dinner in 5 minutes? canned lentils to the rescue

warm salad of lentils, baby beets & ricotta

After my recent adventures eating on the road and discovering how to make salad with just a teaspoon, I’ve found myself paying a little more attention to the tinned food section of my local supermarket. As regular stonesoupers will know, I’m often reaching for a tin of something be it chickpea, tuna, tomato or butter bean. But until now I’d never thought to try lentils out of a can.

And so I found myself stocking up – thinking if I had them on hand, an opportunity would present itself.

I wish I could report that my first attempt was a success, but unfortunately my chorizo with lentils and wilted spinach was a bit too much like my nephew Jack’s food for my liking. Tasty but lacking in texture – nothing like when made from scratch with Puy lentils – the Rolls Royce of the lentil world .

Lesson 1 – The secret to success with tinned lentils is to avoid further cooking – or you’ll end up with lentil mush.

Rather than be taunted by the remaining cans on my pantry shelf, I decided to take a different approach – this time a warm lentil salad with canned baby beets (another new discovery) and ricotta.

Lesson 2 – The best way to prepare canned lentils is to pour boiling water over them.

This has the double benefits of removing the gluey juices and warming them up a little so they are able to absorb your dressing. Then all that’s required is to mix up a little balsamic vinegar and oil and toss through some parsley for freshness. A healthy, inexpensive dinner in under five minutes – thankyou Mr Lentil.

warm salad of lentils, baby beets & ricotta

warm lentil salad with beets & ricotta

serves 2 as a light meal

If you’re up for roasting your own beets, they will taste better. Just scrub beets and trim tops. Wrap in foil and bake at 200C (400F) for about an hour or until tender (the bigger your beets the longer they’ll take). Allow to cool slightly before using in the salad. To be fair, I was pretty impressed with the canned baby beets I discovered in the supermarket. Packed in beet juice they are a lot closer to home baked than their old school pickled cousins.

For a more substantial meal, serve with a poached egg on top. Or if you’re feeding a die-hard carnivore – fry some chopped bacon or chorizo and stir through the lentils. For our vegan friends, roasted walnuts or pinenuts would make a lovely substitute for the cheese.

1T balsamic vinegar
3T extra virgin olive oil
1 can tinned lentils (400g or 14oz)
2 handfuls flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
1 can baby beets, drained (400g or 14oz)
1/2C ricotta (approx 150g or 5oz)

Boil your kettle. In a medium bowl mix together balsamic and oil and season to taste.

Place lentils in a strainer and pour over boiling water to get rid of the cooking liquid. Drain well then toss through the dressing. Stir through parsley leaves and divide between 2 plates.

Top with drained beets and generous dollups of ricotta.



Related Articles:
beans, beans magical
– for warm butter beans with rosemary & garlic
staying healthy on the road – how to make salad with a teaspoon for a chickpea & parmesan salad
salad warmth – for a warm green lentil, chorizo & cavalo nero salad


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  • I love my tins of lentils for quick and easy salad – I love them with tomato, cucumber and haloumi – but I have a mental block on canned baby beetroot and just bought one the other day so will be remembering this recipe for when I use it

  • lorraine
    of course – they would be lovely in soups – thanks for the inspiration

    tomato, cucumber and haloumi sound like another great idea – will swap you for the beets

    you should be able to find them in your supermarket – well worth keeping an eye out for them

  • My version involves canned lentils, caramelised onion, a touch of garlic, persian feta/goats cheese, italian parsley and S&P – more of a side dish than a meal in itself but great with a simple steak, grilled lamb, etc. I like the organic Bionature brand (at least I think that’s what I think they’re called).
    I should also confess that I don’t mind braised canned lentils despite the mushy factor onion, celery, carrot and garlic cooked first, add lentils and chicken stock). But then again I also like porridge, congee and other mushy foods.

  • hollowlegs
    love the idea of caramelised onion with these lentils. and maybe you’re right – I should get over the mushy factor and revisit them braised

  • I love tinned tuna and chickpeas, but have never considered buying lentils in a tin. Good to know that with a few handy tips, you can actually transform them into a decent dinner.

  • O that looks delicious… very interesting recipe (with the canned lentils). I’ll definitely be giving it a go. And I guess while I’m here…

    I’m a food science student conducting a research survey on the purchase of specialty food products. Feel free to help me fill out my short 8 min research survey. It’s completely voluntary.


  • Y,
    I used to be like you and didn’t even think of lentils – now starting to get slightly addicted.

    hi foodie guy
    lovely to hear from a fellow food scientist – good luck with the survey

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