Explore cooking with lentils and add some easy protein, iron and fibre into your diet
If you have never tried lentils then I urge you to do so. They are nutritious, easy to cook and cost little! Don’t be put off if you don’t know how to cook them. Later I will explain how.
Not only are lentils cheap but they have a long shelf life. And they are good for you. They are full of protein, fibre and iron. Their long shelf-life makes them a great food to have as a staple food ready in the cupboard.
Lentils are great for all age groups. They can be pureed for young children who are weaning and left whole or mashed for older children. Lentils are very soft (especially the red ones) and easy to mash.
Lentils don’t need to be soaked. They can be used straight from the packet as long as you boil them for about 20 mins. This is a normal sort of cooking time for many dishes (think dried pasta, rice, potatoes and so on).
Before cooking dried lentils, it is important to wash them, especially red lentils. This is to remove any dust or grit that may still be on the lentils from when they were processed and packaged.
If you prefer, green lentils come in tins, ready cooked, ready to be added to dishes such as veggie chilli or lasagne.
Types of Lentil
Lentils come in different colours: red, black, brown, green and yellow. All have different uses and textures.
Red lentils tend to go mushy when cooked and will disappear, making them great for adding texture to soups
Brown and green lentils keep their shape and are ‘meaty’ ideal for veggie versions of lasagne, chilli or shepherd’s pie.
Yellow lentils are split peas, often added to soups or to make dhals.
Black lentils keep their shape and are great for salads or dishes where the lentil is the feature..
The iron in lentils is a great way to get iron into the diet, especially for babies and toddlers who are often low in iron during their growth spurts. Because lentils are usually cooked with veggies, iron absorption is easier. This is because vegetables are a source of Vitamin C which assists iron absorption.
This is better than alternatives, for instance where fruit juice is offered, because, despite this also being a source of vitamin C, the juice is high in sugar.
Note: tea should never be drunk with a meal because it interferes with iron absorption.
Lentils are a source of fibre which is important for all ages, though be careful that young children do not get too much, as this can fill them up; then they won’t be able to eat other nutritious foods.
Adults need 30g of fibre a day.children 2- 5 need 15g, 6-11 20g, 12-16 25g
A few meal ideas:
Dhal – also Soup or Puree
- 1 carrot
- ½ butternut squash (or a few cubes of frozen)
- 200g red lentils
- 1 onion
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp garlic from a tube or jar or 1or 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp veggie bouillon
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2tsp garam masala
Place all the ingredients in a pan. Cover with water and simmer until cooked, around 20 – 30 mins.
For a dhal just enjoy as it comes.
For a puree or a soup blitz either with a hand blender or a liquidiser
- A little oil
- 1 onion
- 1 sweet potato
- 1 carrot
- ½ cup ( I use american cups put a normal cup would work fine) of green lentils
- 1 tsp garlic ( this came from a jar, fresh is fien say 1 – 2 cloves) Garlic is so down to taste!
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 1.2 cups water
- 1 veggie stock cube or some swiss bouillon
- A few cubes, I used 5 of frozen spinach
- 1 egg
- A little flour
- Grate the carrot and the sweet potatoo (grating reduces cooking time)
- Fry the onion and then add the carrot and sweet potato
- Add the seasoning and fry for about 1 min
- Wash the lentils and add them to the pot along with the water and the stock cube
- Add the spinach
- Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30mins
- Ideally, you want the mixture to be as dry as possible, but carefully not to let it burn dry!
- Let the mixture cool
- Crack the egg into a mug, dont be tempted to add it all to the mixture, the egg is going to bind the mixtures, but it also makes them wet. You need enough to bring the mixture together
- Divide the mixture into small balls and make into burgers
- Sprinkle some flour on a plate and if the mixture is a bit wet then coat in flour
- Get a frying pan hot. Add some oil and fry until golden on each side