Grain legumes are cultivated for their fruits that are known as pulses. Those are just seeds that are dried and happily consumed by people. There are plenty of different legumes. The major and the most prominent are peas, beans, peanuts (yes, peanuts are not nuts, they are more like peas), chickpeas, carob, clover, and of course lentils. As a food crop, it’s produced anywhere but India and Canada are among the most powerful producers – together these two countries grow more than 50% of all lentils in the world. Impressive figures. Seems like now we know who can share the most curious recipes, don’t we?
But before we start cooking, let’s dive in the world of lentil types. They can be classified by colours, sizes, and shapes. Lentils can be split or whole, shelled or unshelled, but that’s not so interesting. The coolest part is their colours which range from light green to deep purple. They can be brick red, greenish-brown, black (called Beluga, because they resemble beluga caviar), yellow, dark speckled blue-green. You can mix them together to get a mish-mash or a hotchpotch if you will. This can be a great decision if you wish to clean your cabinet from the several thin bags of lentils.
But if you don’t own many, but still want to cook with them, try buying the red ones. You can prepare a nice lentil salad in no time. All you need to do is to bring to a boil 1 l / 4 cups of water (use vegetable stock if you have) with 1 cup of lentils, 1 cup of chopped onion, 1 cup of chopped carrots, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves and a pinch of dry rosemary. Reduce boiling water to low heat and cook until lentils are cooked but not mushy. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Toss in 1 cup of diced bell pepper, 1 cup of diced celery and some parsley. Prepare an easy vinaigrette: whip up 125 ml / ½ cup of olive oil, 60 ml / ¼ cup of red wine vinegar, 2 Tbsp of lemon juice, 1 tsp of mustard with some salt and pepper. Pour over the salad, mix well, enjoy. By the way, don’t forget to tell those who will be sharing this meal with you that you’d just made Saskatchewan salad. It got its name from the eponymous province of Canada that is responsible for the lentil cultivation.
Of course, red lentils immediately bring to mind astonishingly deliciously spiced Indian curries. The one made from lentils is called dal, daal, or dahl. But no matter how you spell it, you’re gonna love it because of its simplicity. Yet it’s so assertive and dynamic. You’ll need some Indian spices in your pantry to get things done but all of them are quite easy to hunt down. Place 1 cup of red lentils in a pot with 3 cups of water, turn the heat on and allow them to cook for 20 minutes. In the meantime, heat vegetable oil in a pan, add ½ tsp of cumin and a stick of cinnamon and let them heat for 90 seconds until fragrant. Add 1 diced onion, 1 minced chili pepper, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and 1 Tbsp of grated ginger. Cook for 7 minutes, and add ½ tsp each of paprika, turmeric, ground cardamom, salt, and 1 diced tomato. Cook until the tomato disintegrates, remove the cinnamon stick. Check the lentils. Once they are cooked through, drain the water, reserving a little at the bottom, and stir the mix from the pan into the lentils. You want a thick but creamy consistency of a porridge. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper and add a splash of lemon juice to give your dahl a cut-through kick. Garnish with cilantro and dig in.