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Proteins - building blocks for growth and renewal

Protein prana

Protein supplies the physical materials for growth and the repair of cells and tissues; as the body requires continual overhauling and renewal, a constant supply of protein is needed. Proteins are formed by the linkage of 22 different ‘building blocks’ called amino acids. The value of protein depends on its amino-acid content. The difference between proteins is due to the number, arrangement and proportion of the different amino acids.

Pulses (beans) are the most common sources of vegetarian protein, but nuts, seeds and cheese are also excellent. Pulses combined with grains form the basics of a vegetarian diet. Pulses are low in fat, high in fibre and rich in iron, B vitamins and trace minerals. Whereas many plants rob the soil of vital nutrients as they grow, pulses take nitrogen from the atmosphere and restore it in large amounts to the soil. By nourishing your body with pulses, you also help to nourish the planet.

White Beans with Courgette and Herbs

White beans delicately flavoured with curry powder and fennel are complemented by crisp ribbons of courgette.
Don’t be discouraged: If you’ve had problems digesting beans in the past, then probably they weren’t soaked or cooked long enough. Prepared correctly, they are very tasty and very nutritious.

Serves 4–6

450 g butter beans, soaked
1 litre water
25 g butter or margarine
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 large fennel head, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of ½ lemon
salt and pepper
1 courgette
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1) Drain the beans, place in a pan and cover with the water. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1–1½ hours, until tender.

2) Heat half of the butter or margarine in a large pan, stir in the curry powder and then sauté the fennel over a medium heat until it is translucent. Drain the beans and add them. Cover and cook over a very low heat for 10 minutes. Season the beans with the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste, and place in a serving dish.

3) Cut the courgette lengthwise into long ribbons. Heat the remaining butter or margarine in a frying pan, add the courgette ribbons, chopped parsley and dill and sauté gently over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until some of the courgette ribbons are lightly touched with brown. They should have softened slightly but still keep some of their 'bite' – take care not to break them. Use to garnish the beans and serve immediately.

Lentil Dal

Often mistaken for a soup, dal is served over rice and/or with chapatis as the standard meal of northern India. For a simple meal - yet very satsifying - serve it with plain rice, yoghurt and Curried Vegetables. For a more aromatic dal, add a cinnamon stick and/or 5 or 6 cloves to the lentils while cooking.

Serves 4–6

200 g red lentils
750 ml water
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 bay leaf
1–2 tablespoons ghee, butter or oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin or fennel seeds
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½–1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

1) Place the lentils in a pan with the water, turmeric and bay leaf. Simmer for 15–20 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

2) Meanwhile, heat the ghee, butter or oil in a heavy frying pan. Add the mustard and cumin or fennel seeds and cook over a high heat until they 'pop'.

3) Add the ground coriander and tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes, then add the mixture to the cooked lentils. Add more water if the mixture is too thick, or cook a little longer to make it thicker. Add the salt and lemon juice, if desired. Stir in the chopped coriander and serve at once.

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