Monday, 13 April 2015

Cheap and Easy Vegetarian Recipes: Cooking with Lentils

Vegetarian recipes: Cooking with lentils

red lentils
red lentils photo by annmackiemiller

Lentils are a tasty healthy addition to any diet. Red lentils in particular are easy to use since they don't even have to be soaked beforehand. Included here is my favourite lentil soup recipe and a recipe for curried lentil stew. I like to make my soups and stews the night before I am going to eat them to allow all the flavours to mature.

Lentils are high in protein and low in fat. Protein is used to build and keep every cell in the body healthy and essential for vegetarians to add to their diet. Lentils also contain folate, magnesium, essential amino acids, iron and vitamins B, A and C. These are one of the super foods, a great source of anti-oxidants that fight against cancers, heart disease and strokes. The high fiber content helps keep a healthy bowel and reduces the risk of diseases of the alimentary tract. Lentils are a slow release food to they are ideal for maintaining a level blood sugar level, essential in preventing food cravings when you are on a weight loss diet. This is also great for diabetics or people like myself who have impaired glucose tolerance.
Images: Red Lentils by annmackiemiller - copyright 2014

When people ask me why I'm eating vegetarian

I simply say...
cos carnivores taste funny
butternut squash
butternut squash

Preparing and using ALL of the butternut squash

An added bonus!

I hate waste and with money being tighter than ever I am conscious of having to make the very best of everything, so I make sure I use every little bit of the squash: skin, pulp and seeds. Here's how.
Squashes with really hard skin can be a pain to prepare but I've found a way that suits me.
To prepare butternut squash
Wash the butternut squash under running cold water - you only need to do this if you plan to use the peeling to make a stock/broth.
I've found it easiest to divide the squash into rings about 2-3 inches thick.
You can then peel off the hard skin more easily especially if you cut the rings in half. You will notice there is a certain amount of squash pulp left on the skin. Set aside the skin for later.
Scoop out the seeds and set those aside too.
For your curry, dice into bite size pieces. Remember the smaller they are the faster they will cook.
To make a stock for soups and casseroles
In a small saucepan put the seeds and skin in an inch of water.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, make sure it doesn't dry out.
Drain through a sieve into a bowl, use the back of a wooden spoon to crush down the pulp that remains on the skin through the sieve.
Use the stock for soups and stews or to mix with vegetables.
Arrange the seeds on a roasting tin, you can spray with olive oil if you want but I don't bother.
Roast in a medium oven for 20 minutes to give a tasty snack of pumpkin seeds.
red lentils and assistant chef
red lentils and assistant chef
I don't like heavily spiced foods, but this one I can adjust to my own taste. If you want it really hot, add more herbs and spices but the amounts I've put in below work fine for me.
The joy of this dish is that you can prepare it the day before, letting it sit for 24 hours allows all the flavours to blend really well.
And of course, it is really healthy - there is very little fat, just the little you add at the start and if you prefer you can dry fry the veggies to reduce it even further. I don't mind a little fat though, your body does need some you know. Added to that squash, sweet potato and lentils are all superfoods.
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  • Yields: 4


  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion - cleaned and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic - crushed
  • 1 - 2 teaspoon dried cumin
  • 1 -2 teaspoon dried coriander
  • 1 - 2 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 butternut squash - peeled and diced into large chunks
  • 1 sweet potato - peeled and diced into large chunks
  • 4 ounces red lentils - washed
  • 1 vegetable stock (broth) - you can use the stock you made earlier with the seeds and skin if you light.
  • 1 can of light coconut milk

    How to make lentil and squash stew

    1. Instructions:
    2. 1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over low heat. To check when oil is hot enough, add one or two pieces of diced onion, when the onion begins to fry, add remaining onion and cook until it is transparent - about 5 minutes.
    3. 2. Add crushed garlic, cumin, ginger and coriander and cook for 1 minute only. Be careful not to burn the herbs and spices so keep stirring them. That said, this really releases the flavor.
    4. 3. Add diced butternut squash and diced sweet potato. Toss to coat the vegetables with the oil, garlic and herb mix.
    5. 4. Cover pan with a tight lid and allow the mixture to 'sweat' for 5 minutes.
    6. 5. Add lentils, the coconut milk and vegetable stock and stir well.
    7. 6. Allow the mix to come to the boil slowly.
    8. 7. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 40 minutes until vegetables are soft. The sweet potato will likely become pulp which only serves to thicken the sauce.
    9. Serve with rice and fresh greens and nan bread.

    red lentils by annmackiemiller
    red lentils by annmackiemiller

    Recipe for homemade Lentil Soup - old-time favourite!

    Sometimes old-fashion is best and I can't get enough of the healthy foods my mother used to make for us. For her budgeting and frugal cooking were essential but so was making sure we had a healthy diet. In the 1950's and '60 meat and poultry were expensive so we didn't have that every day. Soups were always on the go especially at lunch times.
    Before the days of food processors and blenders you had to put this in a sieve and hand press it through with a wood spoop to get it smooth - thankfully, hand blenders eliminate that agony.
    This is a simple recipe, it is easy to cook, takes very little preparation and is really tasty.
    You can adapt it by adding different ingredients to the basic recipe - for example adding tomatoes gives it a whole new taste. Be adventurous, experiment!
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    • Yields: 4


    • 1 tablespoon of olive oil or vegetable oil
    • 1 medium onion - cleaned and diced
    • 3 medium carrots - peeled and diced into circles
    • 3 medium potatoes - peeled and diced into chunks
    • 4 ounces red lentils - washed
    • 1 pint vegetable stock (broth)
    • salt and black pepper

      How to make lentil soup

      1. Instructions:
      2. 1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low heat. To check the oil is hot enough, add two or three small pieces of chopped onion, when the onion begins to fry - add remaining onion and cook until it is transparent.
      3. 2. Add chopped carrots and potatoes.
      4. 3. Stir to coat with onion and oil mix.
      5. 4. Cover the pan with a tight lid and 'sweat' for five minutes.
      6. 5. Add lentils, stock and pepper.
      7. 6. Bring to the boil.
      8. 7. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables and lentils are soft.
      9. 8. Remove from heat - using a hand (stick) blender, blend to a smooth consistency but leave some potatoes and carrots whole.
      10. Serve with crusty bread.
      11. Second day soup is EVEN better.

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