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All those things you have to soak, you would think you could infuse some flavour during the soaking. I've tried all sorts of ideas, vegetable stock, herbs, spices, yeast extract etc. but I find the end result is always a feeble to un-noticable difference in the flavour of the pulses or grains, even if I cook in the soaking liquid to reduce "washing the flavour away".

Any suggestions for adding flavour when soaking dried peas, beans, lentils, pearl barley, etc.?

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Why infuse the flavor just during soaking? Unless you are eating them just soaked, after soaking you can cook(fry) the pulses with herbs and spices and that will give them a nice flavor. Most Indian Dal curries are made this way.

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  • I am well aware of the Indian methods used to give flavour to dahl. There are methods in French cookery which add meaty flavours to Puy Lentils and Flageolet beans. I want to add flavour before getting into the main process of cooking - and not necessarily meaty flavours.
    – klypos
    May 9, 2012 at 23:23
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Water alone is often a poor carrier of flavor. Oil, salt and even a sugar base can maximize an herb or spice impact. These, however, cannot be recommended for soaking. Pulses can toughen up with salt or acid during soaking or cooking.

The trick is to add flavor near the end of pulse cooking time long enough to penetrate. Here is where flavored salt or oil can be used to great benefit. Temp is best kept low at this point (I only slow-cook pulses)to avoid exploding skins due to toughened skin.

Grain can be a lot more forgiving. Still, generally season close to end of cooking time. Exception here is quinoa and fine bulgar which are already quick cooking -start them in a flavorful salty stock.

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  • You have made my thoughts "tick" - so there's a possibility of carrying "flavour in" by using a salty, oily or sugary flavour basis when the soaking process has been almost completed. Nice idea!
    – klypos
    May 9, 2012 at 23:38
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    near end of cooking process. fry off spices in oil or use spice oils such as mustard or even sesame oil. Oily pastes such as Guilin chili sauce or Vindaloo paste work great. Soo do salty bean-pastes such as miso and Cantonese blackbean. A sugar base example is Boston Baked Beans.
    – Pat Sommer
    May 10, 2012 at 1:22

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