not including soaking time

Cook time: 45 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings


2 cups Basmati rice

2 onions, finely sliced

4 tablespoons oil or ghee

1 cup flaked almonds

2 tablespoons currants or raisins

2 whole cloves

2 green cardamom pods

2 bay leaves

6 whole black peppercorns

1-inch cinnamon stick

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Salt to taste

5 cups water

2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked and boiled until soft


1. Wash and soak the rice for about 30 minutes. Drain.

2. Fry the onion in the oil until it starts to turn golden. Add the almonds and currants or raisins and fry, stirring frequently, until the onions and nuts are crisp and dark gold. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary and add all the cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, peppercorns and cinnamon stick. Fry for a few minutes then add the rice, chili powder, salt, and water. Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Mix in the chickpeas, preferably with a wooden fork. Cover with a clean cloth and lid and let sit for 15 minutes.

5. Serve garnished with the fried onions, nuts and currants or raisins.

Copyright 2016 Clarissa Hyman via Zester Daily and Reuters Media Express