Lentils are an edible pulse or bean that are full of nutrients and perfect for vegetarian meals. If you've never cooked lentils before and have no idea where to begin, our simple guide will help. From the types of lentils you can buy in supermarkets to the different ways of cooking them, lentils have never been easier.
Nutrients in lentils
Packed with health benefits, lentils are full of protein which is good for muscle repair and increasing your metabolism. The calories in lentils are made up of protein and they have the third highest level of protein by weight, of any legume or nut.
Types of lentils
Lentils come in different colours such as red, brown and yellow. Different types include Spanish pardina which is often found in classic Spanish dishes and is easy to cook, Eston green, which are small and green in appearance and Masoor lentils which are brown-skinned and orange inside. Lentils are often found near the dry food or store cupboard ingredients such as pasta, pulses and rice.
Red Split: are often found in casseroles and soups as they are great for thickening and adding texture to a recipe.
Green and brown: known for retaining their shape once cooked, these lentils are ideal for salads.
Yellow: these lentils are striking in colour and are perfect for cheering up any dish. They share similarities to the Red Split lentils as they also thicken up recipes such as soup.
Puy: is a French lentil that is grey-green in colour. These lentils are a little bit more expensive than the rest but are great for special occasions when serving fish.
Ready-cooked lentils: If you want something quick and easy for dinner, you can buy lentils already pre-cooked. They are often packages in tins and are great for adding to soups or healthy salads.
How to cook lentils
The best way to cook lentils is by boiling them. They need plenty of water in the pan so they can absorb enough to cook nicely. Bring the lentils to the boil and then simmer for 45 mins until tender. The time may vary on the type of lentil so make sure you read the packaging or the recipe your using first before cooking. Once cooked lentils can be added to curry dishes or soups and stirred thoroughly.
Using a pressure cooker or slow cooker:
Lentils can also be cooked in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker with other ingredients if you're making something hearty and filling. Cooking them in a pressure cooker means they cook three times faster than boiling them. This is a great technique if you want something quick and tasty. Cooking them in a slow cooker is perfect for those more time consuming recipes, like casseroles and stews. Make sure you cook the lentils in the stock or sauce that the rest of the ingredients are in for an extra tasty finish.
Top tips for using lentils
- Before you take your lentils out of the water make sure you taste test them first to double check that they're cooked the whole way through.
- The time the lentils take to cook depends on the type of lentil so make sure you cook them according to packet instructions.
- Do not overcook your lentils otherwise they will become soggy and mushy.
- If you're cooking your lentils in a pressure cooker add 1tsp oil to keep the grime from blocking up the machine.
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