Like other legumes, lentils are low in fat and high in protein and fiber, but they have the added advantage of cooking quickly. Lentils have a mild, often earthy flavor, and they're best if cooked with assertive flavorings.
My preferred lentils are the tiny, black and round, beluga lentils are named for the caviar they resemble. In addition to their striking appearance, beluga lentils hold their shape well during cooking, unlike other lentils that tend to become mushy. This characteristic makes them more suitable for salads and pilafs than the types of lentils that tend to break down during cooking. . They are higher in amino acids than French, green, or red lentils.
How to cook beluga lentils
Like any type of lentil, beluga lentils are simple to prepare: after having rinsed them stir in a pinch of salt for every 1 cup of lentils. The salt will slow the cooking, but it will enhance flavor and help make the lentils easy to digest. Add other herbs, spices or aromatic vegetables, such as celery or onion, if you wish. Beluga lentils have an earthy taste that is compatible with a variety of other flavors. Cover the lentils and bring them to a simmer. Continue to cook them over low heat, stirring occasionally and adding liquid if necessary, until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Beluga lentils will be tender after about 25 minutes of cooking. Remove the lentils from the heat and serve them immediately, or spread them on a baking sheet to cool. Don't allow the lentils to boil rapidly. Keep them at a gentle simmer to prevent them from splitting.
Getting interested in beluga lentils?
I have added three beluga lentil recipes, some easier and faster some a tad more elaborate. All are presented in their plant based version, you can obviously adapt them to suit them your personal taste.
1. One quick & simple salad idea:
Lentil & tomato salad
you need the following ingredients:
- 250g dried lentils
- juice ½ lime and juice ½ lemon
- 1 tsp white wine or cider vinegar
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings
- 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 2 tsp mango chutney
- handful coriander, roughly chopped
- 250g cherry vine tomatoes, halved
- 85g baby spinach, washed and thoroughly dried
Boil the lentils, drain, rinse well, then drain thoroughly. Meanwhile, mix the citrus juices, vinegar and a pinch of salt in a salad bowl, then toss in the onion rings – after a few mins they will soften and turn pink. Whisk together the oil, cumin, garlic and chutney, then toss into the onions with the cooled lentils, coriander, tomatoes, spinach and plenty of seasoning.
2. Garfield’s preferred:
you need the following ingredients:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 celery stick, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 800 gr cooked lentils
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 400g chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp mushroom ketchup
- 1 tsp chopped oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
- 1 tsp vegetable stock powder
- 2 cauliflower heads, broken into florets
- 2 tsp unsweetened soya milk
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 9 dried egg-free lasagne sheets
- 6 carrots, cut lengthways into 6-8 wedges
- 3 red onions, cut into wedges
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 200g brown basmati rice, rinsed
- 400ml vegetable stock
- 400g lentils, rinsed and drained
- 200g baby spinach
- handful toasted flaked almonds, or a few whole almonds (optional)
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. In boiling water, cook carrots for 4 mins, tipping in onions for the last min of cooking. Drain and mix in a roasting tin with 4 tsp oil, the cumin and seasoning. Roast for 30 mins, while you cook the rice. Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in a large pan. Add cardamom and cinnamon for 30 secs, then add rice and toast for 1 min. Pour over stock and 100ml water, then simmer, covered, for 25-30 mins, until rice is tender and the water absorbed. Remove cinnamon and cardamom. Tip in lentils and fork through before topping with spinach. Put lid back on and cook over a low heat, stirring once, until spinach has wilted and lentils heated through. Fork through again before tipping the cumin roasted veg onto the top and sprinkling with almonds, if using.