Lentil dishes are very popular in Turkey and provide a very healthy range of nutrients. At the same time, lentils create very tasty dishes and are very economical.
Meat is considered an expensive item in Turkey and many Turks find it beyond their means. Thus they have learnt to create extremely delicious meals based on legumes, pulses and vegetables using traditional methods to produce a yummy dish.
LENTILS ON THE TABLE IN UNDER HALF AN HOUR
There are hundreds of ways to cook lentils. The wonderful thing is that they require little fuss and a wholesome dish can be prepared and be on the table in under half an hour from start to finish.
Unlike dried beans and chickpeas, lentils do not require soaking. They readily absorb the flavours with which you are cooking, so they become tastier by the minute. Being dried they are available all year round so they really are a brilliant No-Fuss food.
OUR MOST POPULAR LENTIL RECIPES
Anytime Lentils Recipe
This tasty lentil dish is a Go-To recipe of mine when I want something quick that just uses staples from the cupboard. It is very tasty and a handy recipe to have on hand.
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed
- 1 Tbsp chilli powder or 2 chopped chillies (discretionary)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomato
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- Sour cream or creamy plain yogurt
- In a large non stick pan saute the onion and garlic in the oil until just tender
- Add the lentils, chilli powder, cumin and oregano and stir for 1 minute
- Add broth and bring to a boil
- Reduce heat, cover, simmer for 15 minutes
- Keep simmering and stir in chopped tomatoes and tomato paste.
- After 30 mins the lentils should be soft.
- Remove lid and evaporate if too juicy.
- If desired, mash the lentils a little bit.
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HOW TO PREPARE AND COOK LENTILS
Firstly, lentils should be sorted quickly. Tip them onto a flat plate or tray all down one end. Then quickly push a spoonful or so over across to the other side using your fingers, sorting out any little pebbles or unknown objects before putting the lentils into water.
After sorting they should be rinsed, getting any dust off them and then if you wish, they may be soaked. This will lessen the cooking time and reduce the heat in the kitchen which is worthwhile during the hot summer months but is not really necessary otherwise.
COOKING TIMES CAN VARY
Depending on the freshness of the lentils, the cooking time can vary. Definitely, if you have had lentils sitting in your cupboard for over a year, you may never be able to get them to soften enough. It’s best to throw them to the chickens.
When cooking lentils, it is important to always test their softness after having cooked them for a while. You can never really know how long they were sitting on the store shelf before you picked them up and hence you won’t know the age of your lentils.
Generally however, red, orange and yellow split lentils take between 15 and 25 minutes to cook depending on the amount of mushiness you desire. Being split they cook the quickest.
Green and brown lentils take a bit longer, between 30 and 40 minutes and tend to keep their shape better, however they will disintegrate if you keep them on the heat for a long period.
A NEW SPECIES ON THE MARKET
Recently I have seen de Puy lentils and black Beluga lentils for sale here in Turkey, so I will mention these quickly. They tend to keep their shape better than the others and are great for salads for this reason.
The Beluga, named after their resemblance to caviar, take between 20 and 25 minutes whilst the French de Puy lentils take between 25 and 30 minutes.
EASIER ON DIGESTION IF YOU DROP THEM INTO BOILING WATER
Lentils are boiled in a ratio of 3:1, water to lentils and it is better to drop the lentils into water that is on a rolling boil, rather than bring them up to boil slowly, as this makes them easier to digest.
Once the water is boiling again, gently turn the heat down until you have a simmer. Cover and leave for 20 to 30 minutes depending on which kind of lentils you are using. Rinse your lentils once they are cooked, to remove gaseous substances and reduce wind.
PRESSURE COOKERS ARE NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER
If you wish to use a pressure cooker, the saving on energy is minimal as they are quick to cook. It will take about 8 minutes to cook lentils. Letting the pressure release slowly means that you will not have full control of the texture of the lentils and they may completely disintegrate. If completely disintegrated then this is perfect for most lentil soups and Indian dahls but may not be what you require for other types of meals.
Lentils are high in both soluble and insoluble fibre. The soluble fibre helps collect the bile which contains cholesterol and carries it out of the body. The insoluble fibre prevents constipation and helps prevent digestive disorders like diverticulosis and spastic colon also known as irritable bowel syndrome.
Lentils also have a significant amount of magnesium and folate. Magnesium eases veins and arteries and hence, improves the flow of oxygen, blood and nutrients around the body. Sufficient magnesium greatly reduces the risk of heart disease.
When there is enough folate in the body, artery walls are less likely to be damaged and once again there is less risk of a heart attack.
Lentils are a wonderful source of iron and provide over a third of your daily need in just one cup of cooked lentils. Iron deficiency is a common cause of fatigue.
ALL IN ALL
So there we have it, if you are interested in eating healthily, lentils are a great place to start.