The nationwide Covid-19 lockdown saw shortages of a vast number of popular essentials. From pasta and eggs to canned goods and long life items, many of us had to work creatively with a range of ingredients that we’ve never encountered before to ensure our favourite meals (or at least versions of them) ended up on the dinner table.
Lockdown may be over, but that doesn’t mean we have to leave our creative thinking and cooking behind.
Whether your time spent indoors has taught you to be more self-sufficient or simply work with what you have, making use of the basic ingredients that we previously took for granted is a must.
Lentils and beans are classic kitchen staples that can often be found lurking at the back of pantries up and down the country, but how can they be used to create simple yet satisfying meals?
Here we explore the top ways to use lentils and beans this autumn, whether you’re looking to create some delicious winter warmers, transitioning to a more plant-based eating style or both.
Blend to create hearty soups…
Lentils and beans are utterly brilliant when blended with other fresh, seasonal produce. With the cooler months swiftly on their way, there’s nothing more satisfying than a bowl of warm, hearty soup and a few slices of crusty bread.
Hearty lentil and bean soups aren’t just budget-friendly and filling, they’re super easy to make – in fact, they pretty much cook themselves. All you have to do is simmer your lentils and beans with your selected spices and throw in a selection of root vegetables to create a flavourful broth.
Lentil and bean soups can also be made ahead of time, and reheat and freeze well, so all the family can keep enjoying this delicious lunch option.
There are tons of protein-packed, ultra-healthy lentil and bean soup recipes to explore but this has to be our favourite recipe, let us know what you think of this chunky lentil and white bean soup. You can of course omit the bacon for a super-tasty vegetarian version.
…and even delicious, thirst quenching smoothies
You can quench your thirst all year round by using lentils and beans to create a very different smoothie. In smoothies, lentils work well with berries, while those looking for something even sweeter, are certain to love this cocoa bean smoothie.
Whatever your chosen flavour, thanks to the lentils and beans, your daily smoothie will be full of protein as well as give you access to that slow release energy that will get you through the day.
If you’re new to eating lentils and beans, I’d recommend starting with just half the suggested amount, this will allow your body to adjust.
Create a little something on the side
Side dishes can often be sensational enough to make the main dish extra special, so why not create some delicious bean dips with those lentils and beans languishing in your kitchen cupboards!
Hummus, white bean dips and lentil dips are delicious and offer an easy way to add some inexpensive protein to the wider meal. They also make great snacks when paired with crackers, breadsticks, or crudités.
Make your favourite meals go further
If you love a good chili or taco, you’ll be no stranger to the humble bean, but beans can be more than just an accompaniment to meatier dishes.
You can create a chili or taco that’s completely plant-based by upping your bean count, and unlock an even higher protein and nutritional value.
If you want to stick with tradition, adding more kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans or lentils can make your favourite meal go further. You can even make large batches and freeze into portions to keep things frugal.
Refry your beans to unlock more plus-points
Refried beans are a staple in Mexico and could offer a way to add more flavour to your kitchen creations too. They also unlock some fantastic and surprising benefits as New Health Advisor explains:
“Refried beans are a great source of iron which improves your cells ability to carry oxygen. This keeps you from feeling fatigued and lethargic. A serving of refried beans also contains vitamin C as well as B-vitamins that work as antioxidants and eliminate free radicals from your body.
They also have soluble fiber that makes you feel full and helps lower cholesterol. Besides, they also regulate blood sugar and help you maintain a healthy body weight.”
Refried beans are traditionally made with onions, pinto beans, bacon fat, and garlic, but there are a number of vegetarian and vegan alternatives that offer plenty of flavour and are easy to pull together.
Sprout for extra goodness and easy digestion
Your stash of beans and lentils can be transformed further with sprouting. Here at Web of Goodness, we’re huge fans of sprouting and the technique can be used to create some fabulous homemade dishes.
New to sprouting? You’ll want to read our guide to sprouting safely at home.
Photos: vanillaechoes / Shutterstock.com, Oksana Mizina / Shutterstock.com