Finger on the pulse with Nick Saltmarsh

by Dan Izzard

02 March 2018

Give peas a chance...

Let’s hear it for pulses and grains – the unsung food heroes of this fair isle. Unsung, though, they won't be for much longer; the first ever British Dal Festival kicks off later this month, and will see these great ingredients celebrated for a whole week. Nick Saltmarsh is co-founder of Hodmedod's and member of the British Edible Pulse Association – organisers of said festival – so we caught up with him ahead of this one-of-a-kind event.

We're not convinced that pulses get enough airtime across our culinary landscape, especially considering how affordable and healthy they can be. Nick thinks we've been conditioned to think of these foods as "things that come in packs, not the nutritious edible seeds they are, harvested from the pods of legumes and ears of corn.”

The fields are out there though, with British farms producing a great variety of grains and pulses, all of which are tremendously versatile in the kitchen. So why aren’t we hearing more about them?

“We fell out of love with our home-grown beans and peas when we started to eat a lot more meat,” says Nick, with our palates taking to more exotic pulses like kidney beans, chickpeas and the navy beans that are used for the baked variety that we pour over toast. But with the UK producing what Nick claims are “some of the best dried peas and fava beans in the world,” we’ve got great ingredients for dals, dips, soups, curries, stews and more growing right under our noses.

With so many delicious options available, it’s going to be hard to choose a fava-rite (all credit to Nick for that one!), but we’d start with this rich dal makhani recipe .