Let’s hear it for soya beans, sometimes called endame beans. And I don’t mean dreadful processed stuff pretending to be something else. I mean beans. Soya beans, which contain as much protein as meat, are legumes. They grow in pods like garden peas or broad beans and have been a staple part of the Chinese diet for over 4000 years. Full of fibre, low in saturated fats but high in heart-protecting antioxidants and genistin which is thought to inhibit cancer, soya beans are pretty good news especially as they also contain isoflavones – plant oestrogens – and nature’s alternative to HRT.
The low incidence of heart and colon cancer and of menopausal symptoms in China and Japan and has been attributed – in many studies – partly to high soya consumption.
Wholefood shops sell dried soya beans. These need soaking overnight in cold water and then boiling for three hours in fresh water or fast-cooked in a pressure cooker or microwave. So it makes sense to do a large batch and freeze spare portions of your finished dish. Soya beans have a good hearty texture but almost no taste. Because they absorb other flavours well, they’re good in curry, lemon, tomato or chilli sauces. Just make a good strong sauce – or use a bought one – and simmer the cooked beans in it. Alternatively you can use the frozen ones now widely sold in supermarkets.
Don’t forget tofu either. People are usually a bit Marmite about tofu but I love it. Sometimes known as ‘bean curd,’ it’s is an ancient solidified soya milk product. This versatile and widely stocked ingredient works well chopped and tossed with a little pesto to serve on pasta or steeped in spicy sauces. The marinated or smoked types are delicious in stirfries and casseroles. Plain “silken” tofu works well in desserts such as cheesecakes or chocolate mousse.
Each recipe will feed 2/4 people:
Soya bean Curry
300g cooked soya beans
2 generous pinches each of coriander and cumin
rounded teaspoonful curry powder
pinch ground ginger
a few drops of lemon juice
125ml vegetable bouillon
150g best sultanas
egg- sized lump of creamed coconut
knob of margarine or butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chop the onion and crush the garlic. Heat the margarine in a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic gently with the spices. When onion is transparent add the tomatoes, skinned and chopped. Cook for a further two or three minutes, stirring. Add bouillon, lemon juice, curry powder and sultanas. Bring to boil, stirring. Remove from heat. Add the creamed coconut and leave it to melt into the curry sauce, stirring occasionally. Lastly add the beans. Simmer for 15 minutes for the flavours to blend. Season to taste.
Serve soya bean curry with brown rice and/or Indian bread.
Fruity tofu kebabs
250g tofu, fresh or marinated
small fresh pineapple
100g seedless black grapes
100g mango chutney
1 lemon and fresh herbs to garnish
Drain the tofu and cut into 32 pieces. Cut pineapple into 32 pieces and mango into 24 little chunks. Thread long cocktail sticks or skewers with varied arrangements of tofu, pineapple, mango and grapes. Brush with sieved mango chutney. Grill for about five minutes until just browning. Serve on a bed of rice decorated with fresh herbs and lemon slices.
Roast soya bean loaf
300g cooked soya beans, mashed.
1 large onion
2 large carrots
50g tomato puree
vegetable stock cube
250g wholewheat breadcrumbs
2 large free range eggs, beaten
50g flaked almonds
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chop the onions and carrots finely. Cook together in oil in a saucepan for 5-7 minutes. Add tomato puree and vegetable stock cube. Remove from heat.
Add breadcrumbs and mashed beans. Mix thoroughly. Lastly add the eggs. Mix and season. The texture should be stiff enough that the mixture can be picked up and moulded with floured hands (you can use soya flour). Add more breadcrumbs if necessary.
Shape into a loaf shape. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Scatter flaked almonds on top. Bake in moderate oven (around 180c) until firm and slightly browned.
Serve soya loaf with potatoes roasted in their skins in soya oil and a fresh green vegetable such as cabbage or spinach.