It’s late in the day but we made it to L! So close to being the middle of the alphabet, I can taste M.
I thought for the letter L, I would bring you back to just about as far as food can go (historically speaking). It may awaken a sense of free love and social revolution but we have been consuming this food since we walked upright and possibly before.
Today’s What’s the Word? Wednesday; L is for Lentils.
What is it?
Lentils are one of the earliest harvested foods, going back to Neolithic man (wiki-sourced). Lentils are classified as a pulse/legume/bean in the Canadian food guide. All lentils grow on bushy plants and once harvested, they are generally either canned or dried for storage. They are often recommended due to their nutritional and economical value filled. Hooray for cheap sources of protein and fibre! Lentils, like rice and other beans, are a staple in many households across the globe. Whether they are dried or found cooked in a can, lentils have a long shelf life (aka good for a Zombie Apocalypse). Stock the pantries, the lentils are coming.
What does it taste like?
Lentils are naturally flavour-neutral which makes them amazing flavour absorbers. This is especially true if you cook them from a dried form. They essentially take on whatever you cook them in, therefore they hold up well to spicy, fragrant sauces.
The bigger the lentil, the more potential they have to maintain their shape but it’s a trade-off as it also means a longer cooking time. The good news is, they rarely require soaking before cooking unless the recipe specifically calls for you to do so. Black lentils often require a short soaking time as well as the longest cooking time. In some cases soaking is required because they lentils are made into a paste before cooking, such as in the case of making dosas which I liken to an Indian crepe.
If you have texture issues, I would suggest using smaller, quicker cooking lentil such as red lentils. They tend to become mushy if over cooked, but their smoother texture blends well for dips, to use as a binding agent or to thicken soups and sauces.
Where do I use it?
Lentils are very versatile. They make and easy and simple addition to a salad for extra protein, or to replace the starch component in a meal. They work great as a stand alone curry served over rice or as the star in soups. Sometimes I use red lentils to thicken vegetable soups that I plan to puree. They add bulk and protein to the soup itself, and you don’t notice them once the are broken down by a blender.
Although I’ve never done so myself, people often grind lentils into a flour. This flour is gluten-free and usually used to make some sort of fritter, crepe/pancake or as a thickener in place of wheat flour.
Are there health benefits?
There are a lot of health benefits to consuming lentils. Besides being a complete food, they are also high in molybdenum , folate and tryptophan. Lentils have been shown to stabilize blood sugar, regulate your digestive system and help lower bad cholesterol (source WHFoods.com). All this, in a sweet little unassuming legume.
V-Spot recipes and suggestion for using lentils:
- Red Dahl with Kale V
- Split Pea Soup V
- Stout Lentil Loaf
- Super Easy Lemon Lentil Soup V
- Turkish Lentil Kofta V
Lentil Recipe Inspiration:
- Dosa and Coconut Chutney by Manus Menu
- Lentil Balls in Tomato Coconut Gravy by Aromatic Cooking
- Lentil Kale Shepherds Pie with Roasted Garlic Potatoes by Sweet Sugar Bean
- Lentil Tacos by Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes
- Lentil Thin Crackers by Be Filled Up
- Puran Poli by Veg Recipes of India
- Spinach Keerai-Vadai by Cooks Joy