Do not you struggle with getting your dried vegetables to stay the same? Cooking is easy if you control the cooking and soaking times.
The vegetables are wonderful: rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals, cheap, easy to store and easy to prepare… or not? There are still many things that we do wrong with vegetables and that lead many people to give up their consumption. And it should not be like that, pulses are not alien or exotic, they have always been with us and the only thing we have to do is cook them according to their characteristics.
In this article, you will discover five common mistakes that we usually make when cooking dried vegetables and that, if corrected, will make them the queens of our dishes, without complications and without problems.
1. Using "old" vegetables
If your vegetables have been there for more than a year, it is very possible that they are "old". Over time they lose more water and reach a point where they can be impossible to cook. No matter how much you soak and cook them in the pot, they will continue to be hard.
This is called "HTC defect" (Hard To Cook) and not only involves dehydration but a whole complex range of reactions and mechanisms (such as oxidation of lipids and formation of insoluble pectates) that occur over time and the storage, and that can be aggravated later by other factors such as soaking in hard water.
When in doubt, use a new package, and, write the expiration date that comes on the package. The best thing to avoid this is to have the vegetables always at hand, so they do not remain forgotten in the back of a kitchen cupboard. And if you do not usually do them, buy smaller packages (there are half kilo and quarter) or cooked vegetables.
2. Not leaving them to soak
There are legumes, like peeled lentils, that do not need soaking to cook quickly, but for others it is convenient to let them hydrate before adding them to the pot.
For chickpeas and beans (and other large-sized legumes) it is best to leave them soaking for 10-12 hours with plenty of water. With this we rehydrate them and get them to soften in a lot less time. Also with that soak we deactivate the phytic acid that they contain and we pass to the water part of the oligosaccharides that give us gases.
Once the soaking time is over, discard that water and put new water in the pot to cook the vegetables. And that is also abundant (approximately twice as much in volume).
3. Using very hard water
It is not a mistake in itself, the hardness of the water depends on where we live. In Boston, MA, for example, water is considered soft, while in Tampa, FL, water is very hard. The amount of calcium carbonate is what determines this hardness.
Do you get much limescale in the faucets, the kitchen and the bathtub? Surely your water is hard or very hard (you can check the hardness of the water in your province by searching on Google).
It is not that it is bad to soak and cook the legumes in hard and very hard waters, it is that they can be harder, need more time to cook and soak, and have a much more complete texture than with soft water. This happens by the formation of insoluble pectates in combination with the calcium in the water.
The solution is quite simple and it is not necessary to spend on mineral water. We can use sodium bicarbonate, which by chemical reactions removes calcium and magnesium by precipitation, and sodium chloride (normal salt and current) by the ion exchange with the pectates (helps soften the legumes). I know that many times it is discouraged to add salt to the vegetables when we are going to cook them to avoid them being hard, but here we are talking about a process of cooking with very hard water, so the conditions are different.
For soaking, add a maximum of 1 gram of bicarbonate per liter of water to the water. For cooking, maximum 1 gram of bicarbonate per liter of water and maximum 6 grams of salt per liter of water.
Note: up to 1 gram if your water is very hard; If it is only hard, you will need much less. If we pass bicarbonate will break the structure of the legume and also know fatal.
4. Not using a pressure cooker or express pot
The dried vegetables, although we leave them to soak, need a slower cooking. If we use a normal pot, as they will need several hours in water at 100 ºC, they will trigger the energy expenditure (and of time, we will not be five hours watching the pot…).
Pressure cookers reduce the cooking time to much less than half. Larger legumes (beans, chickpeas, soybeans, etc.) can take up to 6 hours to soften in a normal pot, while soaking and cooking in an express pot will be ready in half an hour or less. It is much faster, more practical and more efficient.
5. "Scaring" the pulses
Cutting the cooking process by adding cold water does not make much sense. To start, we have to put out the fire and remove the pot, letting it cool enough to lower the pressure and open the lid. Then add the cold water, which lowers the cooking temperature, and then close and return to the fire to cook another few minutes once the maximum pressure has been reached.
If we want to eliminate raffinose and stachyose, the oligosaccharides that cause flatulence, we have to start from the beginning: soak, discard that water, cook in new water.
If we leave the same water, then these compounds will follow. Of course, if we change the water we also throw some of the desirable elements, such as minerals, down the drain. In conclusion, do not do it. You will extend the cooking time.
The best method to avoid gases is to eat legumes frequently. In a short time you will get used to them and they will not give you gas.