According to a number of sources – from the UN, which declared 2016 ‘The International Year of Pulses’, to Canadian celebrity chef Michael Smith, and the McCormick 2016 Flavour Forecast, pulses are a big trend for this year that show no signs of losing steam.
By Kira Smith
Pulses are part of the legume family; however, ‘pulse’ refers specifically to the dried seed of the legume. Peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils are the most common varieties.
Pulses have much to be celebrated on the nutrition front. They are packed with micronutrients, fibre and protein, and have little fat. While beans, whole peas and chick peas require soaking before cooking, split peas and lentils do not; alternatively, you can use canned pulses that are ready to use.
Another aspect of pulse positivity is their role in sustainable agriculture; as crops they return nitrogen to the soil. Now that you know some basics, let’s get to how you can integrate them into your operation.
From a menu perspective, pulses are inexpensive, come in numerous varieties, and are a wonderful medium for exploring flavours. They are widely used globally and lend themselves to an almost infinite array of applications from appetizer to dessert (yes, dessert).
Using a 2015 Technomic Inc. report on Flavour Lifecycle (2015 Technomic Inc., Flavour Lifecycle, Q2 MenuMonitor), let’s play with some ingredients at the ‘Introduction’ and ‘Growth’ stages of the cycle and marry them with pulses across the menu:
Appetizers: Pulses are easily puréed for a variety of spreads and dips. Consider a twist on bruschetta with a nod to Hispanic flavours: White Bean, Jalapeño & Tomato Jam Bruschetta. Top toasted, garlic-rubbed, baguette slices with white bean & jalapeño hummus, a dollop of tomato jam and a garnish of fresh cilantro.
Salads: Make the pulse your protein and pack it with flavour. Try a colourful, veggie-packed, Moroccan Chick Pea Salad with mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, red onions, carrots, green olives, raisins, toasted almonds and harissa-spiced chick peas. Serve with a preserved lemon & yogurt dressing and grilled flatbread.
Burgers: Use for house-made veggie burgers or as a ‘blended’ element for meat-based burgers. Introduce red lentils to a ground chicken burger: Curry-Spiced Red Lentil & Chicken Burger with Caramelized Onions and Cucumber-Mint Mayo.
Entrées: Fettuccini with Lentil & Mushroom Ragu, a spin on Bolognese. Pulses replace meat in a tomato-based sauce with mushrooms providing rich umami notes. Garnish with Parmesan and crushed, toasted hazelnuts.
Dessert: Give chickpea flour (also known as besan) a try in baking gluten-free items (assuming you can control for cross-contamination in your operation). Chocolate brownies seem to be one of the most forgiving mediums for this type of GF exploration.
Time to check your pulse and get cooking!
For more information on pulses, visit Pulse Canada.
Kira Smith is a chef with over 20 years of multi-faceted experience in the food industry who’s passionate about finding food and flavour solutions that meet customer needs and grow the business.