I have cooked all meals in a day for as long as I can remember and hence have always had a well stocked kitchen with stocks replenished regularly. When the COVID-19 crisis hit India and an unprecedented lockdown was announced, it was time to think out of the box and harness the power of lentils and pulses. Luckily, I had a good stock of them in my refrigerator and with time on my hands I decided to experiment.
A common misconception about lentils and pulses is that they are one and the same thing. Lentils are a type of pulses with lens shaped seeds whereas pulses are the edible seeds of legumes. Lentils include red lentils, green lentils, puy lentils while pulses include dried peas, chick peas, dried beans. There are many ways to use lentils and pulses in your cooking. Simple preparation may include just boiling the lentils. One can also experiment by adding other flavours or herbs when you are bored of eating same way. Arzooman Irani, Executive Chef, The Hilton, Jaipur avers, “During the lockdown people were afraid to eat non-vegetarian food and more importantly it was not available. As lentils and pulses are freely available and, are considered as poor man’s food in our country, they can be used as a quick fix for a protein substitute. In case one is falling short of a certain vegetable, one can easily add a lentil to increase the quantity. For example, you can add chana dal to snake gourd to give it consistency and volume.”
Lentils and pulses are a staple food and are part of every meal. The basic use of lentils starts from soups, salads, in main course or even making desserts. The different ways of using lentils are of late changed. It is used in making tapenade by replacing it with olives. It can also be used in making different cakes, breads. “Lentils can also be used in making evening snacks like a dal vada, medu vada and falafel. Personally, I am a big fan of Mexican food and lentils can be used to make tostados or even in salsa. The other option is sprouting these lentils. You can make a dish to go well with your lunch or even toss it in your salads. One of the signature dishes of south India is the pessarattu which is made green moong dal. People with special dietary requirements prefer lentils as they are gluten free, good for those with diabetes and helps with weight management owing to being rich in fibre and protein,” says Praveen Shetty, Executive Chef, Conrad Bengaluru.
Sonaly Choudhary, Sous Chef, ibis New Delhi Aerocity adds, “You can easily prepare at home like moong dal ki pakodi, dal vada, dahi vada, green moong dal tikki and the like and you can play around with flavors like coriander, cumin, curry leaves, mustard. You can also make many healthy soups from the dal — moong dal shorba, mulligatawny soup, dal dhaniya shorba, dal pepper rasam and the like. The easiest way to use lentils is by making a quick salad. You can try lentil and cucumber salad, lentil and other available vegetables at home (cabbage, cauliflower, potato, lettuce).”
Lentils and pulses are known for their rich source of fiber, polyphenol, iron, folic acid and magnesium, and work wonders for the digestive system. When combined with a whole grain, like brown rice, they can give you the same quantities of protein as found in meat. Pulses provide protein, dietary fibre and many vitamins and minerals. They also contain phytochemical (plant chemicals) which may reduce the risk of certain types of cancers and other diseases. They are also a good source of iron and folic acid which is very essential during pregnancy. They also contain a compound that fights against harmful agents in the body ranging from ultra violet rays and radiation to heart diseases and cancer. The coronavirus may seem depressing, but food has certainly come to our rescue at this time. And what better way than to eat well and eat nutritious food in these times when immunity matters the most.
Soak lentils before cooking as it reduces cooking time and enhances the texture and flavour of the dish.
Always try and use the stock that you get when you boil lentils, as it extracts a lot of flavors and is high on nutritional value.
If you soak lentils and pulses and leave it on a wet cloth it starts sprouting and can be best used in salads.
Always use the right type of cooking utensils and enough water.
Always season after cooking.
Add flavouring/spices whilst cooking before adding the water.
Kidney Beans & Aloo Tikki
200 gm kidney beans
20 gm grated Potato
50 gm bread crumbs
5 gm corn flour
Salt pepper as per taste
5 gm Red chilli
5 gm Ginger chopped
5 gm Green chilli chopped
20 gm Chopped Coriander
Boil kidney beans and mash it properly. Season it with red chilli and gram masala and add salt. Add chopped ginger, coriander and chillies. Finish it by adding bread crumb, corn flour and potato according to its texture. You can make it in desired shape you like. Lightly shallow fry it in a pan on medium fire and brush with olive oil. Optionally serve it with mint mayo and cocktail mayo and garnish it with multi-colour bell pepper. --Recipe courtesy Sonaly Choudhary, Sous Chef, ibis New Delhi Aerocity
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