Most health-conscious people would appreciate the many benefits of lentils. Lentils or dried legumes are not just tasty to eat, they are loaded with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. For the novice cook, though, making a dish with lentils is not always easy. Here is the lowdown on what exactly lentils are and how to cook them.
What Are Lentils?
Lentils are, quite simply put, dried legumes. They are rich in protein and are also a good source of slow-release carbohydrates, providing you with a steady source of energy. One can buy lentils whole or split. Whole lentils are lentils with their skins intact. These are obviously richer in fiber. Split lentils are smaller, divided in half and with just a part of the skin on.
The most common variety of lentils are the small orange lentil (which is, basically, an Indian specialty), the large greenish-brown Continental lentil or French lentils, and the small grey-green Puy lentil. Lentils are extremely popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking; however, even European cooking uses a fair amount of lentils.
How to Cook Lentils?
Lentils, unlike dried beans, do not require soaking. They need to be washed thoroughly and can be cooked in a covered saucepan with an adequate amount of water and salt. Here are some popular ways of cooking lentils.
- The usual ratio is 1 cup of lentils to ½ cup of water. However, one may vary it according to personal preferences. If you’d like it thinner, add some more water or stock.
- You can boil them in a covered saucepan and then season them with salt, herbs, chopped tomatoes and onions.
- Alternatively, cook them over slow heat in vegetable stock, instead of water and season to taste. Serve as an accompaniment to sandwiches or grilled chicken.
- Another interesting and healthy way to cook lentils is to thicken them in vegetable stock over slow heat and then combine them with vegetables and herbs, such as oregano, thyme, and basil and season with salt and chili flakes.
- Lentils, traditionally in Asian cultures and especially India, are slow cooked with finely chopped and well-sautéed onions; tomatoes; a bit of minced ginger and garlic; and seasoned with salt, chili powder and turmeric. You could try it out to see if it appeals to your taste buds.
How to Store Them?
Uncooked lentils can be stored for 3-5 months in airtight containers. Cooked lentils can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and frozen for 3 months.
I do hope you try cooking lentils and make them a part of your daily diet. A healthy and wholesome vegetarian option, lentils contribute energy, protein and carbohydrates to your diet. If introduced at the right time, lentils will appeal to toddlers and young children as well.