Level up with Legumes, Part I
Curried cauli leaves & popped beans for an easy midweek meal, a sneaky protein bar recipe, and aqua faba magic
Hello dear friend! We have lift-off!
As promised, here I am, armed with lovely legumes which I guarantee you'll fancy the-total-arse-off by the end of the month.
Yep. We're crushing on beans today, and edging meat off our dinner plate in a magical, delicious, and stealthy way. Even Hannibal would be excited.
Legumes are a badass family of beans, chickpeas and lentils - all talented little baubles of brilliance. They are a cunning mixture of protein and carbohydrates, making them particularly satisfying in the absence of meat. I find beans to be an excellent vehicle for belly-bombing deliciousness, from latching onto creamy sauces, to drinking up earthy spices. Popping them into a hot oven with a lick of maple syrup is one of our favourite taco fillings. And hiding them in protein bars has become my teenager's modus operandi.
Seducing more beans into your diet will not only earn you tweeting rights to meat-free moguls like Billie Eilish, but will also reward your gut with a private prebiotic party. Prebiotics are those helpful chaps that power the dynasty of do-gooders inside us, making up our gut's microbiota. On average, we each have about 2-3kg of these living bacteria paroling our pipes. Keeping them nourished and fulfilled is important work!
You'll find a freight of prebiotics inside this week's bean bonanza in the form of fibre. We love fibre because it acts like an excited traffic warden inside our gut, directing flow and reducing transit. We particularly fancy the resistant starch found in beans. Our gut enjoys fermenting resistant starch (toot toot!) and turning it into short chain fatty acids. SCFAs strengthen our gut wall and are "probably the most exciting and healing molecules we have discovered in gut health" according to gastroenterologist and disease specialist Dr Will Bulsiewicz. We need both prebiotics and probiotics for our gut health to thrive, like our very own Mario Kart mushrooms. (More on that in the Health Geeks and Data Freaks section below).
It's worth saying that it's important to treat fibre consumption like going to the gym - start off slowly, and build your capacity to engage. Essentially, you are increasing and strengthening your microbiota. However, excessive fibre in a weak gut can cause bloating, gas, and multiple voodoo dolls of SJW! Gastroenterologists - the specialists who look after our pipes - advise we aim for 35g of fibre a day. The average person only consumes 10-15g daily. So work out where you're at, and gradually level up your legumes! I'm here to help you do exactly that.
First up, a midweek vegetarian meal of curried cauli leaves and popped black beans. Cauli leaves are so tender when roasted - who knew?! I used to chuck the leaves into my compost. Now we get a stealthy midweek meal from it. If you're leery about sweet chunks of roasted banana, feel free to swap it out for baby toms. Both will be balistically juicy when hot out of the oven. There's also a sneaky bean bar recipe for you that my boys go bonkers for. Go ahead and use pinto or lima for the bean bars, or even black beans. But stay away from lentils or chickpeas for this particular recipe - I don't want you finding out why! You'll have some nifty aqua faba left over from draining your tinned white beans, so I've included a recipe for a simple vegan mayo. Total sorcery! Zero waste warriors can add this recipe to their arsenal of financially-savvy, planet-saving recipes. And because we’re using extra virgin olive oil, this mayo is unusually rich in polyphenols and cholesterol-lowering snazzmatazz.