For years, I have been trying to get my kids to eat fakes. They titter at the rudely-named dish (it’s pronounced ‘farkhes’), and then promptly reject it. Fakes (brown lentil soup) was a staple dish of my childhood – along with other traditional Greek legume dishes including gigantes (‘giant’ beans) baked in tomato sauce, mavromatika (black eyed peas) with spinach, and fasolatha (white bean soup). If Mum cooked a pot of any of the above, we would be eating it for days on end – and farting for several days after that.
Legumes or pulses such as the ones above have never been a very sexy food – they often give you gas, they can taste a bit bland, and they take a while to cook. On the other hand, they’re cheap, they’re filling, and when teamed with cereals, they are a great source of protein; thus often referred to as the ‘poor man’s meat’.
But now, legumes are making a comeback – the U.N. has made 2016 the International Year of Pulses. The health benefits, not to mention the impact on food sustainability, means that eating more pulses is good on lots of different levels.
For a start, there is evidence that eating more legumes such as beans, nuts, peas and lentils is one of the few things that long-lived people across the world have in common – from eating soya beans in Okinawa, Japan, fava beans in Sardinia, Italy, to black-eyed peas in Ikaria, Greece. Even eating as little as 20 grams a day can help you live longer.
I’m constantly thinking about ways to get our family to eat more legumes. I’ve had some successes in integrating more legumes into our diet over the last year or so. Here’s what’s worked:
- I buy dried pulses once or twice a fortnight – and cook these up on the weekend when I’m home for few hours. I freeze in batches and then add to stews, soups and salads throughout the week. Most of the time, no one really notices that there are chick peas in the soup or kidney beans in the lamb stew.
- I always have a can or two of lentils in the pantry – and use as above, especially for a quick lunch salad.
- I make my own ‘baked beans’ using lima beans and homemade tomato sauce, which is fabulous for breakfast toast – my daughter crumbles a bit of feta on top and it keeps her going until lunchtime.
The process of eating more legumes has been gradual and sustained; while there was some initial resistance, our kids don’t even bat an eyelid when I place a chick pea stew on the table these days.
And for the first time ever, they even ate a bowl of yiayia’s fakes last week. Admittedly, it was a small bowl. And I told them they couldn’t have any other dinner unless they tried them. But down went the rude food. And while they tittered, I quietly celebrated my little coup.
Pictured: Lamb and chick pea tagine with couscous and baked pumpkin.