Beans means healthy, tasty food

Jenny Chandler in the Borough Market kitchen
Jenny Chandler in the Borough Market kitchen

Spend an hour or two in the company of Jenny Chandler, bean and pulse enthusiast, chef and writer and you’ll be talking and thinking abut the humble bean more than you ever imagined.

2016 is the United Nations Year of the Pulse and food writer Jenny is a UN FAO Ambassador for The Year of The Pulses. That’s a lot of responsibility for an ingredient that has fallen out of favour across western cuisines. Packed with protein, pulses are know as the meat of the poor in developing countries and as a vegetarian staple elsewhere.

Quesadillas with refried beans
Quesadillas with refried beans

Yes beans are delicious on their own, but mostly need a little pinch of something to bring out their full flavour. So you’ll be adding huge bunches of fresh parsley bought from markets and farmers’ market such as London’s Borough market as we discovered, when a group of food writers and bloggers gathered to gain an insight into the world of pluses. Our cooking demo was led by Jenny was keen to dismiss many of the myths that have grown up around preparing and eating beans, not least their are ways of reducing your gassy emissions (adding cumin, while cooks in Japan believe seaweed helps!). Dispelling that myth cleared the air for the next hour or so of the demo, as Jenny podded, shelled and stirred her away whilst reminding us just how important a crop pulses are around the world.

Falafels made with English-grown fava beans
Falafels made with English-grown fava beans

Igniting a love of beans, you’ll have to clear out a shelf in the larder for tins, bags and packets of red beans, green lentils; British grown Fava beans and fresh spices along with cumin and coriander coriander seeds.

Want to know more about this amazing range of ingredients, then head to Borough Market in London where Jenny wiill be cooking every Thursday lunchtime throughout November from 12.30 – 2pm. To catch Jenny cooking live at Borough Market’s demo kitchen click for dates and times. Spread over four weeks, Jenny will cover The Americas – think Chilli con Carne (apparently this student staple originates from the USA … yes really), before moving onto Africa for week two and recipes including West African peanut soup while dishing out cooking tips including batch cooking for the freezer. In the third demo, Jenny will share recipes sourced from Asia including the extremely versatile dal from the Indian sub-continent before finally landing in Europe and a classic Greek dish of Fava beans with seared squid – described as a ‘classic Cretan split pea purée with a squid and caper salad’.

Oh, and another thing … Jenny pointed out that refried beans aren’t actually fried twice. They boiled black beans, fried once mashed and popularly served with steak or quesadillas (tortillas).

While the UN has designated 2016 the Year of the Pulse, I have a feeling that the popularity of the humble bean will continue to increase as chefs learn about its versatility, and home chefs appreciate how they offer huge amounts of cheap, nutritious and tasty protein to hungry families.

Want to know more, dip into these books …

Recommended books to get the best out of the humble pulses
Recommended books to get the best out of the humble pulse

Pulse, by Jenny Chandler
Beans, A History by Ken Albala

And tweet your pulse and bean adventures @lovepulses


Jenny will be sharing her knowledge of beans and pulses in a series of cooking demos at the London’s Borough Market. She’ll be appearing at these times, from 12.30pm – 2pm:

Thursday, November 3rd – The Americas

The U.S.A – ‘Ultimate Chilli Con Carne’
Mexico – ‘Refried Beans’
Peru – Butter Bean, Quinoa and Avocado Salad


Thursday 10th November – Africa

Egypt, Sudan and The Middle East – Fuls Medames
Morocco – Spiced Lentil Soup
West Africa – Peanut Soup


Thursday 17th November – Asia

Afghanistan – Mung Bean and Vegetable Stew
India – Chana Chaat
Indian Sub-Continent – Dal


Thursday 24th November – Europe

France – Wild Mushroom and Lentil Soup
Spain – Chickpeas with Prawns
Greece – Fava with Seared Squid





Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.

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