What do you do when you have lots of adzuki beans that you need to use up? This is the question I asked myself a couple of weeks ago when I started reaching to the back of my store cupboards. You should know that this was not so much an exercise in spring cleaning (technically I haven’t got round to that part), or saving (which it turned out to be) but more a question of preparing for an imminent move as well trying to stick to my New Year’s Resolution: use everything in the cupboards before buying anything new.
This move has provided the much needed catalyst for this endeavour. There’s nothing like being put with your back against the wall, figuratively speaking, to give you the motivation to start doing things you have put off for a long time.
Truth be told, it was my husband’s overzealous shopping for healthy foods whilst travelling abroad that landed me with a very sizeable store of beans. Among the loot, I also find myself with a whole new pack of Borlotti beans, but that will be the subject of another blog post if I ever get round to cooking with it.
To go back to the adzuki. I had to search the web for ideas on how to cook them. It’s not that I didn’t have any myself, but like the majority of people, I tend to fall back on the old, tried and tested recipes most of the time. Having said that, I dislike eating the same foods cooked in the same way over and over again. My search took me into the realms of Asian cuisine and the many recipes using adzuki beans made in that part of the globe. I tried to look for an all-round healthy dessert using adzuki paste (called anko) but although the anko itself is healthy enough, the other ingredients were not. So, I produced a mishmash of other ideas garnered from my search in the shape of a warm bowl full of vegetables.
What Chinese Medicine (and Ayurveda) have to say about adzuki beans
Incidentally, adzuki beans are considered highly nourishing by Traditional Chinese Medicine, and a great way to build Qi (a.k.a. energy). They are great at expelling dampness by facilitating urination, activate blood circulation and detoxify the body. According to TCM adzukis target the heart and small intestine meridiens, and are useful in reducing swelling as well as expelling pus.
Adzukis are touted as a great source of nourishment for weakened/deficient states and considered such an extremely nutritious and healthy food. They feature in many Asian recipes especially in Japan. In fact the name Adzuki means “small beans” in Japanese.
The terminology might be different, but the properties attributed to adzukis by TCM are shared by Ayurvedic practitioners.
The Western perspective on adzuki beans
From a Western perspective, adzuki beans are quite high in protein and fibre and have a low GI which means they release energy (in the form of glucose) very slowly into the blood stream and are good for stabilising blood sugar. They fall under the category of “slow carbs” making them ideal for weightloss diets, as they are not only low in calories but also keep hunger away for longer. However, although they are quite high in protein, they are not a complete protein so vegans and vegetarians need to bear this in mind. The solution to this is simply to eat grains and vegetables at the same meal.
In my case cooking with adzukis is a real win-win. Not only does it match my current nutritional needs (give me more energy for the move!), it is also helping me use up all my stores.
Cooking with adzuki beans
Don’t forget that, like with most beans, the greater benefits can be derived from soaking the beans overnight in a bowl of lukewarm water. You can also add a half teaspoon of bicarbonate to the water (I usually do) to help the process of cleaning/softening them. Also, it is best to add salt at the end of the cooking period to prevent them from hardening.
Whether you are looking for something healthier to cook using adzukis, a different recipe, or a pick me up, here is the recipe I came up with.
Adzuki and Edamame Bowl
approx. 80 gm cooked adzuki beans
approx. 80 gm edamame beans (I used frozen edamame)
3 small spring onions
a handful of cherry tomatoes
1 medium cucumber
100 gm fresh (baby) spinach leaves
1 to 2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or other white vinegar of your choice)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Soak the adzuki beans overnight in lukewarm water and a little bicarbonate. This will help them become more easily digestible as well as reducing cooking times.
2. Drain, rinse and place the adzukis in a pot with lid. Add plenty of boiling water (from the kettle) and bring to a boil. Don’t add salt at this stage as it hardens beans. Follow the packet instructions for cooking times. If you soaked them overnight the cooking times may fall well short of the cooking length indicated on the pack. You want to cook them through but leave a little crunch rather than a mushy consistency. Approximately 40 minutes, although this will depend on whether or not you soaked them beforehand and how long for. (They should be soft in the middle without falling apart).
3. While the adzukis and edamame are cooking soak the spring onions, spinach, tomatoes and cucumber in a bowl of water and bicarbonate for around 10 minutes. Then drain and pat dry with some kitchen towel.
4. In a separate pot boil the edamame pods in slightly salted water. This should take approximately 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool slightly before shelling the beans. Discard the shells and place the beans in a bowl.
5. Trim and dice the cucumber and tomatoes. Then chop the spring onions. Place all these in the bowl with the edamame.
6. Cut the spinach leaves in bite size pieces and lightly sauté in a pan with a little olive oil. Add to the bowl with the other ingredients.
7. Squeeze the lemon and place 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a small bowl. Dice your avocado quarter and transfer it to the bowl with lemon juice making sure it is well covered to prevent it from browning. Then place in the bowl with the other ingredients.
8. Once the adzukis are cooked, drain them and add them to the bowl with the other ingredients. Season with the remaining lemon juice, the olive oil, sesame seeds (you can lightly roast them in a pan beforehand), and a dash of apple cider vinegar. Toss well and adjust the seasoning to taste.
There you have it. Easy and simple does it best. It takes a little time to put together all the ingredients but it’s worth it. You can shorten the timings by using pre-cooked adzukis. I made mine the day before.
Here’s to healthy protein!