Nutritious, delicious and affordable

Spiced rice with lentils -
Spiced rice with lentils -

QUARANTINE has led many back to their kitchens, for this I am overjoyed, people are cooking again. It’s a challenging time, and time for us to think more economically about what we cook. Dried peas and beans are the winners in this category, they are inexpensive and a little goes a long way.

Lentils are especially nutritious, they are packed with B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, potassium and fibre. They are made up of over 25 per cent protein, which makes them an excellent meat alternative and are also a great source of iron which is sometimes lacking in vegetarian diets. They are also a great source of healthy promoting polyphenols which have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Versatility is a key trait, I use them in soups, salads, burgers and in rice pilafs. Easy to prepare as no presoaking is necessary and so tasty too.

All the recipes below can be one-dish meals with a simple side salad to accompany where desired.

Here are some recipes to add to your recipe repertoire from this weekend onwards. Stay safe and remember cooking is love.

Spiced rice with lentils and

caramelised onions

Rice and peas dishes are a staple in all Caribbean countries, here the popular lentil is cooked with rice and spiced up with Indian spices.

½ cup dried lentils, cooked to tender and drained

4 cups sliced onions

2 tbs vegetable oil

1 cup parboiled rice

3 cloves

2 whole all spice berries

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cumin

6 cardamom pods, crushed

1 tsp crushed garlic

2½ cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 cup mixed chopped fresh herbs

Heat a large frying pan and add onions, cook on a medium low heat until caramelised or dark brown in colour and tender, stirring, about 15 to 20 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat one tbs oil and add spices, and garlic, stir and fry for a couple of minutes, add rice and stir to coat, add lentils, stir and add stock, bring to a boil, season with salt and add fresh herbs. Cover and steam until rice is tender, about 20 minutes, remove spices and set aside.

Place onions in the bottom of an ovenproof skillet or ovenproof dish with a flat base and high sides.

Spoon rice mixture on top, press down firmly to compact rice, bake for 20 minutes and remove from heat.

Cool a little before unmoulding.

Serves 4 to 6

Lentil soup with cornmeal dumplings

1 tbs vegetable oil

4 cloves garlic

¼ cup chopped celery

¼ cup fresh thyme

1 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin/geera

1 lb lentil peas, washed and picked over

9 cups vegetable stock or water

1 tbs butter

Salt to taste

In a large stockpot or saucepan heat oil, add garlic, celery, thyme, and onions, sauté until fragrant, add carrots and cumin, add lentils and sauté for a few more minutes.

Add stock and salt, cover and simmer until lentils are soft and melted, about 30 minutes.

Drop dumplings into boiling soup and cook until puffed and light, about 10 minutes. Stir in butter.

Serves 6 to 8

Cornmeal dumplings

1 cup flour

1 cup cornmeal

2 tsp baking powder

1½ tsp ground, roasted cumin

½ tsp salt

2 tbsp butter

In a bowl combine all ingredients and cut butter into flour until texture is grainy. Add enough water to make a pliable dough. Gently press the dough into a circle about 3/4-inch thick, cut into small one inch squares and drop into boiling soup.

Lentil and beet burgers

2 cups grated beets, uncooked

2 cups cooked lentils, drained

½ cup freshly chopped chives, white and green parts

½ cup finely-chopped fresh herbs, mint, celery, parsley, basil or dill (optional)

2 cloves minced garlic

⅓ cup oats, uncooked

⅓ cup cassava flour

1 tsp fennel seed

1 tsp ground roasted cumin

1 tsp ground coriander seed

Salt and pepper

Coconut oil to pan fry

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, stir well until mixture comes together.

Form into patties and pan fry in coconut oil.

Makes 6-8


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