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As a semi-lapsed vegetarian, I thought I knew pretty well all about legumes. I've shown off to people telling them that peanuts, for example, are not nuts at all. Somewhere I'd also learned that carob is not a pod like cocoa, but a bean.

What I didn't know until I read this fascinating and well-researched book is that South American mesquite, lupins (I thought they were just stockfeed!) and Australian wattleseeds are also legumes.

But enough of the exotica. Even more important for people today on all sorts of diets or food plans, is the value of legumes. Abundant in fibre, protein and flavour, and low in fat and GI, they are a good source of calcium, iron and B vitamins, and combine well with so many other foods, boosting the value of their nutrients – making them, of course, great for our digestion.

Legumes have been around for thousands of years and every culture uses them. They are easy to grow and cook; ideal to dry and store for months. Plus they just taste so good - especially prepared in the ways suggested in this book.

Let's take a look at a few of the recipes: currant, coconut,  and coriander flatbreads are totally gluten-free, as magical besan (chickpea) flour holds them together, and they make a perfect accompaniment to curries and dhal. Or why not ramp up the nutrients in brownies? Add adzuki beans to the book's double-choc recipe and see what you think. A moist zucchini loaf uses lupin flour, which also features in yoghurt flatbreads, while the mandarin, pistachio chickpea cake will become a sure favourite.

But this is not all about vegetarians! There's a great pork satay recipe, braised lentils with duck breast, luscious pulled pork and black bean sliders, poached chicken with broad beans, and so much more.

This standout book is great value, with 85 recipes, beautifully illustrated (the pictures all shot by Julie Renouf in the Byron Bay hinterland) and accompanied by tips and additional information. Recipes are clearly marked as vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free.

Legumes are the 'perfect superfoods' says author of Superlegumes, Chrissy Freer. Little wonder, then, that people who are vibrant and energetic, are said to be 'full of beans'!

Superlegumes - eat your way to great health, by Crissy Freer, published by Murdoch Books, June 2015, flexibound, rrp A29.99.


- reviewed by Sally Hammond


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