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Lentils are colourful, tasty and versatile

Lentils are enjoying a new surge in popularity. These legumes come in many colours – the green and brown varieties are probably the best known, but there are also red and black lentils to discover. Turn lentils into Indian curries, pasta sauces, salads and vegetarian patties. In Germany, lentils are traditionally served as a side dish for pasta pockets or in a stew.


Red lentils are often sold peeled and they're the ones to choose if you're short of time. They cook quickly and disintegrate to a mash that can be turned into delicious soups, purées and spreads. Grey-green Puy lentils are grown in the French region of Auvergne and have a nutty aroma. They are small, easily digestible and quick to cook – ideal for salads and soups. The brown mountain lentils have a mild aroma and a firm consistency, which is why they are popular in stews and gratins. Cooked and allowed to cool, the tiny black beluga lentils make wonderfully tasty salads. Eating raw lentils is definitely not an option. They contain a number of highly indigestible substances but these are destroyed by cooking.



Origin, ingredients and storage

The round dried seeds of the lentil bush, originally from Asia Minor, are thought to be among the oldest cultivated crops. The tiny power packs are very healthy: they contain protein and dietary fibre, folic acid, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and iron.


If time is short, lentils from a tin could be an alternative. But if you can plan a little extra time turning dried lentils into a meal gives you more flavour and a more chewy consistency. Dried lentils can be stored indefinitely in a cool, dry and dark place.



Cooking with lentils

The lentils must be sorted before you can cook them. In a large bowl of cold water little stones will sink to the bottom and you will also find it easier to pick out damaged seeds. Wash the lentils after soaking them briefly and then cook them in fresh water at low heat with the lid closed. Pour the cooking water away. Spices such as curry, ginger, coriander, rosemary and thyme improve the taste and make the lentils easier to digest. Finally add a dash of lemon juice or vinegar


Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de