Lentils

Ah lentils. The lentil. The beautiful and noble protein-fiber-vitamin-packed lentil. There they sit in your shopping trolly, making you feel all smug and healthy, superior to the non-lentil buying population. They seem so old-school, so organic, so cool, so daunting. What? Who said that? Ok, I'll admit it - as much as I love buying lentils, I'm completely clueless as to what to do with them. I have a favourite hearty lentil soup recipe from the Real Food Daily cookbook, but other than that? Bupkis. No freaking clue. Sigh.


The thing is, I really want to know what to do with them. And that my friends, in case you hadn't guessed, is precisely what we're about to do!

As it turns out, part of the beauty of lentils is how versatile they are! Once cooked, you can literally do anything (culinary) with them. You can toss them into your favourite salad, you can add a bit of garlic and spinach and have a side dish with a double-punch, you can add them to a stew, soup, mix them with some smashed potatoes and veg and make a shepherd's pie... the list goes on and on!

Now that I've whet your appetite with all of the things you can do with lentils, let's talk about preparation. Lentils are super easy to cook, and, unlike most other pulses, don't require any soaking (seriously, who has time for that?!). Different types of lentils have different cooking times and best uses. Here's a little list of the most common types of lentils and what they taste best in.

Red lentils (pictured above) are probably the most common type of lentil, and tend to cook in about 20 minutes. Red lentils are best used to thicken soups and casseroles as they tend to disintegrate into a thick puree, so maybe try throwing some red lentils into your favourite chilli recipe or add some to a soup to give it a bit more oomph for winter.

Green and Brown lentils take longer to cook (about 40 minutes or so), and are great in salads, as a meat replacer in taco/bolognese sauces or in dishes where you want to see their shape. Unlike their red counterparts, they like to show-off their lovely disc shape and will only become mushy if you overcook them.

Puy lentils are less common and considered superior in taste and texture (snobby little suckers!) so use these when you really want to show off your culinary skills. Again, they're great in warm salads or braised in wine and tossed with fresh herbs (told you they were snobby).
Whichever lentil you choose, put your them in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, simmer until cooked and drain. That's it. Done. They are now ready for whatever lovely meal you want to add them to.

I'm sorry to say that there's no recipe this time, but stay tuned for a new lentil-based recipe (will it be a bolognese sauce? lentil tacos? shepherd's pie?) in the next few days. Until then, why not try some lentil experiments?

Bon appetit! xx

2 comments:

  1. Lentils are a staple protein source in much of Indian sub continent. The most basic recipe is what is called a dal fry which consits of cooked lentils seasoned with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and chilli peppers in oil. It is used as a side dish for Indian bread.

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  2. This is great. I have eaten lentils my whole life (I am 44 now) because my mother digs Asian things, especially cheap & easy to cook Asian things. I ate a LOT of lentils growing up.

    Despite my casual, lifelong familiarity with the humble lentil I did now now that about the various colors - I will add that to my trove of food knowledge and collections of recipes. Both ones I know, have written down or make up on the spot. Thank you.

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