Don’t know how to cook lentils or what to do with them? No worries, many people want to introduce lentils in their diet, but are not sure where to start. The good news is that lentils are extremely easy to prepare and to incorporate into your favorite recipes.
Unlike beans, they require minimal soaking and cooking times. They are inexpensive and very versatile and can be used in soups – like this easy Red Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup recipe, stews, curries and veggie burgers.
The Origins of Lentils
Lentils are an ancient food has been consumed for thousands of years and is thought to originate in Africa and the Middle East where they were traditionally combined with wheat and barley. Part of the legume family, lentils are the seeds of the plant Lens ensculenta. They come in many varieties including red, green, brown, and yellow and are sold in whole or split forms. Lentils are a big part of cooking in the Middle East, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, where they are served in Dahl (lentil soup) as a standard part of traditional South Indian meals. Did you know that the word “Dahl” is the Hindi word for lentil?
Lentils are good for your Heart
Lentils are a very nutritious whole food. They are good for your heart by reducing cholesterol. They are an amazing source of soluble and non-soluble fiber. This fiber binds with bile in your system and helps to pull cholesterol out of your body through your waste. This fiber also helps to keep the colon healthy and helps to stabilize your blood sugar. This makes lentils a great choice for people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, or those of us who want to prevent these diseases.
Another amazing thing about lentils is that they are full of minerals, such as magnesium, folate and iron. This makes them an important meat substitute for vegetarians in order to get a proper balance of nutrients.
How to Store Lentils
You can find lentils in dry form in packages or bulk at the grocery store. You can also buy canned lentils that are pre-cooked. Dry lentils should be stored in an airtight container in a dark, dry cool place. If stored properly they will keep up to 12 months. So they form an important part of your pantry.
How to Cook Lentils
The easiest type to cook are red lentils, they actually break down and dissolve in most recipes, so this makes them a great lentil to start introducing into your menu, especially if you have kids or picky eaters in the family. Here is an easy soup recipe that combines red lentils with Swiss chard.
Easy Red Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 pinches cayenne
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 6 cups Swiss chard, (wash, remove stems and chop)
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the coconut oil. Add the onion and celery and sauté for 5 minutes (add a bit of water to prevent sticking).
- Add the garlic, turmeric, cumin and cayenne and sauté for 1 minute.
- Stir in the broth, water, lentils, cinnamon and sea salt; cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
- Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
- Stir in the Swiss chard, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until chard is soft.
- Serves 5-6 people. Pair it with some nice homemade garlic bread.
For more info on lentils and how to cook them, check out our previous blog: Lentils – an old-fashioned super food.
Happy Cooking, and let us know what you think! Don’t forget to leave a link back to your own blog too via the commentluv feature here on the site.