Lentils are an incredibly versatile legume and can be used in a variety of different dishes. Here’s why chef Michael Smith absolutely adores cooking with them.
Why Do I Love Lentils?
1. I love lentils! They’re the perfect ingredient for Thanksgiving (or really any time of the year) because they hit all the marks that matter for my family: Lentils are so healthy that they’re considered a superfood and regularly show up on nutritionists ‘Top Ten Healthiest Foods” lists. They’re a legume, jam packed with iron, Vitamin B and other micronutrients and loaded with fiber. They’re also an excellent source of protein which makes them a favourite of vegetarians everywhere, especially in Gujarat India, where I explored their use as a daily staple. I always feel extra confident when I cook with them because I know I’m making an excellent choice for my family’s food lifestyle.
2. Lentils are easy to cook. Unlike other legumes they don’t require a long overnight soaking to tenderize and soften. All you have to do is simmer them with water or other liquids and they’ll quickly and easily soften. This simplicity means they’ll also easily absorb any flavour theme you happen to throw at them in the course of your cooking adventures. Their versatility is one of the reasons this humble legume is found in kitchens all over the world!
3. Lentils are tasty. Their simple, earthy flavour is addictively satisfying. They’re hearty enough to go well with meats and fish but not so strongly flavoured that they take over a dish. They tend to play a neutral role in the overall flavour profile and are particularly good at carrying other more distinctive flavours, aromatic herbs and fragrant curries. Depending on how you cook them their texture ranges from a smooth thick puree to pleasantly firm and distinct with just the right amount of chewiness!
4. My Kids Love Them. If your house is anything like mine you can spout a laundry list of reasons for why your kids should eat something but if it’s not tasty, they’re not biting. Fortunately lentils pass this critical test with flying colours. They arrive at our table in numerous guises from highly aromatic red lentil dal puree to neutral and distinct within a simple chicken soup. They’re never an issue!
5. Lentils are Canadian! We’re just getting accustomed to eating them but we already grow more lentils than anyone else on earth. They’re an enormously productive plant for our farmers although the vast majority of them are exported, most to India. The second most populous country is the worlds largest consumer of lentils, most Indians eat them in some form every single day. Here at home were learning to love them too!