Most people know beans but, except in certain parts of the world, are less are familiar with lentils. Beans and lentils are both pulses (legumes) and, loosely speaking, lentils are also beans except that pulses refer to plants harvested mainly for the seeds while beans are harvested both for the pods and the seeds. The difference in term usage may be more apparent than real depending on which culture you base your perspective on.
For cooking purposes, lentils are such smaller beans. You can buy them dried or canned. They come in different colors too — yellow, brown, green, gold and even black — and some varieties are a bit larger than others.
But why bother learning about lentils in the first place? Like beans, lentils are packed with nutrition. Protein rich, especially, and I’m always on the lookout for good sources of protein for Sam’s vegetarian diet.
The lentil is found in South Asian, Mediterranean, African and South American cuisines. It is very important ingredient in vegetarian cooking where it is cooked as soup, stew, salad and even as a side dish in lieu of the usual carbohydrates like rice, potatoes and corn.
How are lentils cooked? Canned lentils are already cooked. Dried lentils need to be boiled in water. Unlike beans, soaking prior to cooking is not required and lentils need a shorter cooking time than most beans. Some say lentils have the same cooking time as rice but I find that to be a very sweeping generalization since the maturity of the lentils will have a significant bearing on the length of cooking they require. From experience, dried lentils cook after about forty minutes of simmering and that’s twice as long as the cooking time for rice.