Never let it be said we Dinner Ladies don’t have a finger on the pulse. Whether that pulse is a nutty chickpea, lentil, kidney bean, silky borlotti or comforting split pea!
Pulses have come a long way in their kombi van since their hippie days of the 1970s, when they were somewhat mocked for their hemp flares and open relationship with the nut roast. Now they’re cool, delicious and great for our hips and our hip pockets.
Turns out they’re also one of the most sustainable crops to farm – with a low production cost and a small carbon footprint. And they’re great for gut health!! What’s not to love?
Life’s big question… legume or pulse?
Without getting too technical about it (why not? Go on!), legumes include all the thousands of varieties of bean and pea plants that come from the botanical family Fabaceae. The main types of legumes are peas, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts and beans (including the cute, vibrant green edamame soybeans in our Chicken and edamame bites).
So, what’s a pulse? (Apart from the thing that races when we see a Chicken and edamame bite.) Pulses are the dried seeds of legume plants. So, while not all legumes are pulses, all pulses are legumes. Simples.
The Ancient Egyptians started eating pulses around 7000 years ago. They learnt to grow lentils, chickpeas and fava beans on the banks of the River Nile, soaked them to soften, then cooked them up into hearty stews and soups in clay pots over the fire and invited their friends to share. Not that different to the Dinner Ladies kitchens in 2023 Matraville then!
Hundreds of different pulses are now grown around the world. Some of our favourites are pinto beans, red lentils, borlottis, puy lentils, red kidney beans, green and yellow split peas, chickpeas (that’s ‘garbanzo beans’ to any Americans reading) and black beans.
And the name comes from the Latin puls, meaning ‘seeds to make a thick soup’. Thank you, Caesar.
As well as being super-affordable and deliciously filling – at a time when we’re all watching our grocery bills (and pulses) shoot up at the supermarket check-out – legumes are good for our health too. Especially our all-important gut health.
They’re a beloved part of the Mediterranean diet, with all the famous health benefits that brings. Now researchers are testing whether they can slow down memory decline! Yes, all that from a chickpea!!
If you’re trying to go meat-free a couple of days a week – whether it’s for your hip-pocket health, or the health of the planet – comforting pulses are the easiest way to cook up a filling family meal that won’t set up a clamouring for lamb chops.
And if you’re not quite ready to go ‘full pulse’ yet, it’s easy to do half and half. Combine a smaller portion of meat with the nutritional heft of all that plant protein. Try our Sausage rolls with sneaky veg – half satisfyingly sausagey pork, half pureed chickpeas and herbs, wrapped up in buttery puff pastry. See if any of the family even notice!
We’ll help you get more pulses on your plate
We’re big fans of powerhouse pulses, so you’ll usually find them on the menu. As a starting point, order Tarka dahl – a creamy dahl of split peas, red lentils and cashews, with mustard and cumin seeds, curry leaves and fresh coriander. Pulses have played a huge role in Indian cooking and heritage for thousands of years, and they’ve blended those flavours to be truly perfect!
For a curry feast, mix and match your Tarka dahl with Chickpea and eggplant coconut curry in a fragrant tomato and coconut cream curry sauce, finished with a squeeze of lime juice and wilted spinach.
Our Vegie cottage pie is packed with French puy lentils and borlotti beans, simmered with diced vegies and an extra punch of savoury flavour from dried porcini mushrooms and topped with sweet potato mash. Puy lentils have been grown and eaten in the volcanic region of Le Puy in France for around 2000 years – although we like to think our cottage pie has raised them to new heights!
You’ll also find puy lentils in our lentil salad with herbs, vinaigrette and goats cheese. Watch out for this French classic – we make our version with roasted baby beetroots – whenever it’s on the Dinner Ladies menu. Perfect with simple pan-fried chicken.
And if you fancy your pulses with Mexican spices, Cheesy beef and black bean quesadillas is your go-to. A spiced beefy mix with onions, garlic, tomatoes, corn and black beans – sandwiched between two tortillas with plenty of mozzarella cheese, all ready for toasting!
Fingers on the pulse, everyone! Click here to order.