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What to do with... the lonely bag of lentils sitting in your kitchen cupboard

Soup, curry or even shepherd’s pie – here’s how to liven up your lentils,

Image: Shutterstock/JoannaTkaczuk

LENTILS TEND TO be overlooked as a staple food, but they’re nutritious, cheap and so handy to prepare.

Like most legumes, lentils are a great source of both protein and iron, and are packed with soluble fibre, containing 8g per 100g. If you’ve been scarred for life by an experience with overcooked, mushy lentils, these recipes might change your mind.

Dried lentils are easy to cook on the hob on their own: add double the amount of water to lentils, bring the water to a simmer and let it bubble away for about 25 minutes. Alternatively you can add them to your curry or chilli and let them cook in the sauce. Red and yellow lentils are softer and better for soups and sauces, while green and brown lentils hold their shape well for curries and other dishes. 

If you find lentils hard on your digestive system, soak dried varieties overnight before cooking. Read on for some delicious recipe ideas below that will satisfy any dinner craving, whether you’re in the mood for something spicy, comforting or both…

1. Lentil chilli

Heat some olive oil in a large pot and gently fry some chopped onions, chorizo (optional), chilli, garlic and peppers for about five minutes, or until soft. Stir in a teaspoon each of ground cumin and paprika, and add in your lentils, a tin of kidney beans, and tin of tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and cook for ten minutes if using tinned lentils, or 30 if using dried. Serve with rice or quinoa for a protein packed meal.

2. Lentil shepherd’s pie

Heat some olive oil in a large pan and fry finely chopped onions, garlic, mushrooms, celery and carrots until soft. Stir in some thyme, 2 tins of drained lentils or pre-cooked dried lentils, a cup of vegetable stock, tomato puree and season to taste. Meanwhile, mash cooked potatoes with some milk and seasoning. Tip the lentil mix into an ovenproof baking dish, top with the mashed potatoes and bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes, until the potato is golden.

shutterstock_104076041 Source: Shutterstock/Robyn Mackenzie

3. Lentil and halloumi salad

In a large bowl, combine cooked or tinned green or brown lentils, rocket, diced tomatoes, cucumber, parsley and red onion. Make the dressing by mixing together lemon, olive oil and some red wine vinegar and set aside. For the halloumi, cut into slices, brush with olive oil and fry for a minute on each side, until golden. Toss the salad mix with the dressing, and serve on a plate topped with freshly cooked halloumi. If you like a bit of spice, a drizzle of chilli sauce finishes this off beautifully 

4. Lentil dhal

In a pan, cook chopped onions, garlic and ginger for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add in some finely chopped chilli and one teaspoon each of ground cumin, turmeric, chilli powder, coriander and paprika and stir until combined. Stir in a tin of chopped tomatoes along with one tin each of drained lentils and chickpeas. Season, then simmer gently for 10 minutes until the mixture has thickened (or 30 if you’re starting with dried lentils). If you like the sauce a bit sweeter, add in some mango chutney or honey to taste at this point. Finally, stir through a few handfuls of baby leaf spinach, and serve.

5. Lentil, kale and bacon broth

Heat olive oil in a saucepan and saute chopped onion, bacon cubes, carrots and celery. After about 7-10 minutes stir in crushed garlic and some thyme (either fresh or dried). Pour over 750ml of hot stock. Add dried lentils now too, if you’re using them. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using tinned lentils, reduce simmering time to 15 minutes and add the lentils afterward. Finish with some chopped kale, and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste, and serve with fresh crusty bread.

More: What to do with… the bag of frozen peas sitting permanently in your freezer>

More: What to do with… a stray bag of mixed nuts in the press>

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