Lentils are a fantastic source of protein for vegetarians. Just 100g contains 26g of protein which is equivalent to 52% of your recommended daily allowance. There are incredibly versatile, easy to cook and very filling.
Basically, lentils are legumes known as pulses. Lentils, like peas and beans, are seeds. Unlike dried beans, dried lentils don’t need to be soaked before cooking – and the best way to do this is to boil or stew them in liquid. It is fine to add dried red and yellow lentils straight into a sauce, stew or soup, but it it is best to partially cook green and brown lentils separately in water before doing the same. There are many different types of lentils that seem to come in and out of fashion.
Red lentils are sometimes called red ‘split’ lentils. They cook more quickly than the other types of lentils (about 12 – 15 minutes) and lose their firm texture becoming a bit mushy. Because of this they are great when added to soups making them nice and thick.
Puy lentils are a type of green lentil and are small and dark with speckles. Puy lentils are AOC protected and come from the region of Le Puy in France. Because of this they are more expensive than other lentils. These take about 30 minutes to cook and keep a certain degree of firmness. If a recipe requires Puy lentils and you can’t get your hands on any, just use brown or other types of green lentils instead.
Strictly speaking, Puy lentils are a type of green lentil, but there are other types of green lentils that are commonly available in shops. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between darker green and brown lentils and they can be interchangeable in recipes. They also keep a firm texture but take a bit longer to cook than their brown cousins (about 40 + minutes).
These are widely available in supermarkets and are cheap to buy. They are similar to Puy and green lentils in texture however, the colour can vary tremendously from light brown to almost black. They have a lovely earthy flavour and also keep a firm texture after cooking. They take 25 – 30 minutes to cook.
Brown and green lentils are great to use as a meat substitute in meals that traditionally require mince – for example, Moussaka, lasagne and Sheppard’s pie. Green and brown lentils are also fantastic in warm salads and can be used in dishes as a replacement to couscous or quinoa.
Yellow lentils are often found in Asian shops and larger supermarkets. They are a little bit larger than red lentils taking about 20 minutes to cook. They become quite mushy after cooking and are fantastic in curries.
Black beluga lentils
Black beluga lentils are a little harder to find but can usually be bought from specialist food shops and larger supermarkets. The Merchant Gourmet range sells them pre-cooked in packets. These are quite small with a creamy interior and remain firm when cooked with a slight gleam. They’re called beluga because of their resemblance to caviar.
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