Lentils are a great source of fibre as well as being a plant source of protein, which makes them ideal for those not eating meat. Added to that, they are a great way to bulk up meals, to add a bit of texture to meals and they are also wallet-friendly.
Lentils can be bought in a tin, rinsed, drained and used straight away, but if you’re keen to try using dried lentils that you prepare yourself, you should choose the right type for your meal. Remember to rinse them before use and cook in plenty of water until you they reach the desired consistency. Here are the most commonly used types:
These are best for salads, oven-baked dishes such as boboties or stuffing for poultry, peppers or butternut because they hold their shape well if not cooked for too long. The longer they are cooked, the softer they will become.
As with green lentils, brown lentils hold their shape after being cooked to the point that they are just tender, and so can also be used in baked dishes and salads. They are also great for a textured dhal.
Puy lentils are a little darker in colour and they also hold their shape well after being cooked. They are generally preferred as an accompaniment to fish or other well-prepared meats because they have a more pronounced flavour than green and brown lentils which tend to take on the flavour of the ingredients they are prepared with.
Red and yellow lentils
These lentils don’t hold their shape at all while they are being cooked – they form a sort of puree (which can be made smooth in a blender if desired). This makes red lentils a popular choice for dhal, for a thickener for soups and stews or to be blended into pureed potato or butternut.
Remember to up your water intake if you start adding a lot more fibre to your diet. Lentils can be added to most dishes, but if you’re looking for an easy start, use brown lentils as a substitute for half the mince in your spaghetti bolognaise – quick, easy and a good introduction to these little legumes!