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Detox: Mung at heart

Christened the ultimate detox bean by celeb nutritionist Gillian McKeith, these little green legumes have enjoyed immense popularity among the dieting folk, though not among chefs.

Shame, really, when it is chefs and their annual cookery books that pave the way for future food fads. Mung beans provide enviable amounts of protein and B vitamins compared to most of the dried-bean populace. They also help keep our tickers tocking with supplies of cardio-friendly magnesium, potassium, and bioflavonoids.

A Vietnamese children's favourite, mung beans are ground to a paste and mixed with sugar to form an Asian equivalent to halva, which is a sweet confection made from sesame seeds and honey. Quite the cunning way of incorporating mung's health benefits into your loved one's diet! Below, they party with cashews, cardamom and chilli, making them a seriously snazzy date for today's roast chicken. Not only do cardamom pods provide an exotic waft of the South Pacific, they too are stuffed with antioxidants: good news for sluggish livers. Our body's natural painkillers are released by certain compounds found within chillies, promoting an avalanche of endorphins. Handy for sore Sunday heads. Crunchy cashews will gift the bloodstream with generous amounts of magnesium to boost circulation, along with protein to rebuild any lost brain cells from the night before.

Moody Mung Beans

In truth, mung beans need -- no, correction, demand -- the addition of glamour and spice, as they lack both. Think of them as a marvellous blank canvas to cook with, absorbing whatever moody flavours you acquaint them with. When sprouted -- as described in this column on January 10 -- they are sweet and crisp. To further enhance this dish's nutritional punch, add ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder to the beans while cooking. Turmeric's curcumin compound has long been celebrated in Asian cuisine and Ayurveda medicine for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antioxidant power. A bit of smashed, raw ginger or garlic mixed through the cooked beans may also be welcomed by thirsty immune systems.

You will need:

1 cup dried mung beans, soaked overnight

1 cup fresh water

1 good tablespoon cardamom pods

1 red chilli

1 cup cashew nuts

4 tablespoons of desiccated coconut

2 tablespoons soya sauce

Cover the dried mung beans in cold water to soak overnight, or for eight hours. Drain and discard the water from the beans before cooking, and add the cup of fresh water. Lightly crush the cardamom pods with the back of a rolling pin or a wine bottle -- just enough to open them up. Add to the beans. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove the white-ish pith and the viper seeds from the red chilli -- unless you want your heart to beat like a voodoo drum -- and slice the red chillies into circles. Check to see if your mung beans have cooked. You're looking for a bite to the bean, certainly not mashy mush. Once you're content, drain the beans, discarding the cardamom pods and any remaining cooking liquid. Combine the beans with a little of the chilli, the cashew nuts, the desiccated coconut and the soya sauce in the residual heat of the saucepan. Taste, and add more chilli if desired. The moodier the better! It's also worth looking into using Clearspring's tamari, a low-sodium, wheat-free and preservative-free soya sauce that's available in many delicatessens and health-food stores.



Sunday Independent