I grew up on a sheep farm. My mum was an awesome cook and definitely passed on her sense of adventure in the kitchen to me.
But all in all we were very much a meat-and-three-veg type of family.
I’d never even heard of lentils until I saw Neil from the ‘Young Ones’ talking about them. Not exactly a great endorsement.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I started to experiment with these delicious little legumes. It was love at first bite and since then I’ve been a dedicated lentil evangelist.
So I was super happy when I got the following request from Vicky…
Lentils!! I know that lentils are a great food that currently isn’t in my personal cooking repertoire but I know that they should be. For some reason figuring them out seems intimidating to me…
Let’s talk lentils! And make sure you check out this week’s recipe. Red lentils make an amazing ‘risotto’ style dish – it’s an idea I came up with myself… You can say you saw it on Stonesoup first!
6 reasons to love lentils
1. Lentils are delicious!
For me food has to taste good above all else. I just love the earthy flavour of lentils. The trick to remember is that they need seasoning to bring out their flavour. If you’re trying to convert a lentil-skeptic, start with red lentils because they have the mildest flavour.
2. Lentils are cheap
So cheap in fact that when I took the challenge to feed myself for $2 a day, lentils were my first choice.
3. Lentils are nutritious
They’re a great source of veggie protein, fiber and also folate, vitamin B1 and even iron.
4. Lentils don’t need soaking
Unlike beans and chickpeas, lentils don’t need soaking so you don’t need to be super organised to enjoy them.
5. Lentils are easy to cook
All you need to do is tip them into a pot of boiling water and let them simmer until they aren’t crunchy any more. Then drain and season and they’re good to go.
The only trick is to remember that they turn to mush when overcooked so it’s important to start testing early and keep an eagle eye on them. Red and brown lentils tend to have a small window between crunchy and mush. Puy (French-style green lentils) and Persian red lentils are more forgiving.
6. Lentils are quick
Most lentils cook in about 15 – 20 minutes. Red lentils require the least. Puy lentils (aka French-style green lentils), Persian red lentils and Beluga black lentils all take less than 20 minutes. Larger brown lentils can take up to 30 minutes but this is still much quicker than beans or chickpeas which can take hours!
My favourite Stonesoup lentil recipes
Oozy Red Lentil ‘Risotto’ with Red Wine & Sausages
I love a good red lentil ‘risotto’. All the oozy goodness with lots more protein and fibre than your boring old rice risotto. And not only that, no need to stir constantly!
Enough for 2
1 onion, peeled & diced
2-3 thick pork sausages, skins removed and meat crumbled into chunks
1 cup red wine
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
200g (7oz) red lentils
2 handfuls grated parmesan + extra to serve
1. Heat a little oil in a medium saucepan and add onion. Cover and cook on a medium low heat, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until onion is soft.
2. When the onion is soft, increase the heat to medium high, add the sausages and cook for a few minutes until browned.
3. Add the lentils. Stir for a minute.
4. Add red wine and the stock. Stir well then simmer for 15-20 or until the stock is absorbed and the lentils are tender and oozy. If it gets too dry before the lentils are cooked, add a little water.
5. Add cheese and stir until combined. Taste and season. Serve with extra parmesan shaved over.
dairy-free / vegan – to be honest I can’t imagine risotto without the butter and cheese. But if you’re willing to give it a go use olive oil to fry the onion and finish with a tablespoon of tomato paste and more olive oil.
vegetarian – mushrooms are lovely instead of the sausages and replace the chicken stock with veggie stock.
use your imagination – pretty much any rice risotto can be adapted to the lentils. Just remember the lentils don’t need quite as much liquid as arborio rice.
different lentils – red lentils are best here because they break down to give that lovely oozy texture. Good old brown lentils will be fine but save your expensive Puy or French-style green lentils for other dishes.
onion-free – just skip it.
short on time – skip the onion and bring the red wine and stock to the boil in a separate saucepan while the sausages are browning.
Video version of the recipe