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Being a bit of an old hippy I feel it only right that I acknowledge some cliches and review some lentils....
I eat a lot of them being vegetarian and red ones are probably my favourite. They are cheap, nutritious, versatile and store well. There are many different varieties each with their own attributes and flavours. Some require overnight soaking and some don't. All can be sprouted and eaten raw when fully sprouted. Asofetida or Hing can be used to reduce the slightly antisocial effects if needed....
I usually buy the Crazy Jack ones because I try to eat as much organic food as I can. They do cost more than supermarket brands but I am happy to pay that. Crazy jack red lentils usually retail for about £1.50 for 500g.
The humble lentil is an edible pulse from the legume family. These little seeds have been part of the human diet since neolithic times. Softer lentils without a husk or shell such as the red lentil eventually turn to mush when cooked, whereas the shelled lentils such as green or puy ones keep their shape and texture. I personally like them squishy as one of my favourite foods is Daal.
Lentils get approximately 30% of their calories from protein and these proteins include essential amino acids such as isoleucine and lysine. Excellent news for vegetarians then. They are also a high fibre food and contain a good amount of folate (iron), vitamin B1 and assorted mineral. When combined with rice, lentils form a complete protein dish.
The red lentil or masoor lentil is usually presented as a bright orange colour but the colour can vary from orange to a light yelllow. Reds are the nuttiest of the lentils and have a sweeter and mellow taste compared to most. They usually cook in about 30 minutes and can get very squishy if overcooked. The mush of course is perfect daal material but can also be used to thicken soups and curries.
My advice for cooking red lentils would be the following:
* cook without any salt initially - ie boil them alone or with only a pinch of hing for digestibility..
* when nearly cooked, season with salt if desired.
* Drain the lentils and put to one side while you prepare the onions and garlic etc.
My favourite way to use these would be in the form of a Tarka style daal. For this I sweat off onions and garlic and then add tumeric (haldi), cumin seeds, chilli, cardomon pods, fresh ginger, garam masala etc. I cook the spices down in a little ghee or oil and then add the lentils to the mix. I add veggie stock ( water can be used ) and then cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes. At the last minute I chuck in a generous handful of fresh coriander. The daal freezes well and can be used when a thinner consistency as a type of soup, or as a side dish with curry, rice, naan etc. This daal can be made as spicy as you want it to be by adding more chilli- fresh chilli is best.
For a soup I normally chuck them in with all of the other veggies after I have sweated down the onions and garlic. Red lentils pretty much go with every soup imaginable and add more nutrition to any soup that you cook without compromising on taste.
* Use hing if you need to! It honks but does work.
* Always wash lentils before cooking and wash them several times. You will be surprised how much dust comes off of them.
Nutritional value and health benefits:
Lentils, raw (dry weight) Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,477 kJ (353 kcal)
Carbohydrates 60 g
- Sugars 2 g
- Dietary fiber 31 g
Fat 1 g
Protein 26 g
Water 10.4 g
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.87 mg (76%)
Folate (vit. B9) 479 μg (120%)
Calcium 56 mg (6%)
Iron 7.54 mg (58%)
Magnesium 122 mg (34%)
Phosphorus 451 mg (64%)
Potassium 955 mg (20%)
Sodium 6 mg (0%)
Zinc 4.78 mg (50%)
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
In conclusion: A cheap and easy to prepare protein fix. Neil from the " Young ones" was right you know....
As we head towards the end of September and another autumn approaches I have already started to think in terms of changing my menu to fit the season. In the warmer weather I am as willing as the next person to eat good hearty platefuls of salad and enjoy barbecued food but as the nights draw in and we have to turn our central heating boilers on then I consider that it is time to get the stock come stew pot out of hibernation.
I am not a vegetarian but I love pulses, green lentils, red lentils, pearl barley and butter beans and they all go down very well if they are added to casseroles and stews. Plus pulses are quite filling and can add bulk to a meal without having to overdo it on the meat front.
Many pulses and beans have to be soaked overnight before they can be added to any dish but lentils can be added to the stock directly from the packet so there is no need for any forethought.
Lentils originate from the South West of Asia and they have been cultivated for thousands of years.
Lentils have no fat, salt or sugar content but they are rich in fibre, iron and anti-oxidants plus they are a source of protein.
If you look in any supermarket you will find packets of dried lentils but I usually pick a packet up when I am in my local health food store.
Crazy Jack organic red split lentils will cost you in the region of £1.85 for a 500g bag. I always get rattled with pulses that come packed in bags, the bags always seem to split and the contents go for miles on the kitchen floor, so I find it easier to store them in plastic containers.
The Crazy Jack split red lentils can be used in so many recipes and I am sure that there are many vegetarians who use them as an economical replacement for meat.
