Among the pulses there is none more nourishing, more generally liked,
nor more useful to the vegetarian cook than the haricot bean. Whether on
account of its refined flavour, its delicate colour, its size, or last,
but not least, its cheapness, I do not hesitate to place it first. Like
the potato, however, its very simplicity lays it open to careless
treatment, and many who would be the first to appreciate its good
qualities if it were placed before them well cooked and served, now
recoil from the idea of habitually feeding off what they know only under
the guise of a stodgy, insipid, or watery mass. A few hints, therefore,
respecting the best manner of preparing this vegetable may be useful.
Firstly, the beans should invariably be washed and placed in a basin of
cold water the night before they are required for use, and should remain
in soak about ten or twelve hours. If left longer than this during hot
weather they are apt to turn sour.
They should not be cooked in the same water that they have been soaked
Soft water must be used to cook them. If this be not obtainable,
Maignen's Ante-Calcaire will be found to render the water soft.
Salt should not be added until they are at least half cooked, as its
tendency is to harden them. This applies also to peas, lentils, etc.
They take about two hours to cook, or three if required very soft.
They must not be allowed to boil very fast, for, like potatoes, they are
then liable to break before becoming tender.
About two pints of water, one ounce of butter, and one teaspoon of salt
to half-pint of soaked beans, may be taken as a fair average.
During soaking they swell to nearly double their original size, and in
boiling they double again.
Never throw away the liquor in which they are boiled but reserve it as
When they are to be plainly served as a vegetable, it is best to remove
the lid of the saucepan a few minutes before dishing up, and so reduce
the liquor to the desired strength.
When required for frying they should be strained as soon as tender, and
spread over a plate to dry. They may then be fried in butter or oil.
Always make a point of tasting them before sending to table, for if not
sufficiently salted they are very insipid.
All spices, herbs, etc., boiled with the beans for flavouring purposes,
should be tied in a small piece of muslin, which may at any moment be
Haricot bean pulp, which will be found frequently mentioned in the
following recipes, is made by boiling the beans until tender and rather
dry, and then rubbing them through a wire sieve with a wooden spoon.
Next in usefulness to the haricot bean comes the German lentil. This
must not be confounded with the Egyptian lentil, which closely resembles
the split pea; for not only is the former double the price of the
latter, but I may add double its worth also, at least from a culinary
point of view.
In vegetarian cookery the lentil takes the place of the dark meats of
the flesh-eaters' dietary, such as beef and mutton, the haricot bean
supplying a substitute for the white, such as veal, chicken, etc.
The liquor in which lentils have been boiled forms a rich foundation
for dark sauces, also a delicious and nourishing beverage, in flavour
resembling beef-tea, can be obtained from them (see Recipe No. 12).
Besides being darker in colour, the flavour of lentils is much more
pronounced than that of haricots.
Throughout the following recipes the word "lentil" means German lentil,