Chef Wendy has some great advice about making the most of lovely lentils in YOUR kitchen!
Dried lentils are a fantastic ingredient when it comes to ‘stretching’ family meals - they’re inexpensive, packed with fibre, and so versatile because they have a mild, neutral taste that can be combined with many interesting flavours to create memorable and comforting dishes! They’re wonderful in stews, curries, soups and bakes, and you can also use them to make excellent warm winter salads.
• Ordinary brown lentils cost very little and can be found in all supermarkets, in the aisle where the dried beans and pulses are.
• You can also use whole green lentils, or split red or yellow lentils.
• If you’re in a hurry, you can used tinned, drained lentils in any of the recipes below (these are already cooked).
HOW TO COOK LENTILS
• Lentils do not need to be soaked before they are cooked, although by soaking them ahead you can reduce the cooking time by about half.
• First rinse the lentils very well in a sieve to remove any little stones or shriveled lentils.
• Put 1.5 litres cold water into a pot and add 2 cups of dried lentils.
• Bring the pot quickly to the boil, then turn down the heat and cook, uncovered, over a medium-low heat, until the lentils are soft.
• How long they will take to cook depends on the type of lentil. Split red lentils take about 20 minutes, and form a rich purée, making them ideal for thickening soups and curries. Brown lentils take about 30 minutes, and green lentils a little longer.
• Keep checking the lentils to see whether they are done to your liking. They should be just tender you’re eating them in a salad or a side dish, and a little softer if they’re going into a soup, stew or curry.
• Don’t let the lentils get mushy (except if you’re cooking split red lentils), and watch the pot closely so it doesn’t dry out.
• Immediately tip the contents of the pot into a large sieve or colander set over the sink, and allow to drain for 3-4 minutes. Now add some fabulous flavours…
• You can add some flavouring agents to the boiling water if you like – for example, a slice of onion, a few bay leaves, a cinnamon stick, curry leaves or similar whole spices. Discard these when you drain the lentils.
• Don’t add acidic ingredients such as lemon, tomatoes or vinegar to the pot, as these may slow down the cooking process.
HOW TO FLAVOUR LENTILS
• Tip your drained, hot lentils back into the pot in which they boiled and add a Knorr Vegetable or Chicken Stock Pot. Stir until the contents of the stock pot have dissolved. This will add lovely depth of flavour to the lentils, and will also help season them.
• You can now go ahead and creatively use the cooked lentils as a basic ingredient in a variety of dishes (see our great easy recipes below).
• Or you can create a warm or cold dish to serve on its own as a main course or a side dish.
Here are some other ingredients that go beautifully with a warm or cold lentil salad:
• Cooked beetroot, roasted peppers, roasted butternut
• Chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, mint, basil, spring onions & coriander
• Salad leaves such as wild rocket and watercress
• Feta cheese, Halloumi cheese, goat’s cheese and ricotta
• Raw or oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
• Finely chopped cucumber, carrots, peppers and baby marrows
• Garlic, lemon, lemon zest, white-wine vinegar, mustard, olive oil
• Crispy bacon bits
• Toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
• Knorr salad dressings of your choice
Try our delicious Marinated Mushroom, Lentil & Feta Salad.
To make a hot lentil dish, add all or any of the following ingredients:
• A few pinches, to taste, of curry powder, cumin, powdered coriander, cinnamon, chilli powder, turmeric and similar warming spices
• Chopped tomatoes, tinned or fresh
• Fresh chillies, ginger and garlic
• Fried onions and green peppers
• Cooked potato cubes
• Tinned chickpeas or beans
• Cooked vegetables such as cauliflower, baby marrow, butternut, spinach and brinjal
• Make a thick lentil and spinach stew to serve with roast meat. Here’s how: Roast Rack of Lamb with Lentils and Spinach
• How about making a pot of comforting, spicy dal? Here’s an easy recipe from our friends at Knorr UK (use two Knorr Vegetable Stock Pots in place of the cubes): Masoor Dal.