Sunday, 12 September 2010

Why I Love Lentils

My love for lentils began but a few months ago, and since then it's been quite a whirlwind affair - red lentils are now a staple in my kitchen cupboard. Here's why:

1. When your tin opener is broken you can still have a tasty pulse-based meal ready in under half an hour

2. They're a vegetable AND a source of protein (when combined with carbohydrate) making them a super-healthy option

3. They seem to fit in as a meat replacement in so many different meals - spaghetti bolognese, cottage pie, chilli, stew, soup, lasagne...everything!

4. So long as you have a stock cube, garlic and some frozen peas/an old carrot, there's never any need to resort to the emergency tin of ravioli that you bought in 1994*

5. While the lentils are cooking you can fit in a half-hour soak in the bath, a few chapters of your book or even a quick session of power yoga and a shower

As I'm in the process of moving house, I'm going through that awful 'use up everything in the cupboards' period at the moment. Last night I used up my red lentils and my week's vegetable selection while creating the best lentil dish I have ever concocted - thus prompting this short celebration of the lentil. Try it, really.

Lentil and Apricot Stew

You will need:

1 portion of red lentils, washed
1 clove garlic
1 inch chopped ginger
1 carrot, chopped into chunks
1/3 courgette, chopped into chunks
1/2 small sweet potato, chopped
Handful of broccoli florets**
3 mushrooms, sliced
3 dried apricots, halved
Vegetable stock
3 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cloves
Pinch of chilli flakes

1. Run a hot bubble bath
2. Fry the garlic, ginger, carrot, mushroom, courgette and sweet potato (and onion if you have some - I didn't!) in some oil, add the lentils and stock (about a pint? Better too much than not enough - see point 4.) and bring to the boil.
3. Add the spices, turn down the heat and simmer.
4. Soak in the bath for half an hour.
5. Add broccoli, apricots and tomato puree, stir and turn up the heat so the pan simmers a bit more energetically
6. Dry your hair/moisturise/set the table/toast a pitta bread/cook cous cous
7. Serve with pitta bread, or maybe cous cous!

*I do in fact have an emergency tin of ravioli in my cupboard (which I bought in 2009, not 1994), but since my tin opener is broken it doesn't really serve its purpose right now anyway. Lentils are always a better option.

**I never throw away the stalk - chop up the stalk and add it with the carrots and courgettes!


  1. You forgot to tell them about cheap! Lentils are soooo cheap, too :)

  2. I too love lentils. They also make me chuckle a little too as an added bonus.
    I travelled to Bhutan about 15 years ago to do some trekking and to climb a minor peak there. We had a super team in Bhutan, laid on by the magazine who were sponsoring the expedition. After a few days we were swopping stories and anecdotes with the Bhutanese. The subject of names cropped up and it appeared that a very common name in Johngkpa (the Bhutanese language) is Dorje. I asked what it meant and was told it means 'the brave'. Therefore, the guide's name translated as Lion the brave. Appropriately, the cook's name translated as: Lentil the brave! Whenever I eat a lentil based dish I think of Bhutan and the brave lentil toiling away over a wood fire on a hillside.

  3. Do you know - is tehre such a thing as a lentil cookbook? I'm going to have to invest. Lentils are one of those things that I love - but have NEVER cooked with...EVER! I wouldn't know where to start!

    I've eaten them out and a dear Indian friend makes the BEST Lentil curry ever - but yet I've never discovered this pleasure myself!

    I might have to try out your recipe ;-)

    I hope you enjoyed your well deserved hot bath!! GOOOD LUCK with the move - have a great time on your walking holiday - and all the best for the new job ;-)

    Look forward to catching up with your news on your return ;-) - Al