The Humble Bean - An Unsung Hero

First published 16th Jan, 2024

The Humble Dried Bean

As our food prices continue to rise and our proverbial belts continually need tightening, the humble dried bean can be a lifesaver.

Beans can be used to stretch almost any meal, but unlike the usual rice or pasta that is used to stretch a meal, they are packed with good stuff - protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Aaaagh, what about the anti-nutrients shout the anti-legume, anti-pulse brigade. The truth is that if the beans are properly soaked and cooked (which they are if you buy them in a can) they are perfectly safe for most people.

They are a high satiety food which means they make you feel full which can stop you from overeating. Each 100 grams contains 6.6 grams of protein and 7.2 grams of fibre. They also contain copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.

Cooked dried beans can be used to stretch the meat in mince dishes and in soups. They can be used as a base for a nice roast veg salad and they can even be eaten topped with a tomato pasta sauce 


and grated cheese. They are very delicious hot with butter and salt but don’t do this if you are not good at portion control or you are trying to lose weight. The combination of the butter and salt makes it hard to stop eating them!

Now let’s look at making our own instead of buying them in cans. It’s ever so easy to pop those cans into your trolley but if you really want to save, rather make your own. Here’s the maths - one can of beans is R25.00 and yields about a cup and a half. One kg packet of dried red speckled beans aka the sugar bean (the most common in South Africa) is R54.00 and it yields about 12 cups of cooked beans, the equivalent of 8 cans which would cost you R200.00.

And, no, it’s not an overnight drudge if you use the quick soak method:

Place 1 cup of rinsed beans in a pot along with 3 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and let the beans stand in the hot water in the pot for 60 minutes.
Then drain and rinse the beans. Place them in the rinsed pot and cover them with water. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and let them simmer with the pot lid tilted for 50 to 60 minutes. The beans should now be soft. Drain and cool. Then place them in an airtight container in the fridge until you need them. They will last up to 5 days like this.

Here is our favourite tomato mince recipe for 3 or 4 people - make it go further with a cup or two of beans:

You will need:

500 g mince
1 Tbsp oil (we prefer olive oil)
salt and black pepper
2 tsp crushed garlic
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)
2 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)


Heat the oil in a pot and fry the mince until it is brown. Use a wooden spoon to chop it into small pieces to avoid chunks.
Add salt and pepper to taste to the mince while frying.
Add the crushed garlic and fry for a minute more.
Add the tomato paste and stir in well along with the sugar.
Then add your herbs (fresh herbs give the best taste) and simmer for 20 minutes

This recipe would probably serve 3 people - serve 5 or 6 by adding 2 cups of cooked dried beans! Add something green alongside for a well rounded meal. You could boil or steam green beans or use a pack of leafy greens such as rocket/baby spinach.


© 2024