Lentils – Interesting Facts

Lentils are real all-rounders. This tasty ingredient is an important element in many cuisines such as Indian, Asian, Mediterranean and even Mexican. In France, the versatile pulses are seen as a real delicacy and feature prominently in haute cuisine. The small legume originated in Asia Minor and its earliest occurrence dates as far back as the Neolithic Period. Nowadays, the herbaceous, annual plant can reach up to 50cm in height and can be found throughout the world. The major export countries include Spain, Chile, Argentina, Canada and the US. 

Food Facts Food Facts

Lentils (red, dried) 

Class lentil
Calories 345 kcal per 100g
Nutrients 52.5g carbohydrate, 10.1g fibre, 1.8g fat, 23.8g protein per 100g
Season available year-round
Storage store cool and dry in an airtight container
Shelf life at least 12 months

Lentils – The Varieties

There are two main ways to classify lentils. One is to do so by means of their size. The more common lentils come in three different sizes: small (4-5mm in diameter), medium (5-6mm in diameter) and large (6-7mm in diameter). What all lentil varieties have in common is their round and flat shape.

Another method of distinguishing lentils is by their colour:

·         Yellow and red lentils are best known for their uncomplicated cooking process. They usually come hulled and split and therefore cook relatively quickly – this makes them the ideal main ingredient for dal, a staple dish in the Indian cuisine, and for various sauces and curries.

·         Brown and green lentils tend to keep their shape well and have a creamy consistency. They make a particularly good addition to savoury dishes and hearty stews. Mountain lentils, another type of brown lentil, also fall into this category and tend to make a great base for burgers. The dark green puy lentils are particularly flavoursome and go great in lentil salads or soups.

·         The best known of the black lentils is the beluga lentil. They look similar to caviar thanks to their colour and smoothness and have a subtle nutty flavour, making them a popular ingredient in many salads and appetisers. 

Lentils – Correct Cooking Method

Lentils can sometimes be found precooked in jars or tins, but more often than not they can be bought as a dried good. Some lentils require overnight soaking before preparation: let 500 grams of lentils soak overnight in 3 litres of cold water. This way, you can shorten the cooking time from over an hour to just 30 to 45 minutes. This soaking method mostly applies to the larger brown lentils, whereas mountain, beluga and puy lentils are smaller and therefore only require 20 to 30 minutes to cook. It is not recommendable to soak yellow or red lentils as they mostly come hulled and therefore only need 10 minutes to begin the softening process.

For best results, cook lentils in two to three times the amount of water. Whether you cook them in fresh water or the water used to soak them is up to you, however, fresh water tends to foam less. Adding salt to the cooking water is also a matter of personal preference but it is said that salt can lengthen the cooking process of legumes by a fraction of time. Adding a shot of vinegar is known to alleviate the swelling properties of the legumes, but make sure to do so afterwards or the acid flavour will become too overpowering. 

Lentils – Recipes for All Tastes

Lentils are extremely tasty and very versatile; they are not only a great addition to stews and side dishes, but are also the main ingredient of the popular lentil soup. It’s best to opt for red lentils for a soup, and combine them with diced carrots and potatoes to add some creaminess. For added flavour, try some yoghurt or sour cream, or spices such as chilli or cayenne pepper. A lentil salad or vegan lentil burgers are always a welcome addition to any barbecue. Thanks to their high protein content, lentils are an excellent meat replacement in a vegan or vegetarian diet. 

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