The word lens (as in optics) is derived from the Latin lens - which means lentil. Lentils contain the third highest level of protein of any legume, after soybeans and hemp, and so are a versatile and thrifty addition to many diets, but are particularly useful to meat reducers and vegetarians. The lentil plant originated in North Africa and Asia and is and ancient source of food.
There are many sorts of lentils available, and today I take a look at the red spilt lentil which with no husk is especially quick to cook making it perfect for a base of a dal or thickening and finishing soups and stews, as well as in many other dishes. As they cook so quickly they need no special preparation other than a examination to remove any stray stones, then a rinse. 140g of dry lentils will yield about 350g cooked, which is about twice the volume.
This lentil loaf is a regular on our table, is highly adaptable and is perfect for using up the last of your “fridge bottomy” vegetables – those left languishing, unloved, at the bottom of the salad drawer the night before the weekly shop.
You can enjoy this loaf as it is, sliced straight from the oven, fry leftover slices and serve with an egg, or BBQ and serve in a burger bun. Ring the changes with different seasonings and vegetables. I used onions, garlic, spring onions, pepper and tomato – other additions could be peas (fresh or frozen), sweetcorn kernels, grated root vegetables and squashes, the last pieces of antipasti in a jar. Add some finely grated cheese rinds for extra flavour.
This does take some time to cook, so it makes sense to have something else in the oven at the same time. Make sure that the lentils are well drained, the loaf should then firm up a little quicker.
Other recipe ideas using red lentils
Zesty Red Lentil Dal with Kale – perfect for when you have over indulged and a winter staple in my kitchen.
Naan bread dal “pizza” - it sounds a fusion step too far but it is surprisingly good.
Lentils add texture, protein and dietary fibre to a tomato sauce that can be used on pizzas or with pasta
A wintry red lentil, carrot and coconut soup from Tinned Tomatoes