Lentils – so not brown and boring
A quick and simple guide to cooking and eating lentils
As a vegetarian, I am continually asked what I eat. Not in a, how do you get your protein way, literally most conversations go something like this:
Me: Oh… No thanks
Meat Eater: Sure, they’re tasty?
Me: Thank you, no.
Meat Eater: Go on, there’s plenty here.
Me: No thank you, sorry, I’m a vegetarian,
Meat eater: Do you eat chicken?
Meat Eater: Fish?
Me: No, nothing with a face.
Meat Eater……..Oh….what do you eat then?
Me: Well a combination of nuts grains, vegetables, fruit, pulses……mostly.
Meat Eater and now usually with an on looker. Snigger, what’s a pulse?
Me, talking too fast: Legumes, you know, dried peas, beans, chickpeas, and lentils. Pulses are very high in protein, high in fibre and vitamins, and err… are low in fat………….
Onlooker: Lentils, is that why vegetarians are always f….
Me, now talking to several people. No, we don’t, well no more than meat eaters anyway.
Another random party goer: Do you eat eggs?
Me: Sigh, yes I eat eggs and cheese.
Meat Eater: What is a Vegan…………?
At this point, I start looking for the waitress with the cocktails.
Stop laughing at lentils they are so not brown and boring. Lentils are cheap, easy to cook and versatile. If you can not be bothered or do not have the time needed to cook them, open a tin. They make for an excellent burger, meatless bolognese sauce or an elegant salad.
To cook 250g of lentils, simply wash well and drain. Put into a saucepan and cover with 500ml/ 2cups of cold water, bring to the boil, turn the heat off, put a lid on and then leave to soak for 2 hours. Add miso or yeast extract for seasoning (not salt it makes them tough) and any aromatics the recipe will usually state. I use bay and ¼ lemon rind routinely. Bring the heat back up to a simmer, cover and cook until the lentils are soft and the water has all been absorbed, like rice sometimes you might need more water sometimes you have too much. Or open a tin and drain the liquid, not as tasty for a salad but just fine for everything else.
Lentils are important to me. In a nutshell, a vegetarian, like everyone else, should eat all things in moderation and have variation in their diet. It is very tempting to rely too much dairy, cheese is my problem, cholesterol is just as big a problem for non meat eaters. Iron can sometimes be a bit of an issue as can B12, if you are a lazy veggie, but easy sources are all around us. Just a few ideas, iron can be found in….LENTILS, tofu, beans, oatmeal, rice, dried apricots. B12 in fortified cereals, yogurt, milk, swiss cheese, normal non meat stuff.
VEGGIE TIP To get the iron out of your vegetables or salad you need to add vitamin C. A small piece of fruit eaten at the same time or a squeeze of citrus is all you need to do. I love segmented orange with broccoli and almonds, or a lemon and olive oil dressing on my green leaves, so it is not as strange as it sounds.
Here is a little lentil and carrot salad I made the other day with puy lentils, carrots, dates, nuts, rocket, watercress, and tarragon. Dressed seductively in a turmeric cream. Lentils can be sexy.
My go to in a hurry is lentil Bolognese.
Make a quick tomato sauce by frying off 2 finely chopped large onions and 2 crushed cloves of garlic over a low heat until soft and golden. Throw in a can of diced tomatoes 1tsp each of oregano and basil or 2tsp of mixed herbs and 3 tbs of tomato paste and about ½ cup of water. Season, add sugar if you must, cover and simmer for 30 mins or until it starts to thicken. Throw in some cooked lentils (drained if from a tin) Done. Use with pasta, over cooked vegetables, jacket potato, couscous or rice. If you have more time make a lasagna by adding chopped veggies to the mix, then go on to make as with a meat Bolognese. It is wonderful layered with grilled sliced aubergine and lasagna sheets and baked, just add some 5 spice. Add a bechamel top and enjoy moussaka. Recipe on its way.
Please give lentils a chance. Look up some recipes on line. In time I will add some more ideas to this space, I have the best burger recipe somewhere here in this folder! In the meantime try the spiced lentil cakes.