A lot of people have no idea how to cook lentils or the possibilities and opportunities that come with such a food. These can add that final spark of taste to your meal, and they are very cheap to buy over the counter at your local grocery store.
Firstly, there are many different types of lentils you can come across but generally the most common ones are green, brown and red. Despite the colour difference they are still lentils and should be approached in the same way when you come to cook them, unless they are red split lentils which tend to cook much quickly than any other type of lentil.
The main benefits to eating lentils as part of your diet are that they contain a high source of protein, iron, and fiber which is a great staple for vegetarians as well.
As with anything we do when cooking preparation is a key part in the overall process, so take the time to rinse your lentils before cooking. This is mainly targeted at dried lentils that you can buy from a bulk food bin, the reason? They usually contain other elements that aren’t edible such as grit, pebbles, stones and other materials that you really don’t want to be taking a hard bit down on.
Rinsing the lentils will not only clean them up but it will give you this opportunity to pick out the bits you don’t need, but make sure you use a colander that will sieve out these small pieces but won’t lose your lentils.
The first and main cooking method for lentils is to boil them in a saucepan but be warned they do take a long time to cook unlike other food types that you tend to boil. Pour kettle heated water over the lentils that are resting in your saucepan and then bring that water to a quick boil. As soon as you see the water boiling turn the heat right down so that they are cooking in a gentle simmer, and leave them to cook for around 45 minutes stirring them around every 10 minutes.
What you will notice at the end of that 45 minute period is that the lentils will have absorbed all the water and they will now be tender rather than tough and hard.
Drop the lentils into your colander to remove any left over water and then you can season them to your required taste and add them to a salad, or used a side dish as part of a main meal.
As we said in the introduction to this article lentils can be used as a part of many types of dishes, and in general they are eaten through each season of the year, whether it’s a salad in the summer or a warm spicy soup for the winter.
There are however some great tips that you can use when boiling your lentils to add extra flavour, so don’t just leave them plain as when they started. If you have some garlic or onion at home then think about adding this to the water (remember that lentils absorb the water they are in so they will take all the flavour on and you will have a great tasting result because of it).
If garlic or onion isn’t your thing then think about your herb collection, adding a few pinches of different herbs can also flavour the water which will in turn flavour the lentils you are cooking. Its also worth adding some salt and pepper to your stock, even if you prefer your lentils to be cooked as plain as when they started.
Besides, if you do cook them plain you can also dress them up on the plate before you come to eating them. By adding a splash of olive oil, some butter or some red wine vinegar on top of them you can give your lentils and nice tasty kick, so don’t be afraid to experiment with some flavours and seasonings as you will find that some really do make lentils taste amazing, even if they are a side dish that is complimenting a larger meal at your table.
Finally, don’t always wait for the water to absorb into your lentils because it will vary depending on what you are using them for. If you want them as part of a soup dish then you want the lentils to be as soft as possible, but if they are part of a salad then you might only want to cook them for half the time so they are slightly harder to bite into. Therefore just check the lentils every so often to see if they are consistent to what you need them for, don’t just rely on the water fully being absorbed.