It’s easy to forget that, for centuries, peas and fava beans provided us with much of our protein in Britain.
But when meat became more affordable they were cast aside, dismissed as the ‘meat of the poor’. Their climate-friendly, protein-packed punch hasn’t had much press recently either.
In combination with other veggie delights, pulses really can take the place of meat on your plate – making sure you get all the nutrients you need.
Another big bonus? They’re cheap too. All in all, they're better for you, as well as for the environment.
There are so many fabulous protein-filled pulse and grain dishes to try that your meat-free, earth-friendly protein fix is guaranteed.
5 meat-free but protein-packed recipes
- Dahl with raita, rice or flat breads.
- Tortilla wrapped fried black beans with chilli, topped with grated cheese and Guacamole.
- Warm hummus with pitta, crudités, olives and green leaves.
- Super salad: 1 cup of cooked wholegrain (eg brown rice, bulgar wheat) 1 cup of cooked beans (eg black beans, cannellini) 500 g roasted vegetables (eg carrots, cauliflower or beetroot), 3 oranges (segmented) 1 tbsp roasted nuts, 1 tbsp roasted seeds, plenty of fresh herbs and a good vinaigrette.
- And, if you’re looking for a reason to ditch the steak at your next barbie... try my Ultimate Summer Bean Burger recipe below.
Protein and your food
Can pulses really take the place of your meaty meals? Oh yes. Pulses have an incomplete set of the amino acids required to make protein and yet, by some miracle of nature, cereals can provide that missing piece of the jigsaw – an amino acid called methionine. There’s no need to combine legumes and grains in every mouthful, or even every meal – just consume both during the day.
Protein from pulses comes with plenty of healthy fibre, minerals and B vitamins too. Vitamin C will unlock the precious iron content, aiding its absorption, so be sure to squeeze some citrus juice over your dish.
Ultimate Summer Bean Burger Recipe
These crispy-coated cakes of creamy beans with loads of texture and spicing can knock the socks off a meaty burger. They bear no resemblance to the veggie burger of old – textured vegetable protein pretending to be meat. This high-protein bean burger can hold its own.
For 6-8 burger-sized cakes, you will need
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 red peppers, finely diced
- 1/2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika (sweet or hot, the choice is yours)
- 2 x 400 g cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 large handful of green peas, cooked or just thawed if using frozen
- 1 large handful of baby broad beans, cooked or just thawed if using frozen (double pod if you like)
- Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 tbsp roasted almonds, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- A few mint leaves, ripped
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 5 tbsp breadcrumbs
- salt and black pepper
Step-by-step guide to cooking protein-packed burgers
- Fry the onion with the red pepper in the oil until just soft and then add your garlic and smoked paprika. Continue to cook until you’re enveloped in smells and then set the pan aside.
- Purée 3/4 s of the beans using a handheld blender, whizz them in a food processor or just go wild with the potato masher. You want a slightly lumpy, creamy texture.
- Add the remaining whole beans and your onion and pepper mixture.
- Stir in the eggs and bread crumbs with the peas, broad beans, lemon juice and zest, almonds and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
- Press the burgers into firm cakes, the size is up to you. I like to make 6 with this mixture.
- They hold together fairly well but you will need to be quite gentle as you turn them over (a few hours chilling in the fridge does firm them up but is not absolutely necessary).
Cooking your vegetarian burgers
I like to pan-fry my bean burgers in olive oil. About 5-6 minutes on each side over a medium flame will do the trick. You can keep them hot in the oven for about 15 minutes, any longer and they seem to dry out a little.
Alternatively you can place the burgers on a greased tin foil plate, drizzle with a little oil and place on the hot barbie for about 20 minutes (turning after 10). They will pick up plenty of the smokey flavours without any fear of them collapsing.
Serve your beautiful bean burgers with dips, salsas or salads for a meat-free protein hit – but don’t stuff them into burger buns, the result is just too starchy.