Friday, May 4, 2012

Are You Cooking With Lentils?

This May across Canada we're celebrating lentils.  They have been around in many different cultures and are a staple in many diets, yet they're still quite new to Canadians.  According to Food Day Canada, Canada produces 67% of the world's lentils and is the world's leading exporter of lentils.  You may or may not know that lentils are grown right here in Saskatchewan!  In the 70s, Dr. Al Slinkard developed the Laird lentil at our very own University of Saskatchewan.  

Lentils come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  The most common are the large green lentil and split red lentil.  I have included the nutrition facts for 100g of each from 

Lentils are a budget friendly source of fibre, protein, potassium, folate, iron, and manganese.  They are low in fat and have a low glycemic index which can help you stabilize your blood sugars (a reason many endurance athletes fuel up with lentils - long lasting energy as carbohydrate and protein).  A serving from Canada's Food Guide is 3/4 cup which provides about 13 g of protein.  They are also a great crop because they help return nitrogen to the soil.

If you're new to cooking with dried beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils - lentils are a great place to start because you just rinse, boil, and use in a variety of recipes (no need to soak them!).  Whole lentils work great in salads and split lentils are good for pureeing (plus they cook even faster).  Since Canadians are celebrating lentils (#lovelentils) you can visit for great recipes and also enter their contest: "love" a dish daily for a chance to win a trip to PEI to meet with Chef Michael Smith.

Today I want to share a great recipe for Spicy Lentil Soup.  I originally received this recipe from Tourism Yorkton with a bag of lentils (great gift!).  This recipe makes 8 servings and if you like things hot, you can add more cayenne pepper!

2 tsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
7 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups dry red lentils, rinsed
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 can (385 ml) fat free evaporated milk
pepper to taste
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat; cook onions and garlic about 2 minutes or until softened.  Stir in cumin and cayenne; cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Stir in flour until combined.  Stir in broth, lentils, and tomato paste.  Cover and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat; simmer 25-30 minutes or until lentils are tender.  Gradually stir in evaporated milk, salt, and pepper.  Gently reheat over medium-low until heated through, taking care not to boil.  Garnish with cilantro, if desired. 

Let me know how you Love Your Lentils,
Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching