Lentils have become popular as a health food staple, since they are packed with protein and fibre, are simple to prepare and their array of colours add a fantastic vibrance to any meal, but lentils need not be only for the health-conscious. The legume's versatility and earthy notes make it a popular ingredient in countries as far-flung as India, Ethiopia, the Americas, Italy, Turkey and here in Britain, and it is prepared in a variety of ways with a variety of meats, broths, vegetables and spices.
One way to bust any notion of the lentil belonging only in the cupboard of your yoga instructor is to add a bit of ham into the mix. Shaun Rankin's hearty ham hock, split yellow pea and barley soup is boosted with the red lentils that couple well with the split yellow peas in adding some savoury stodge to the moreish soup, while Martin Wishart's puy lentils with Dijon mustard vinaigrette benefit from the saltiness of bacon.
For delicious meat-free meals, Alfred Prasad's earthy dahl makhni recipe shows how rich, flavoursome and simply brilliant lentils can be. In additon to being a hearty stew, soup or curry, lentils cooked into dahl can be used to accentuate other dishes, as seen beautifully in Vineet Bhatia's grilled sea bass, coconut rice and dhal sauce.