Lentils are, and have been, one of my favorite foods since I was a little girl. The smell of lentils cooking brings back many memories of home and family gatherings, and the same recipe has been part of my family for generations, a way to teach the young their first cooking lessons. Lentils have an invaluable nutritional make up: high in protein, fiber and iron, and low in sugars and fat.
There are many ways to cook this beautiful legume and there are different varietals from which to choose.
The tiny orange colored Massor Dal lentils are quick cooking and use widely in Indian cooking. The brown lentils are easily found in grocery stores and are great for soups or salads, and these are the ones I use the most.
Lentils cook fairly quickly compared to other legumes or beans. I do, however, like to soak them for a couple of hours in cold water to speed up the cooking process. Even if you skip this step you will have them cooked in about 45 minutes.
If you plan to use them as part of a salad then make sure to cook them in a nicely flavored water (add salt, pepper, bay leaf and a whole garlic clove) which will enhance their flavor. In a 1-3 ratio (1 part lentils 3 parts water) boil for about 30-45 minutes based on how firm you like them.For a soup or stew of lentils, put all the ingredients together and cook on medium for 30-45 minutes, depending of which lentil and how firm you like them.
The following recipes are very easy to make with any of type of lentils. For quick on the fly meals I cook Massor Dal, which turned out to be a life saver this past weekend when we had a guest come over for dinner who forgot to mentioned she was a vegetarian!
1 cup brown lentils (soaked for a couple of hours or overnight)
3 cups of water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp mint, chopped
1/2 small red onion, small diced
1/3 cup diced cucumber
1 small diced radish
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring first 6 ingredients to a boil and cook until the lentils are tender, 30-45minutes. Mix all the following ingredients in a bowl and mix in the drained lentils when they are still warm but not hot. Let cool and correct the seasoning.
My mother’s Lentil Soup
1 cup lentils
3 cups water
1 medium potato, small diced
1/2 medium onion, small diced
1 small tomato, small diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Cook all the ingredients over medium heat in a medium size pot with the lid half way on, stir a couple of times during cooking, for about 30-45 minutes or until the lentils are tender.