I’ve never really used lentils outside of Asian cuisine and up until recently I’d never seen them much cooked other than in my favourite Tarka Dal and perhaps the occasional curry, although chickpeas are generally the preferred choice here for their chunkier texture. But as culinary taste has diversified and our city has started to welcome cuisines from all different cultures, I’ve learned that there are many flavours and traditions surrounding these pulses. I’ve seen lentils in a totally new light and love them even more for their ability to adapt and embrace whatever we throw at them.
This style of lentils takes heritage from middle-eastern flavours, still a recent awakening within London’s food scene but totally taking it by storm. With sharp spices then mellowed down with ripe and fresh tomatoes smashed lentils are just the ultimate wholesome comforting meal, perfectly matched with some flatbread and hummus. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that lentils are powerhouses, nutritious and also easy on the wallet too. So, with all those positive on our side, I think it’s safe to say that the era of lentils is now… but maybe I’m getting carried away by food-enthusiasm.
- 200g uncooked lentils (Around 2 1/2 cups – small varieties such as puy, brown or beluga work best)
- 3 plum-sized tomatoes (diced)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- Juice from 1 lemon
- A handful of fresh coriander
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil
Rinse your lentils 2-3 times. Then, cover in boiling water and cook for around 15-20 minutes, ensuring they never dry out. Pour away excess water and place to one side.
Bring a frying pan to medium heat, then add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Crush the garlic cloves and fry with the cumin, then stir in the tomatoes. Cook for around 30 seconds to a minute to soften the tomatoes, then add the lentils, lemon juice, fresh coriander and salt and pepper to taste.
Stir vigorously to smash the lentils and create a more dhal-like consistency. Serve with flatbread (recipe below).
Bonus: If you fancy making your own flatbread from scratch, give this recipe a go. All you need is:
- 2 cups spelt flour
- 1 cup warm water
- A pinch of salt
Method: Simply combine the salt and spelt flour in a bowl, then gradually add the water, using your hands to mix and knead as you go until a dough ball forms. Add extra flour if it’s too sticky.
Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface and rolling pin. Roll a palm-sized amount of dough into a ball, then use the rolling pin to roll out into a thin circular shape. Repeat until all the dough is used.
Bring a frying pan to medium heat, then place the flatbread in the centre of the pan. Allow to cook for around a minute before turning over. After this, I like to put the flatbread under the grill for another minute on each side to get that crunch. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Enjoy!