Superfoods: Lentils 101
Superfoods! Superfoods! Superfoods! You know they’re good for you, but everywhere you turn, there’s a new one screaming out for your attention. It can be overwhelming! But don’t worry – the Abibu London team are here to keep things simple. This month we’re focusing all our attention on the original and most popular superfood – lentils!
What are lentils?
A staple in classic Asian cooking, lentils are small dried beady seeds (pulses). When rehydrated and boiled in water, lentils (also known as dal) become incredibly tasty soups or accompaniments to other dishes. They are a great alternative for meat when it comes to intaking protein, ideal for vegans, and come in a variety of flavours and colours, from green and black to red and yellow.
What makes them superfoods and good for my skin?
Simple really – lentils are rich in fibre, calcium, iron and vitamin B. In-fact, 100g of cooked lentils have almost 3 times the nutrients of 100g of cooked chicken, and practically no fat. This makes it one of the most nutritious foods you can buy – the protein fills you up more, so you eat less “bad” foods, and as a result your skin improves its health. The iron also speeds up oxygen delivery around the body, especially in hair follicles, improving their strength.
Where can I buy lentils?
Lentils can be bought in any supermarket with a World foods aisle, usually in long-life freeze-dried packets, and in almost every South Asian grocery store or cornershop. The latter will include far more varieties of lentils, but the types outlined below are commonly found everywhere – and are ridiculously cheap! As lentils carry a long shelf-life, stock up all the varieties you like the look of.
Alternatively, you can buy ready-prepared lentils that are already cooked and flavoured, so you can throw them straight into meat dishes, salads or stir fries. Merchant Gourmet is our top pick, as their ready-to-eat range avoids adding artificial preservatives and the like, maintaining the health benefits.
You can also buy canned lentils, preserved in brine or salt water, but we advise avoiding these as their nutritional properties deteriorate over time in the water.
How do you prepare and cook lentils?
This depends on the type of lentils you are cooking. Typically you soak lentils in water for at least an hour before cooking, which softens them up and removes impurities, and then boil for approximately 20 minutes.
Green lentils are fantastic pantry fillers.
These are the most commonly found lentils, and unless stated otherwise, most lentil recipes refer to this type. They don’t have a particularly strong flavour, so be sure to garnish with strong flavours for taste.
Puy lentils are an excellent accompaniment to fancier dishes.
Favoured by many because they have a natural peppery flavour, puy lentils are dull green and grey lentils that originate from the Le Puy region of France. These lentils are a little more costly than other lentils, but have a nice firmness when cooked that adds texture to any dish, especially meat dishes.
You can mix-and-match lentils.
Unlike many other pulses, lentils can be mixed up and cooked in various combinations. Experiment and find a combo you like.
Abibu London’s Morning Jumpstart Lentil Salad
This recipe is incredibly simple to put together, and is a fantastic start to any day, because it’s jam-packed with good carbs (35g) and protein (27g).
Ingredients for 1 serving:
- 4 tablespoons of cooked lentils (any will do, but we prefer a mix of green and brown)
- 1 tablespoon of chopped cucumber
- 1 medium tomato, sliced into quarters
- 1 tablespoon of kale
- 1 teaspoon of fresh coriander
- 1 teaspoon of finely-chopped spring onion
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
In a bowl, simply combine all the ingredients and give it a gentle stir so it’s properly mixed. Then eat. Yes, it’s that simple! Make more in bulk and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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