Ask Rosemary ....jpg

Ask Rosemary …

Having lived in Portugal for more than five years, multifaceted Rosemary Ladle is carving out a name for herself as a kitchen whiz. Between designing recipes and testing them, she is also a talented seamstress.

IN THIS week’s column, Rosemary Ladle has taken a break from cooking to answer a reader’s questions.

Dear Rosemary,

I wonder if you could possibly help me with a few queries regarding beans, which confuse me completely (and I guess I am a little suspicious of). As a food expert, perhaps you could help me to understand the following:

1. What is the Portuguese name for cannellini beans?

2. What is the Portuguese name for puy lentils?

3. What is the Portuguese name for borlotti beans?

4. Is it possible to buy cans of puy lentils ready cooked?

5. Presumably white beans are butter beans and would they be OK for a hummus, for example?

6. Are the red beans the ones for chilli con carne and are they okay to use if they are heated up and not cooked? The cans marked cozido, are they okay and need no cooking?

7. Finally, are there loads of calories in beans?

I’m sorry there are so many questions and if you have the time to spare I would be really grateful for your advice.

LESLEY KING

By email

Rosemary Ladle replies:

So many beans, so little time! Dear Lesley, with so many bean varieties, it is not always possible to obtain those that we require.

I have to admit, not all of the varieties that you have requested the Portuguese names for actually translate into the language.

Borlotti beans for example are generally referred to as feijão borlotti. These are identifiable in their dried form as a beige/pink bean with brown mottles.

Cannellini beans can also be referred to as feijão cannellini but are probably more commonly known as feijão branco (white beans).

This is a large, white, slightly kidney shaped bean but is probably not best suited to the production of hummus.

If you wanted to substitute the usual grão de bico (chick peas), then I probably would suggest feijão manteiga (butter beans).

I think its floury texture is more suited to this ‘dip’.

The red beans you ask about would certainly be suitable for a chilli con carne as they tend to hold their shape well in stews and soups.

You can’t, however, beat the ‘meaty’ and traditional feijão encarnado (red kidney beans) for this purpose.

If you chose to use the dried beans rather than the pre-cooked (cozido), you would be advised to prepare them well.

Uncooked red kidney beans do contain a toxin known as phytohaemagglutinin. If this is not removed during the preparation process, it can cause the consumer some very severe gastric distress.

Eating only four to six beans could bring on symptoms.

Preparation should entail a minimum of five hours soaking, at least 10 minutes ‘brisk’ boiling and a further two hours continuous cooking before adding to your chilli or salads.

I have to say, for all this fuss I think I’d plump for the pre-cooked (cozido) variety and just drain and rinse.

The puy lentil is not widely available here, although you can pick it up at some specialist food stores and those that import food stuffs from outside of Portugal.

I have not seen them ready cooked although they are available from some online organic food suppliers.

If you can’t get a hold of them, they can be easily substituted with green lentils (lentilhas verde) and to be honest they are much easier to prepare than dried beans. They require no soaking and cook in a fraction of the time.

To answer your final question, beans contain only two to three per cent fat, meaning their calorie count is pretty low.

Shopping basket for next week:

One pack frozen mixed seafood, frozen prawns in shells, dry white wine, tomato pulp (polpa), flat leaf parsley, cloves and a lemon.