My favourite lentil recipe has to be a good lamb stew, this used to be a very reasonable dish to make until the price of lamb shot through the roof.
I buy a pack of stewing lamb from Sainsbury and then after I have put it into the saucepan and browned and drained it I add plenty of sliced carrot and onion and then cover the lot with a good stock. Add a good pinch of dried herbs or of you prefer then use a Bouquet Garni and then let contents of the pan come to the boil.
When the contents have boiled for a couple of minutes then check the surface to see if the stew needs skimming, often stewing lamb will create a froth on the surface that needs to be removed.
Then turn the heat down and simmer the stew for a good couple of hours plus, you will know when it is cooked because the lamb starts to fall to pieces.
Then just fifteen minutes before you are ready to serve add a good helping of the Crazy Jack red split lentils to the pan. You will need to put the red lentils into a sieve and give them a good rinse before you add them to the saucepan.
As the lentils start to cook through you will notice that the stock starts to thicken. The red lentils swell in the hot liquid and add bulk and you will find that you need very little else to thicken the gravy.
Then shortly afterwards you have a good hearty pan filled with warming stew that can be served with whatever you choose.
Lentils are quite a strange ingredient, they have little taste of their own yet added to a stew they are delicious. The Indian chefs have a wicked way with lentils and they know exactly what herbs and spices to add to them to get the best from them.
Crazy Jack produce a whole range of organic foods including rice, pulses, dried fruit and nuts and seeds. Now is the time to start filling all those empty pots with nutritious beans and pulses so go and have a look for yourself.
Crazy Jack Organic Red Split Lentils
The lentil or daal or pulse or Masoor dal (Lens culinaris) is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, grown for its lens-shaped seeds. It is about 15 inches (38 cm) 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 aceramic (non-pottery producing) Neolithic times, being one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. With 26% protein, lentils have the third highest level of protein from any plant-based food after soybeans and hemp, and is an important part of the diet in many parts of the world, especially in Indian subcontinent which have large vegetarian populations.
A variety of lentils exists with colors that range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black. Red, white and yellow lentils are decorticated, i.e., they have their skins removed. 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.
***Source - Wikipedia***
- Lentils are packed with nutrients, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and folic acid. Lentils are a low calorie; low fat and cholesterol free food as well as being inexpensive.
Folic acid is one very important nutrient found in lentils. The U.S. Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume 400 mcg of folic acid per day. Most women do not meet this guideline. One cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Lentils provide more folic acid than any other unfortified food.
Lentils are also an important source of iron, especially for women, whose iron needs are greater. Eating lentils with foods rich in Vitamin C, such as tomatoes, green peppers, broccoli, and citrus fruits or juices, helps the body absorb iron more efficiently.
Lentils are also protein rich. They lack only one protein, methionine. Adding grains, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, dairy products, or eggs will provide a complete protein.
Red Split Lentils are a great addition to any Kitchen Cupboard, the humble red split lentil is versatile and can be added to a variety of recipes whilst being neither Time consuming or elaborate to cook.
The lentils are small tiny, flat lentils and more orange than red in colour; they have a slightly earthy, nutty taste and are usually better when flavoring is added during the cooking process.
Red Split Lentils can be purchased as requiring soaking overnight or ready to cook, the lentils in this review are the ready to cook variety.
Cooking times vary and it is always best to refer to the Manufacturers guidelines but generally I would fill a saucepan with Red Split Lentils, cover with water and boil for 10 minutes adding ingredients and then leave to simmer for a further 20-30 minutes. The lentils are ready when they are tender.
Lentils lend themselves to a variety of dishes and are usually a great addition to a hearty, wholesome Vegetable based soup.
I tend to cook lentils as a main meal and this is the usual recipe that I use.
Fry, Ginger, Garlic and red onion and cover the lentils in water and put on the boil for 10 minutes whilst the Garlic, Ginger and Onion fry.
Once the Ginger, Garlic and Red Onion are slightly browned, add top the Boiling saucepan of lentils, and add a drop of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of Garam masala, Red Peppers, Parsley, Turmeric and Paprika.
Stir and leave to simmer for 20 minutes, then add spinach and Curly Kale cook for a further 5 mins and leave to cool for a further 5 minutes. Then serve/
The Mixture should be of a slightly thick consistency.
The Packaging is very basic and comprises of the lentils being placed inside a thick plastic pouch with a re-sealable tab to use once opened. There is a picture of the lentils on the front and the packaging is green and blue.
*******Value for Money******
I think this product is good value for money as a minimal amount of lentils can make a hearty meal and dependant upon how often you use the product it can go a long way.
(29.8p / 100g)
Crazy Jack Organic Red Split Lentils (500g)
Versatile, easy to cook and good for you
Slightly bland without flavoring.