Plant power – a guide on pulses and lentils for those that aren’t sure how to use them

Plant Power

Today is plant power day; an opportunity to put plants in the lime light and raise their profile for the goodness that they provide. There has been a lot of hype recently about plant based eating and whether you go full vegan, or vegetarian or simply incorporate more of a flexitarian style of eating, there are many nutritional benefits (not to mention environmental ones) to be gained from plant based foods.

And yet, many of us eye up those tins of lentils and pulses suspiciously, we’re not sure how to cook ‘em, what to put with them and whether we actually like them enough to care about their health benefits.

Here are some top tips to get you started.

Lentil lowdown

Lentils – red lentils are flavour absorbers. So they can be made to taste really delicious.

My favourite recipe can be found below.

Another potential advantage is they go mushy when you cook them so they can be disguised well. You can use ½ cup for every 500g of mince you use if you want to make a dish go further or use a cup and 250g mince for more of a 50/50 approach.

They can also be used to bulk out a soup – when blended you’d never know they were there and yet

the protein and fibre gains are well worth having.

The Puy lentil has a bit more of a bite to it. It goes really well with fish or as a sole protein source in a salad. A personal favourite of mine is left over roasted veggies (or cook more so you deliberately create left overs). Butternut squash, beetroot, garlic and peppers for example. Mix with some a few cubes of goat’s cheese or feta then add 120g cooked puy lentils. A little lemon juice and a dash of balsamic vinegar finish it off.

Keeping your finger on the pulse

A little harder to disguise but good for babies to develop their pincer grip (thank you edamame beans at Wagamamas).

Mixed tinned pulses are ideal for throwing into salads – when you realise there are no rules you can build confidence that they go with everything.

Kidney beans are ideal in a chilli or spaghetti bolognaise or to mix into Tuesday Taco Surprise ! For a good chilli you can’t beat a bit of Jamie

Chickpeas are fab – working really well in a tagine or stew in their own right or as an accompaniment for a Moroccan style dish. I was amazed when a chickpea stew was eaten by both my children without complaint – recipe below.

Giving lentils a life

Heat some oil and saute one onion and garlic. Add 1 tsp cumin, 1tsp coriander and cook for one minute. Add 120g red lentils, one veg stock cube and water to cover the lentils with about 2cm above them. Throw in whatever veg you want but carrots or sugar snap peas work well. Cover and simmer for about 20 mins until water is absorbed. Stir in 1 tbsp lemon juice, massive handful of chopped coriander and season to taste. Finally sprinkle with a couple of handfuls of nuts of your choice e.g. cashews or almonds or a mixture. Serve with brown rice or a wholemeal chapatti or just a normal chapatti – wholemeal doesn’t always feature all the time I confess.

Chickpea stew just for you

Heat a little oil and add an onion and plenty of carrots (about 4 -6) and cook for about 4 minutes. Add ½ tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander and 2 tbsp flour. Coat all the veg and cook for another minute. Add in sliced courgette, a can sweetcorn, 400g tin chickpeas, 2tbsp tomato puree and 200mls vegetable stock. Cook for 10 minutes stirring frequently. Goes well with mashed potato.

If all the veg feels a little ambitious for those about to taste it you can scale them back or choose others. Sometimes I use the stew as a basis to then add in leftover chicken. This normally makes them happy because I have been known to slightly od on the broccoli some weeks.

Just a few ideas to help you have the power of plants in your life. Hope it helps.

These recipe books are also highly recommended if you want some more inspiration.

Vegetarian Athlete by Anita Bean (you don’t have to be an athlete).

Izy Hossack – Savvy Cook

Anna Jones – A modern Way to Eat





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