Super Food 5: Lentils
Lentils have been used in cooking for millennia in India and Pakistan for their high nutritional value and are slowly making their way into Western homes. In my opinion, there is nothing better on a cold wintery day than tucking into a hot bowl of lentils and brown rice. So what exactly are lentils?
You may be surprised to learn that they are actually a pulse which is part of the dry grain legume family. Basically they come from the seeds of pods. Pulses include dry beans, like pinto beans, kidney beans and navy beans (i.e. baked beans); dry peas and lentils.
So what makes lentils such a superfood?
5 Facts about Lentils you Didn't Know
- Soak before using! As lentils are dry (i.e. dehydrated), you should soak them in cool water for at least four hours or overnight before cooking. This will speed up the cooking process a lot and once soaked, the lentils will cook like beans. Note: If you live in a humid climate like me, I would recommend soaking them in a bowl in the fridge and not on a bowl on the bench (like I have done before!) Otherwise your house will smell incredibly pungent with sprouting lentils! Yuk!
- High in fibre which also helps to lower cholesterol. Many living gluten free can miss out on the more common forms of fibre in the Western diet (like bran and oats in your breakie cereal), so lentils can help bring more fibre to your diet.
- Good meat substitute - As part of the pulse family, lentils have double the protein content of wheat and three times that of rice. This makes lentils are great meat substitute for vegans.
- High in iron and B vitamins yet also filling and low in calories, making lentils a girl's best friend!
- Best when combined with another protein source. According to protein combining theory, legumes should be combined with another protein source, such as a grain in the same meal, to balance out the amino acid levels. This is common in the Indian dish dal with rice.
- 2 Tablespoons coconut oil/vegetable oil
- 1 sweet potato, diced into roughly 1cm pieces
- 2 small carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes (omit if you want a milder taste)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup dry red lentils, rinsed and soaked
- 6 cups gluten free vegetable stock
And here's how to make it ...
- In a large saucepan, heat coconut/vege oil over medium heat. Add sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, and onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then add garam masala, turmeric, curry powder, cardamom seeds, chilli flakes, bay leaf, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir until vegetables are completely coated with spices. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Add vegetable stock/water and lentils and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot.
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