Six methods with lentils: from vegetarian ragu to speedy dal | Australian life-style | The Guardian

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In the wild Abruzzo area of Italy, a uncommon number of lentil grows in steep, slim plots on the slopes of the Gran Sasso mountains. Watered by snow-fed streams and hand harvested by aged farmers, the Santo Stefano lentil is so honored it has its personal pageant. In France, the du Puy lentil, a range introduced over by the Romans some 2,000 years in the past and often called “the caviar of lentils”, has been given an appellation origin contrôlée (AOC) standing.

Australians are in all probability extra prosaic in regards to the lentil, however with inflation and bitter climate biting, the low spend-per-plate (a packet of grocery store lentils retails for round $2 for 375g, and when cooked they yield a worth of simply 18 cent per 200g serve) and gratifyingly lengthy shelf life means it has a cost-to-comfort ratio that’s tough to high.

Though most of us are (usually uncomfortably) conscious of the lentil’s excessive fibre content material, they’re additionally a dietary tour de pressure, filled with protein, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Varying in dimension and color, from deep inexperienced to luminous orange, if you happen to decide the proper lentil for the job, they’ll play properly with nearly any flavour and adjust to a variety of cooking strategies. Here’s easy methods to benefit from these cheap overachievers.

Yellow lentils: for a warp-speed dal

“In India, dal is life,” says Jessi Singh, proprietor of Melbourne’s Bombay Yacht Club and Daughter in Law eating places. Use moong dal – small yellow lentils – and you may have a dish prepared in lower than 10 minutes, Singh says. “Five if you use a pressure cooker.” He simmers the lentils gently on the range with onion, ginger, garlic, tomato and beef (or vegetable) broth till they’re smooth, or places the combination in a strain cooker for when time is of the essence.

His tip for an excellent lower-effort, high-return cook dinner: “Fry some cumin seeds in ghee and add to the lentils with a pinch of asafoetida” – obtainable in some supermarkets and all Indian grocers from about $2.50 a packet. (While not conventional, ghee could also be substituted with butter or impartial oils.) The “epic flavour bomb of a spice” tastes like onion and garlic, he says. Finish by seasoning with salt and pepper.

If you propose to eat the dal over rice, Singh suggests including extra inventory or water. With roti, make a thicker, scoopable dal.

Red or orange lentils: for hearty soups

South Australia lentil farmer Anna Phasey suggestions small purple lentils – often called “nippers” in Australia – as the most effective lentils for soup, since they require no soaking and are fast to cook dinner.

Thomasina Miers’ Moroccan lentil and carrot soup.
Thomasina Miers’ Moroccan lentil and carrot soup. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura/The Guardian. Food stylist: Aya Nishimura. Prop stylist: Louie Waller. Food assistant: SongSoo Kim

They’re the star of the basic Indian British soup mulligatawny; but when time or an empty spice rack are a problem, Yotam Ottolenghi makes use of a readymade curry powder in his lentil-coconut soup.

While the sturdy spices of southern Asia pair so completely with lentils, so too do the flavours of North Africa. Thomasina Miers makes use of cumin, cloves, cinnamon and ginger in her Moroccan-spiced lentil soup. Add a squeeze of lemon for “a joyous sparkle”, she writes.

Brown lentils: for serving with meat

While lentils might have been adopted as a meaty mascot by vegetarians, they’re additionally usually served with the actual factor – as they’re good sponges for meat juices.

Singh likes them slow-cooked with lamb shanks. Ottolenghi provides dried apricots to his recipe for a bit sweetness.

For one thing that makes use of meat extra as a flavour than the majority of the meal, Tony Percuoco of Brisbane’s Tartufo restaurant recommends a typical Neapolitan “cucina povera” dish: pasta e lenticche.

“It’s a very simple dish, made with a bit of pancetta, sautéed onion, carrot, celery and leek, brown lentils, a bay leaf, water, three or four crushed overripe tomatoes and a pasta like gnocchetti Sardi or small conchiglie (shells) cooked in the same pot at the end.”

Black or puy lentils: for salads

Whether served heat or chilly, lentils are additionally good for upping the protein content material in a salad.

“This is where you’d use black lentils,” says Shannon Martinez of Smith and Daughters. “They’re really good in salad because they hold their shape.”

Great for protein: Thomasina Miers’ roast celeriac and lentil salad with a mustard and creme fraiche dressing.
Great for protein: Thomasina Miers’ roast celeriac and lentil salad. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura/The Guardian. Food styling: Jenny White. Prop styling: Aya Nishimura. Food assistant: Toni Musgrave

Martinez likes to cook dinner them with half an onion, a bay leaf and sprigs of thyme for flavouring, then provides to grilled zucchini, feta, almonds and mint. “Dress simply with red wine vinegar or olive oil and lemon,” she advises.

For a filling winter vegetable salad, strive Miers’ roast celeriac, apple and lentil salad, which uses a chicory and mustard dressing.

Green or brown lentils: as a mince alternative

“Lentils are an awesome and super-healthy replacement for ground meat in bolognese sauce and ragu,” says Martinez.

“Go for green or brown for a ragu. You get a bit of texture but they’re not too firm, like black lentils.”

Martinez recommends parboiling the lentils first. “Otherwise you’ll need too much liquid in your ragu to cook them. Parboil until just undercooked, have your base for the ragu on the stove and then just put the partially cooked lentils in, so they can absorb the flavour.”

Rachel Roddy’s tagiatelle with lentil and mushroom ragu: a hearty pasta in a pinch.
Rachel Roddy’s tagliatelle with lentil and mushroom ragu: a hearty pasta in a pinch. Photograph: Rachel Roddy/The Guardian

Rachel Roddy provides earthy mushrooms to her ragu, serving it over tagliatelle.

Versatile lentil mince can be utilized as a base in a mess of different cuisines and purposes too – from a shepherd’s pie to chilli, stuffed capsicum or croquettes. Sakia Sidey, AKA the Broke Vegan, bulks up her lentil “mince” with the grated stalks of broccoli and cauliflower, including spices and a scorching sauce and serving it in tacos with a coriander salsa, purple onion pickle, jalapeños and lime.

Any lentils: as a meal-prep staple

Phasey’s tip is to cook dinner a batch of lentils in water or inventory initially of the week, then rinse, drain and hold them in a container within the fridge to throw into dishes all through the week; such as her lentil, beef and red ale stew or Moroccan-spiced lentils served on a sweet potato.

A parting tip from Percuoco when cooking lentils: by no means add salt till the tip. Any sooner and the lentils will find yourself robust.

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