Cooking Class # 9

Barley Corn Salad

Sloppy Lentils

 

Lentils

Pronounce it: len-til

The lentil plant (Lens Culinaris) originates from Asia and North Africa and is one of our oldest sources of food. A cousin to the pea and a rich provider of protein and carbohydrates the lentil is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins making it an important diet staple the world over.

There are several different varieties.  The most commonly used in cooking are Brown, Red and Green lentils, although Puy and Yellow are stocked in many health and specialty shops.

Availability

All year round.

Choose the best

Most commonly, lentils are bought dried and ideally will be firm, clean and not shrivelled. The type of lentil you choose will depend on intended usage:

Green and brown:

Ideal for warm salads, casseroles and stuffing as they tend to retain their shape after cooking.

Puy lentils:

These grey-green lentils, grown in the French region of Le Puy, are often more expensive than other common cooking varieties and are thought to be superior in texture (which they retain after cooking) and taste. This makes them the perfect accompaniment to more expensive ingredients such as fish and game, as well as sausages.

Red split lentils:

When cooked these lentils form a rich puree and therefore are superb for thickening dishes such as soups and casseroles. They are also often cooked with spices to make the Indian side dish, dhal.

Yellow lentils:

Being quite similar to Red Split lentils, the yellow variety are used in a similar way and are great for adding colour to winter dishes.

Prepare it

Lentils do not require it but can be soaked in order to reduce cooking time by about half.

Before cooking, rinse lentils in cold water, pick over to remove debris or shrivelled lentils and then drain.

Store it

Keep lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Although lentils can be kept and eaten indefinitely, they are best enjoyed within one year of purchase.

Cook it

Boil lentils in three times more water lentils and avoid cooking with anything acidic  such as vinegar.

Lentils will vary in their cooking times depending on their variety  so be sure to check the packet.

As a rough guide to cooking times:

Green and Brown lentils: 35-45 minutes

Red Split lentils: 15 -20 minutes

Puy lentils: 20- 25 minutes

Yellow lentils: 15 – 20 minutes

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