Love them or hate them, these legumes are here to stay. They have been part of the human diet since Aceramic Neolithic times, being one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East and archaeological evidence shows they were eaten 9500 to 13000 years ago.
Lentil colours range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black. They also vary in size, and are sold in many forms, with or without the skins, whole or split. Now you get Red and brown;
Beluga, said to resemble Beluga caviar; then there is the Brown/Spanish pardina and then the French green Puy lentils, which I adore – these are just a few that are available.
These babies have great nutritional properties, like Carbohydrates ,Sugar, Dietary fibre, fat, protein, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, Folate, vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc and lots more.
If that is not a good reason to eat them, then I don’t know what is, apart from the taste, that is. I am crazy about the earthy nutty flavour of this tiny legume.
Eating lentils can help to reduce blood cholesterol, since they contain high levels of soluble fibre and they are low in fat. This makes for one happy heart. There are so many ways that one can use them to cook with. They make wonderful salads and savoury dishes; they can be added to meat dishes; or just consumed as a vegetarian meal on its own.
I tried this Smokey Lentil Cottage pie from J’Something and I really liked it.
Smokey Lentil Cottage Pie
Difficulty: Very easy
Hands-on Time: 40 min
Total time: 1 hr 20 min
2 large Butternut, to roast
2 large Aubergines
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 red Onions, chopped
½ cup Castle Milk Stout
1 tsp. ground Coriander
2 tbsp. tomato puree
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 bay leaf
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 carrots, cubed
200g brown lentils
350g mushrooms (of your choice), cubed
350ml mushroom stock (you can also use vegetable or beef)
½ tsp. ground cinnamon and some for sprinkling
2 tbsp. sesame seed oil (you can also use Olive Oil)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
¼ cup honey and 100ml for butternut
Butternut seeds, saved from the roasted butternut
Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
Roast the butternut until the skin is charred and the insides are soft. Allow to cool.
Char the aubergine on an open gas flame (or under the grill), to give it a distinct smoky flavour, turning regularly.
Remove aubergine from heat when done and allow to cool. Once the aubergine is cool, cut into cubes and sprinkle with salt.
Leave for 20 minutes allowing the salt to draw out the bitter liquid. In a colander, rinse off the salt and set aside.
In a large oiled pan add the bay leaf, coriander, garlic, onion, celery and carrots and fry for 5 minutes.
Add the cubed aubergine and mushrooms and slowly add the Castle Milk Stout as you stir.
Add the tomato puree, stock, honey and lentils and season to taste.
Simmer till lentils are cooked, but still have a bite. If you allow it to get too soft it goes soupy. Takes about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the butternut seeds from the cooled butternut and sprinkle with cinnamon and honey and set aside.
Mash up the butternut and add sesame seed oil or olive oil. Add cinnamon and season to taste.
Spoon the lentils into a baking dish, leaving the excess liquid behind in the pot, if necessary.
Top the lentils with the mashed butternut and sprinkle with butternut seeds.
Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Finish off by grilling the top until lightly crispy and golden.