The lentil or daal or pulse is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, grown for its lens shaped seeds. It is about 15 inches tall and the seeds grow in pods, usually with two seeds in each.
The plant originated in the Near East, and has been part of the human diet since the Neolithic period. With 26% protein, lentil is the vegetable with the highest level of protein after soybeans and hemp, and because of this it is a very important part of the diet in many parts of the world, especially in India, which has a large vegetarian population.
A variety of lentils exists with colours that range from yellow to reddish orange to green, brown and black. Red, white and yellow lentils are decorticated, i.e., they have their skins removed. One variety of yellow "lentils," Chana, is in fact made from the kernels of chickpeas (garbanzo bean, Indian pea, ceci bean, bengal gram, chana, kadale kaalu, sanaga pappu, shimbra). There are large and small varieties of many lentils (e.g., Masoor Lentils). Lentils are sold in many forms, with or without the skins, whole or split. The urad bean, a species of the genus Vigna, is also referred to as "black lentil". Split peas are another variety of legume, similar to lentils.
Types of lentils
- Brown/Spanish Pardina
- French Green/Puy (Dark speckled blueish green)
- Green (Most common variety)
- Yellow/Tan Lentils (Red inside)
- Red Chief (Decorticated yellow lentils)
- Eston Green (Small green)
- Richlea (Medium green)
- Laird (Large green)
- Petite Golden (Decorticated lentils)
- Masoor (Brown skinned lentils which are red inside)
- Petite Crimson/Red (Decorticated masoor lentils)
- Chana (Kernel of chickpeas)
- Urad (A type of bean)
- White/Ivory (Peeled Urad beans)
- Garlic Lentils (Genetically altered)
- Macachiados (Big Mexican yellow lentils)
The seeds have a short cooking time (especially for small varieties with the husk removed, such as the common red lentil) and a distinctive earthy flavour. Lentils are used to prepare an inexpensive and nutritious soup all over the world. They are frequently combined with rice, which has a similar cooking time. A lentil and rice dish is referred to in the Middle East as mujaddara or mejadra. Rice and lentils are also cooked together in khichdi, a popular Indian dish. Lentils are used throughout India, the Mediterranean regions and the Middle East. In rare cases the lentils are mixed with dairy cheese.
A large percentage of Indians are vegetarian and lentils have long been part of the indigenous diet as a common source of protein. Usually, lentils are boiled to a soup like consistency with vegetables and then seasoned with a mixture of spices to make many side dishes such as sambar, rasam and dal, which are usually served over rice and roti.
When lentils are prepared, they are first inspected for damaged lentils, stones and other foreign matter. Then they are rinsed until the water runs through and comes out clear. Some prefer to soak the lentils for an extended time and discard the water. This removes substances that may cause indigestion. The lentils are then boiled in water or broth. They may be cooked on the stovetop, or in a slow cooker. Pressure cookers are not recommended, since the small lentils may clog the pressure relief valve, and their quick cooking time means there is little benefit from pressure cooking. Cooked lentils often require thinning: adding more hot water or broth to the cooked legumes until the desired final consistency is reached.
Add some herbs
A great way to cooking Puy lentils, taken from this recipe, is to boil the lentils with a large sprig of rosemary. The two ingredients are common to the same region so it can't be the first time it's been done!
How much does one cup of lentils - pulses weigh?
Estimated US cup to weight equivalents:
|Lentils - pulses
|all - dry
|Lentils - pulses
|all - cooked
Every ingredient has a cups to ounces or grams conversion table. Search for the ingredient, cup to weight conversions are at the end of each ingredient page.
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