My casseroles and stews used to contain a greater proportion of meat than vegetables, as I think was true of most people in a time when our diets typically contained more meat, but now that we know the health benefits of limiting our red meat intake, I add more vegetables, no matter what the recipe calls for, and you know what? I’ve found it doesn’t make a great deal of difference to flavour or satisfaction. Using more vegetables than meat is also more economical and better for the planet. Another way I like to stretch casseroles and stews a little further is by adding some dried beans. Most of us don’t eat nearly enough pulses, which is a shame, because they are extraordinarily good for us as well as being dirt cheap.
Recently I’ve started using these adzuki beans and I can’t sing their praises highly enough. Unlike other dried beans, they don’t require pre-soaking, which means they soak up the juices of the casserole or soup they are cooking in, and therefore the flavour, rather than just sucking in water. They are much smaller than many beans, adding to their visual appeal, comparatively quick to cook, have a lovely sweet-nutty flavour and a crisper texture than some beans which are more inclined to be pasty or claggy. I dare say – dare I say it really? – you might even get adzuki beans past the kids. Try adding a handful or two to your soups and casseroles, or try them out in our Friday Night Chilli recipe.