Posts Tagged ‘lentils’

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I don’t know what the allure of cooking lentils at New Years is for me but I always like to start the year cooking a warm bowlful of them.

It’s not as if I’m looking for something warm and filling as the weather has been sunny and mild over the holiday period and I’m stuffed after eating so much.

So what is it that draws me to cooking lentils at this at this time of year?

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Maybe it’s their versatility? Lentils can be cooked by themselves or added to vegetable, meat or fish dishes. They can be served as a side, as with salmon and lentils or as the main component as in a lentil salad or stew.  They come in a range of colours and with it bring their own textures and tastes.  Some lentils such as red split lentils boil down to the consistency of mashed potatoes whereas other hold their shape and retain their nutty bite even after boiling them for 45mins as with green lentils.  My favourite variety are Puy lentils also called French green lentils – which are slate green/blue in colour and have a peppery warmth to them. 

For some, lentils have a hessian weave hippie vibe about them; vegans rave about them whilst for others they are just austere, peasant food.  After all, the original lentil stew, mess of pottage, was biblical in origin.  Now, I wouldn’t necessarily consider lentils austerity food but after the expense of the Christmas foodathon they are very welcome on my pocket!

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Italians, consider lentils to be lucky as their small coin-shaped form invites prosperity.  Perfectly partnered with pork increases their success; the pig known for pushing forwards, makes it a symbol of progress. Lentils with pork sausages are considered particularly auspicious. 

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But perhaps it’s the ease with which the stew comes together.  It’s so personal it’s not really a case of following a recipe it’s more about getting the quantities right of lentils to water and packing flavour.  And lentils are great at taking on flavour.  There is also very little for the cook to actually do.  After mass catering over the holidays and following strict recipes and cooking times, just throwing things into a pot of water is quite liberating and relaxing.  It’s also a great way to use up veg you’ve got knocking about in the back of the fridge.  There are no stages or steps to follow and other than not letting your lentils dry out as they boil, there really isn’t much danger of the dish going wrong.

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I tend to favour lentils cooked with chorizo as the paprika from the sausages oozes out into the stew giving everything great body and depth – maximising flavour with very little effort.  This time I had a rasher of streaky bacon and two sausages leftover from new year’s breakfast that I decided to add to the pot as well as pumpkin and chorizo.  At the very end of the cooking process I wilted shredded spring greens (leftover from Christmas Eve’s dinner) in the residual heat of the pot.

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“You got paid early in December ready for Christmas, so you are currently skint. Your New Year diet regime has now slipped and you are hoovering up food like there’s no tomorrow.” New Year’s resolutions start flying out the window and all those gym clothes you bought are a constant reminder of how little exercise you are actually doing! Using the following formula:

\frac{[W + D-d] T^Q}{M N_a}

where: Weather, debt, Time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q), low Motivational levels and the feeling of a Need to take action (D is undefined) scientists have predicted that the most depressing day of 2013 will be Monday 21st January .

So with five days to go until we apparently become depressed about life, the economy, the weather and complain about all and sundry – becoming a veritable Victor Meldrew – how prepared are you to face the year that is still at large?

Food Enhancement

There are many things that alter our moods that we have no control over but the one thing that we can rescue and take charge of is the food we eat. What you eat and when you eat has a big impact on how we feel.

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Choosing foods that have a lower glycemic index will help fill you up and sustain your energy levels for longer as they help your blood sugars stay stable. I have previously mentioned the health benefits of porridge in “Oat to a Good Start”. Other food items that have a low glycemic index are pulses and lentils.

“Lentils giving us a double whammy of health benefits and prosperity for the new year!”

Lentils are in the top six auspicious foods providing the consumer with luck and providence for the year ahead. In Italy it is customary to eat sausages and green lentils just after midnight as you see in the New Year. So with health and good fortune in mind I present you with my two favourite lentil dishes:

Pan Fried Salmon and Lentils:

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1st: Chop a medium onion and slowly fry in a saucepan.

2nd: Add your Puy Lentils and slick in the oily onion mixture.

3rd: Add 3 times the amount of water to lentils and add a stock cube. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 25mins.

4th: Once the lentils have cooked for approx 20mins, put the salmon fillet onto a very hot skillet. Cook on its presentation side for approx 5mins and then flip it onto its skin side for a further 4mins. If you are cooking any greens to go with make sure these are ready to go once the salmon is cooked.

5th: Plate up!

Not only are the lentils great here but the salmon high in Omega-3 and the asparagus rich in antioxidants and nutrients makes this a power-meal.

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1st: Prepare the lentils as in the recipe above.

2nd: Cook your sausages on a low heat for around 15mins turning throughout they cooking until the colour all around.

3rd: Once the sausages are ready remove them from the pan and add a splosh of red wine / port to deglaze the pan. Crush some garlic into this and stir. Scrape the sticky bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and reduce until the ‘red gravy’ is slightly thicker.

4th: Plate up! Pour the juices over the sausages and lentils. Sprinkle with some fresh parsely.

Lentils love pork – my Gran used to make lentils with chopped chorizo pork sausage and I normally pick a herby variety however, the ones in the photo above are a venison and merlot variety.

So with a plate of lentils on my lap to warm me this winter’s night I wish you health and happiness for the year to come. Don’t leave it to fate – break the Blue Monday curse.

Enjoy…