You may have wondering where have I gone. I have been not very well for the past few months. I just managed to able to cook properly. So I started off with this very high protein source of food to provide some nutrition to my diet.
This tiny, flat, lens-shaped pulses that grow in pods. Originating in Southeast Asia, lentils are now grow worldwide in warm countries, and vary in colour and size. The most common lentils are green, brown and red. Some of the rarer varieties are named after the area they are grown in, such as lenticchie di Castelluccio, Puglian lentils from Alta Mura in Italy, and lentilles vertes du Puy from France.
Lentils have a high food value (they are high in protein, fibre and vitamin-B) and are considered adequate protein to replace meat. Lentils must be cooked and can be pureed and used in soups and curries or added to stews and salads. But choose your lentils accordingly: some lentils, such as the red and brown ones, will cook to a mush and are good for purées; others, like Puy lentils, will hold their shape no matter how much you cook them.
These are the type of lentils:
Red. Also called Egyptian lentils, these break down when cooked and can be used for making soups and purées. They are often used in India dishes such as dhals.
Green and brown. Largest of the lentils, they keep their shape when cooked. Good in casseroles, soups and dishes where you want texture. Green and brown vary in size and colour and aren’t always easy to differentiate from each other-treat in the same way.
Puy. Tiny, speckled grey-green lentils that are grown organically and contain more minerals than other variesties. Lentilles vertes du Puy are governed by the French appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) and must be from that area. The same type of lentils are grown elsewhere- these are sold simply as Puy lentils.
Castelluccio. From Umbria in Italy, these are small, brownish-green lentils. They cook quickly (about 30 minutes) and retain their shape when cooked. Often serve with game.
Tips of Preparation. Contrary to popular belief, lentils don’t need to be soaked before they are cooked; soaking may cause some varieties to break up. First, pick over lentils to remove any discoloured ones or pieces of grit, then rinse and discard any lentils that float (these may have been partially eaten by bugs).
I didn’t expecting to cook lentils soup even I have a pack of lentils in my store cupboard and I had forgotten about it. The weather of for the past few days has been drizzling rain, I don’t feeling to go anywhere and I’m hungry too. So I pick up a cookery cook from my book shelf (Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking dated back 1989) as soon as I flipped the pages the only word that caught my eye “lentils soup” that rings the bell in my mind, since I have some chicken in the fridge. So I alter her recipe to suit my mood of cooking today, I don’t want anything that too heavy to eat, and I do need some protein and other mineral too. This soup supposed to be a winter dishes and it seems like is “winter” over here.
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- 2 stick of leeks, chopped
- handful of lentils
- Chicken meat cut into pieces (I used the breast part)
- 2 bay leaf
- 3 red chilies, remove the seed
- salt and pepper to taste
- 200ml chicken stock (from a packet) or water
- Heat the oil in a very large saucepan and gently sauté the garlic, onion, chilies. Add the chicken to seal the chicken pieces, stirring frequently, for about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Wash the lentils twice in cold water. Drain them well and add to the pan. Add the bay leaf, salt and pepper and stir well.
- Pour the chicken stock or water enough to cover all ingredient. Put the lid on and simmer the soup for about 35 minutes, or until the lentils are very soft. Add a little extra stock or water if necessary.
Lentils is very popular and is enjoyed throughout Italy. The kind eaten are the continental lentils, which keep their shape when cooked. They grow in many regions of Italy, although the best come from Abruzzo and Umbria. The lentils from Castellucio, a small hill town east of Spoleto in Umbria, are the most highly regarded. They are tiny, beige-green lentils that have sweeter yet fuller flavour than others. Unlike other pulses, lenticchie do not need to soaking unless they have been stored for too long.
There are many different ways to cook lentils, in soups or as vegetables. One soup from Abruzzo mixes boiled lentils with chestnuts. The cooked chestnuts are first sautéed in a earthenware pot in olive oil, together with all the herbs available, plus chilli to taste and some tomato sauce. The cooked lentils and their water are then added to this mixture, and the soup is served with slices of fried bread. In contrast, the lentil soup from Bologna is delicacy itself: the lentils are pureed with boiled chicken and then diluted with the chicken stock. In Campania, in a dish simply called pasta e lenticchie, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 garlic cloves and few chopped tomatoes are added to the nearly cooked lentils, together with some water. When the water boils, some smallish pasta is added and the result is a delicious thick soup over which a splash of best olive oil is poured just before serving.
The recipe given here is for lenticchie in Umido, which is the way we always cooked them in my family. We ate them with Zampone – and what a meal that is. In many region lentils are eaten at midnight on New Year’s Eve, or on New Year’s Day, because there is a superstition that they bring wealth in the year to come.
Lentils have been eaten for thousands of years – although both Platina and Pisanelli, a Bolognese doctor, condemned them as unhealthy and liable to cause all sorts of diseases. However, these condemnation of pulses, and of other peasant food, might well have derived from the fact that food was categorized as either light and delicate, and therefore suited to the refined palates – like pulses – for the plebs. Such was the food snobbery of the 16th century.