Kidney beans are reddish-brown kidney-shaped pulses with a soft, creamy flesh that are available dried or canned. Dried kidney beans need soaking and should be cooked carefully because they contain toxins on the outer skin when raw, which are rendered harmless by boiling; canned beans need just draining, rinsing and reheating. They're great in mixed bean salads and stews such as chilli con carne.
Soak dried kidney beans for at least eight hours before draining and rinsing the beans (discard the soaking water). To speed up the soaking process, add a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda to the soaking water. Alternatively, bring the beans to the boil in a pan, then turn the heat off and soak the beans for about an hour, covered.
To cook, place the soaked kidney beans in a pan and cover with a fresh change of cold water, then bring to the boil. The beans must boil for ten minutes to destroy the toxin. After this, simmer until cooked (approximately 45 to 60 minutes), when they should have an even, creamy texture throughout. If the centre is still hard and white after this time, they require more cooking. Do not add salt when cooking kidney beans, as it toughens their skins. Allow about 55g/2oz dried weight per person: once soaked and cooked the beans will at least double in weight.
Rinse canned kidney beans thoroughly in a colander as they're often stored in sweetened or salted water whose flavour will overpower your cooking.