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Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

Up your pulse rate, it’s good for your heart.

No food illustrates changing attitudes to cooking better than the humble pulse: now a days most of us just don’t have the time, the energy or the inclination to do the soaking, boiling and final cooking that generations before us went through just to produce a dish with kidney beans, gungo peas or black eyed peas. Little wonder that if peas or beans are eaten at all then it is quite likely that they’ll come out of a can.

Now I know there’s great variety and quality in the pre-cooked canned pulses currently found on supermarket shelves so cooking time shouldn’t be a reason not to eat pulses. What’s more taste and flavour surely can’t be the reason for the decline in consumption not when you think about how great rice and beans is.

Maybe what’s needed is a bit of a rethink on pulses starting with the benefits of eating more peas and beans. If you need to be persuaded about pulses well how about they lower your cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers your blood pressure and thereby lessens your chances of heart problems. Pulses are also a great source of protein so can replace the meat in your diet and therefore reduce your intake of fat, which in turn will help with weight loss.

If you need further persuasion on why it is worthwhile upping the amount of pulses you eat here are five videos that show that you can stay healthy while eating tasty food. I’ll start with three recipes that would be suitable for vegetarians and finish with two recipes that will please the meat eaters.


Caribbean black beans

For those of you who like a nice creamy risotto here’s a dish that has many similarities but uses what I consider to be a healthy alternative to cream: coconut milk. The dish is quick and easy to prepare, all of the ingredients are cooked in the one pot, and you can have it as a vegetarian meal or use it as a base dish to have with meat or fish.

Given that the ingredients aren’t difficult to source, the beans used are tinned, and the preparation is straightforward the presentation style isn’t complex and neither is the filming. I like the fact that the camera is mainly trained on the cooking pot on the stove so it is clear to see exactly what’s happening.


Caribbean pink beans

If you are up for the challenge of cooking beans from scratch here’s a video that walks you through the process of soaking, boiling and then the final cooking. The cooking process will certainly demand one thing of you and that is time, the soaking of the beans is an overnight process and to get the beans softened for cooking requires a 90 minute boiling process; the upside of this style of cooking is that you can at least go off to do other things while it’s happening.

If like me you’ve never heard of pink beans then you might think that you’ll have problems sourcing your ingredients however if you shop for pinto beans, as they are more commonly called, then you shouldn’t have any problems. The rest of the ingredients are straightforward and can be found in any supermarket or corner grocery store.

The video for this recipe is very well put together in terms of lighting, sound camera shots and has a presenter who has a warm and engaging style so you should have no problems following the instructions.


Red beans and rice

 It was never going to be possible to do a feature on Caribbean pulses without including this classic. If you know anything about Caribbean food you’ll know that this is the one dish that you’ll find being cooked anywhere in the world where there’s one person with Caribbean roots.

I should offer a warning to those thinking of doing this dish with a meat accompaniment, you should take care not to lose out on the healthy benefits of the beans by using too much fat when cooking your meat or fish.

With rice and peas being a Caribbean classic it comes as no surprise that lots of people have their own little twist on how to cook it, this particular video has the title ‘How To Make Amazing Rice and Peas’ and as you’d expect with such a boastful title the preparation takes a complex approach.

The production of this video isn’t as slick as the Pink Beans video and you’ll have to put up with some distracting on screen advertising graphics but the cooking process is intriguing enough to make it worthwhile. As for shopping for the ingredients there’s nothing used in this recipe that you couldn’t find in your local grocery store or high street supermarket.


Jamaican beef & butter beans

 This is another one of those videos that have opted for the no speech and on screen graphics approach; at least this presentation style makes it easier to stop the video at the exact point that you need to slow down the flow of information. However my one problem with this video is that the music is annoying and repetitive, still you’ve always got the option of turning the sound down since there’s no speech.

As for the food, the thing that intrigued me was the use of butter beans, which combined with the beef and coconut milk makes for a great looking dish. The preparation time is quite demanding: the first part of the cooking process should take three hours; so this is not a dish for anyone who doesn’t like to spend time in the kitchen. Though you might have to spend some time cooking… at least the actual preparation isn’t challenging.


Slow cooked beans and ham hocks

Here’s a ‘beantastic’ spin on the classic rice and beans – I also love the fact that it’s a recipe that has been passed on from mother to daughter and the daughter has given the recipe her own particular spin.

The presentation of the video makes good use of a mixture of on screen graphics and informative verbal instructions. The presenter has a nice style and clearly likes to experiment with home cooking so has some excellent hints and tips.

Given that the cooking process is based on slow cooking meat you’ll be pleased to know that even though the beans used are cooked from dry there’s no soaking involved. Despite the fact that the actual cooking process takes six hours all of the ingredients go in from the start so it’s possible to put it all together and then stand back. Finally I get that pork is not for everyone but you do have the option of using another meat as long as it’s something that can be cooked long and slowly.



We provide news and information for anyone interested in the Caribbean whether you’re UK based, European based or located in the Caribbean. New fresh ideas are always welcome with opportunities for bright writers.


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