Peace, Love & Lentils

Go through your pantry, cupboards, freezer, or fridge; what ‘treasures’ have you found? Pick an ingredient/spice/condiment that’s been hanging out for a while and give it the attention it needs. Share a healthy recipe made using your new-found pantry prize.

Spring cleaning the pantry my shelf in the cupboard. It doesn’t take long.

My share-house-pantry-space-restriction coupled with my disdain for waste means that I don’t often have a whole lot of things lying around for too long. A good thing I suppose. But this month’s Redux theme is the perfect excuse to share a great lentil soup recipe that only requires a few ingredients. I did in fact have lentils in the cupboard, too.

Lentils are simply wonderful. Not only are there a bunch of ways to use them, as mentioned in my previous ramblings, they are nutritionally impressive too. This recipe uses green lentils, which are a variety that retain their shape when cooked, rather than breaking down and going mushy. A cup of lentils gives you 16 grams of dietary fibre, and also provides you with a serving of protein. In addition, because lentils (and other legumes for that matter) are so nutritious, half a cup also count as a serve of vegetables as well. Nice.

Due to the high fibre content of lentils, and other legumes, a lot of people experience digestive discomfort (read: gas, bloating and other fun stuff), so if you’re not consuming them regularly, best to start off slow so that your gastrointestinal tract can get used to it. Whenever we make a major change to our diet, our bodies need time to adjust, so take it easy. It also helps to soak your legumes in cold water over night and give them a good rinse before cooking.

Thanks to Melbourne’s ice-cold chill as of late, I thought soup would be most appropriate. The recipe I’m sharing below is how I usually make it, although on this particular occasion I had to substitute for what ever I had available in the fridge, so it’s pretty versatile. Dinner was literally the other thing that could warm me up today!

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Lentil Soup

1 x TBS olive oil

1 x brown onion

2 x cloves garlic

2 x stalks celery

2 x carrots

1/2 x cup white wine (optional, but do it)

1 x cup green lentils

1 x lemon, juice and zest

1 x litre of vegetable stock

1/2 x bunch parsley (can sub in dill)

s & p

lentil soup

  • Chop the onion, garlic, celery and carrot finely
  • Heat oil in a large pot over a medium heat
  • Add onion and cook gently for 5 minutes or until softened
  • Add garlic, carrot and celery and cook for another couple of minutes, giving it a good stir
  • Then add in the white wine, vegetable stock and lentils
  • Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for half an hour or until lentils are softened
  • Add in lemon juice, zest and parsley at the end of cooking
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Cauliflower Dhal -ing

This was one of the earliest vegetarian recipes I can remember cooking, and it’s stuck around for a while. I found it on Susan Voisin’s Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen, the first food blog I had ever encountered, and was in awe of the encyclopaedia of knowledge I had at my fingertips. That was about five or so years ago now, and this recipe is always a fallback.

A ‘what-to-cook-when-you-don’t-know-what-to-cook’ kind of thing.

Dhal is an Indian recipe made with lentils. It can be as simple or as complex as you like, but either way it’s quick, nutritious and cheap. Lentils are classified as a legume, and there are a number of varieties to choose from. Dhal usually uses red lentils, which are a type that breaks down when cooking, giving a soup-y consistency. Other varieties include black, puy and green. These varieties hold their shape much better, and are more useful in salad based recipes. Lentils are a nutritionist’s dream: they are high in dietary fibre and also vitamins and minerals such as folate and potassium – and because they are so nutrient dense, the dietary guidelines consider a serve of legumes to be interchangeable with a serve of vegetables also. Pretty sweet!

redlentil

For those of us who don’t eat meat, lentils also provide an important protein source. In general, plant sources of protein are incomplete (with the exception of quinoa and soy), which means that they do not contain a complete amino acid profile. To get the full benefit of legumes, make sure you eat a variety of plant-based foods. For example, eat your dhal with rice or your beans with bread. This ensures that you are getting all the amino acids your body requires.

Back to the food. This particular dhal recipe is a stand out because of one ingredient in particular: Panch Poran (also known as Bengali Five-Spice). It really does make it spectacular. You won’t find it in any old supermarket though, I got mine from a speciality Indian grocer. If you happen to have the individuals spices on hand though, make it yourself! Panch Poran is made up of fenugreek, mustard, cumin, nigella and fennel seeds, in an equal ratio. I believe that I have made this recipe once before without the Panch Poran, and it was still good, just not as good. If you are feeling really lazy then I guess you can skip it, but hey- your loss. At the very least you want your garlic, ginger, chilli and cumin seeds for flavour.


 

Cauliflower Dhal with Panch Poran

Recipe courtesy of Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen.

1 x TBS olive oil

1 x large brown onion, finely chopped

3 x cloves garlic finely chopped

1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped

1 x small red chilli, finely chopped

1 x TBS Panch Poran

1 x tsp turmeric

1 x cup red lentils

1 x tin crushed tomatoes

4 x cups water

1/2 x head cauliflower florets

1 x tsp salt

lemon juice and coriander

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan
  • Add onions and cook for five minutes until softened, then add garlic, chilli and ginger and cook for a further minute
  • Add the Panch Poran and cook until you hear the seeds start to pop, about a minute
  • Then add turmeric, lentils, tomatoes and water and give it a good stir.
  • Leave to simmer for 20 minutes
  • Then add cauliflower florets and cook for a further 20 minutes.
  • By this stage the cauliflower should be tender and the lentils should be broken down, add salt to taste.
  • Serve with brown rice, fresh coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice.

 

The Mysterious Jerusalem Artichoke

I was inspired by my salad at Brighton Schoolhouse last week, so off I went to find some jerusalem artichokes for myself and ended up learning a bit about them along the way. I was pleasantly surprised to find out they are a really good source of iron, with 150g providing 5.1mg, which is 28% of the RDI for women aged between 19 and 30 (we need higher amounts of iron to account for losses during menstruation).

There’s only a small window when the jerusalem artichoke is in season, late winter July/August in Melbourne, and they proved to be a bit tricky to find, so you might have to go on a bit of a hunt – worth it though! The best way I can describe them is like a roast potato, but a bit sweeter.

Just a simple salad for lunch. Eat it warm or cold, lasts in the fridge for a few days so it’s a good one to take along to work. Recipe based on My New Roots.

 

Jerusalem Artichoke, Kale & Lentil Salad

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1 x bunch kale, shredded

1/2 x red onion, finely chopped

1 TBS x minced garlic

1 TBS x olive oil

500g x jerusalem artichokes, diced (6-7 artichokes)

1 x tin lentils (or 1/2 cup dry puy/brown lentils, cooked)

1/3 cup x toasted almonds

Coat the artichokes with 1/2 the olive oil and roast in a hot oven for ~30 minutes or until tender

Saute the onion and garlic in the rest of the olive oil for a few minutes

Add kale and cook until leaves turn bright green, take off the heat

Dry roast the almonds in a hot pan until evenly browned (you should be able to smell them when they’re done but don’t let them burn)

Stir through lentils and almonds

Dress with equal parts olive oil & lemon juice (i used a TBS of each) and some chilli if you like

Season with S &P