Allyson Gofton: Loving lentils
Tiny and colourful, lentils are dynamos of goodness, though they seem to lack that je ne sais quoi, when placed up against other trendy carbohydrate posers now popular at the deli-counter salad display. Sprinting in the lead are chewy textured Lebanese couscous salads, quinoa and grated beetroot coleslaws, anything with avocado salads, or Thai-infused salads that feature crunchy egg (deep fried that is) noodles. A lentil couscous does not, it seems, cut the mustard, while an over-inflated cauliflower couscous does — really?
Given lentils’ meagre price, amazing nutritional qualities, gutsy, earthy flavour, culinary competence in carrying spicy or robust seasonings, ease of cooking — heavens they come canned and need no cooking — I am left to assume that it’s the resulting wind-producing effect that influences our decision to eat, or not to eat lentils. Farting, a purely natural and important bodily function, is abhorred by society and this, I suspect, is what dooms humble lentils, as great as they are, to the wholefoods dustbin.
Such, you may infer, is the life of the lentil, but I say no! Lentils need your love and in return, these gluten-free gems will feed you up on slow-burning carbohydrate, folate and vitamin B, fibre, protein and antioxidants. One cup of lentils provides the same amount of protein found in three eggs. All this health for the astonishing price of 30-40 cents per serve — though for fashionista organic enthusiasts you need to treble that price.
Lentils, especially red split lentils, do not require soaking, but throwing brown or green lentils into a jug of water while you’re at work will help reduce cooking time, and more importantly farting! All pulses contain carbohydrates called “oligosaccharides”, which are sugars (fibre, technically) and are difficult to digest, until they get to the colon. Once there, they party and your gut becomes a wind turbine. However, by following a few tricks when cooking lentils, you can alleviate the often spontaneous, malodorous occurrences and tuck into spiced bowlfuls of el-cheapo, nutritious lentils without trepidation of potential ignominy.
Soak dried lentils for a few hours, drain, rinse well, boil in plenty of fresh water and drain well again. Rinse canned lentils very, very well under running cold water to remove excess sodium and the oligosaccharides. Eat lentils with digestive friendly spices — ginger, fennel, cumin. Begin your friendship with lentils slowly, about ¼ cup three times a week to give your gut time to adjust.