The Underrated Lentil (plus recipes)

Tuesday April 07, 2015

Lentils

 Many people’s view of lentils is that they’re dull – a meat replacement for vegan & vegetarians. This could not be further from the truth! Lentils are very versatile, and are delicious! They’re also highly nutritious. They are a good source of potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K, but are particularly rich in dietary fibre, lean protein, folate and iron.

Lentils are wonderful in salads, burgers, soups, casseroles, pies, bread, and even sweet baking. And they are so inexpensive you really can afford to experiment. Here is a quick guide on the different types of lentil, and what they’re best suited for:

Brown Lentils – Brown are the most common variety of lentil. They can range in colour from khaki-brown to dark black, and generally have a mild earthy flavour. They cook in about 20-30 minutes and hold their shape very well. Common varieties are Spanish Brown, German Brown, or Indian Brown. The blackest and tiniest lentils you find are usually Beluga lentils, which have a rich and deeply earthy flavour. They’re wonderful as a mince meat replacement (Moussaka, lasagne & Sheppard’s pie), and also in warm salads.

Green Lentils – These can be pale or mottled green-brown in colour with a glossy exterior. They have a robust, somewhat peppery flavour. Green lentils generally take the longest to cook, upwards of 45 minutes, but they keep a firm texture even after cooking. This makes them ideal for salads and other side dishes. Look for Lentilles du Puy, Puy lentils, or French Green lentils.

Red Lentils – With colours ranging from gold to orange to actual red, these are the sweetest and nuttiest of the lentils. They’re somewhere in the middle in terms of cooking time and are usually done in about 30 minutes. They tend to get mushy when cooked through, so they’re perfect for Indian dals and other curries, or for thickening soups. A few varieties are Red Chief and Crimson, and you’ll often find them in Indian or Middle Eastern markets labeled as masoor (red lentils) or channa (yellow lentils).

Now is the perfect time to get lentils cooking in your kitchen. Below are some recipes we’ve chosen for you to try.

SpinachLentils

One-Pot Creamy Spinach Lentils from Pinch of Yum

lentilsalad

The Best Lentil Salad, Ever from My New Roots

lentil-bologneise-portrait2

Red Pepper Lentil Bologneise Sauce from Connoisseurus Veg

ShepherdsPieLentil

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie from Jamie Oliver