Lentils are an edible pulse. The lentil plant is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, grown for its lens-shaped seeds. It is some 40 centimetres tall, with the seeds growing in pods (usually two seeds in each). Lentils were one of the first crops humans started to cultivate, possibly as far back as 13,000 years ago. Lentils vary in colour from yellow to red-brown, green, brown and black.
At Naturally Good Food, we sell a large range of organic lentils in a variety of sizes. They are designed to fit your budget and your cupboard. We think that organic lentils are a great ingredient: they are easy to cook, very economical, last a long time and have a huge range of uses. Organic lentils are delicious in soups, curries, bakes, dhal and salads - you can also sprout them.
To view some recipe ideas using a range of organic lentils, see the recipe ideas on this page.
We sell a fantastic range of organic lentils and split peas by mail order. They are all inexpensive and offer great value for money. If your usual order is close to our free postage rate, why not add a couple of packets of lentils to get free postage?
Included in our range of organic lentils and split peas are:
Beluga: an unusual black lentil, these glisten when they're cooked, making them look like beluga caviar. They're great in soups or salads. (If necessary, you can substitute green lentils.)
Brown lentils: perhaps the most common lentil. Brown lentils can range in colour from khaki-brown to dark black, and generally have a mild, earthy flavor. They cook in about 20-30 minutes and hold their shape very well. As with all lentils, they have many uses in the kitchen, including in soups, casseroles, rice dishes and savoury bakes.
Chickpeas: we source organic chickpeas from a Good Food Foundation project in Turkey, where the chickpeas are selected for their really fine grade.
Green lentils: our organic green lentils are the most intensely flavoured type of lentil, and are naturally low in fat, high in protein and a good source of fibre. Organic green lentils are easy to prepare: they do not need soaking and, unlike some other lentils, keep their shape when cooked. Green lentils are an ideal protein-rich vegetarian dish. They are also great served with meat, fish or game. When cooking, you can replace the water with a stock of your choice, adding bay leaves, thyme, garlic or chopped onion to the pan for extra flavour. Try frying the lentils with a dollop of butter or good olive oil as well - delicious!
Puy lentils: a small, slate-green lentil with a delicate blue marbling. Puy lentils are considered by many to be the best type of lentil, because of their unique peppery flavour and the fact that they hold their shape during cooking. They are the only lentil to be identified by area of cultivation – grown in the Le Puy region of France. Of all the lentils, Puy tend to be the most expensive: but the best is worth paying for, and they are still not pricey.
Red split lentils: Our organic red split lentils are sourced from various countries, due to the high demand. They are easy to prepare, require no soaking and can be served as a main dish or an accompaniment to many meals. These great tasting lentils will mash down when they cook, so are excellent for making hearty, thick dishes such as dhal, or for thickening soups and stews. When cooking red split lentils, you can replace the water with a stock of your choice. You could also try adding a dollop of butter or good-quality olive oil.
Yellow split peas: as with the other types of lentils, yellow split peas are a great source of protein. They are very lean and healthy, with just 1g of fat per 350 calories (1,500 kJ) serving. Most of the calories come from protein and complex carbohydrates.
Organic brown lentils may look a bit boring on the shelf, but they are a highly versatile, high-protein ingredient that no kitchen should be without. Large and flat, brown lentils retain their shape well during cooking. They're slightly stronger in flavour than green lentils, with a solid skin. Recently, we had a spare 5kg bag of organic brown lentils in stock, coming up to its sell-by date. It got us thinking - what exactly could we do with these little brown gems?
In summary, organic brown lentils should be part of every kitchen store-cupboard. They are great in curries and dhal, can be used to extend dishes that use minced meat, such as cottage pie, and can also be added to soups and casseroles. As these little gems keep well, it is a really good idea to buy in bulk, which is much cheaper.
We have a blog section with hints and tips on some of our major food categories. Below are some hints and tips about legumes.
Lentils have the third-highest level of protein of any legume or nut - only beaten by soya beans and hemp. Lentils are an essential inexpensive protein in many parts of the world, especially in areas that have a high number of vegetarians. In the UK, organic lentils offer a truly attractive combination of value for money and health.
The proteins in lentils include the essential amino acids isoleucine and lysine. They are deficient in just two essential amino acids: methionine and cysteine. However, if you sprout lentils, they then contain sufficient levels of all essential amino acids.
Health magazine considers lentils to be one of the five healthiest foods. In addition to protein, lentils contain dietary fibre, folate, vitamin B and minerals: for the highest concentration of fibre, choose green lentils above red lentils. They are also a good source of iron.
On the negative side, lentils contain some anti-nutritional factors, such as trypsin inhibitors and a relatively high phytate content. Trypsin is an enzyme involved in digestion, and phytates reduce the bio-availability of dietary minerals. The phytates can be reduced by soaking the lentils in warm water overnight; this soaking will also reduce the cooking time. With lentils it is thus best to think ahead, or use your freezer and get out the 'one I prepared earlier', in the words of every TV cook.
Most articles on the benefits of lentils seem to miss one of the major points on food: lentils are great to cook with and even better to eat!
There are almost infinite uses for good organic lentils, including a few that you might not have considered...
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