Here’s the thing, Australia. We eat a lot of meat. Apparently, we each chomp down an average of 116kg of meat each year. There are lots of reasons for this – one of them being the great meat that we can produce in our landscape. Personally, I’m not against eating meat as such. It’s yummy and has great nutritional benefits. But I do have some questions about eating so much of it. Namely, if all 9 billion people on the planet want to chow down the way we do – can the planet sustain that? And because our diet is weighted in favour of the carnivore, we consume less of the plant-based foods that are protective of our health. Foods like lentils.
It doesn’t help that lentils have a bad reputation. Nothing about the word really conjures up excitement (for my family, at least). I hardly ever cooked them until a few years ago, probably because they were not a routine part of my diet growing up. They aren’t an ingredient that on their own can make a heart sing. They’re seen as being boring, bland and a little hippy. So this week I’m on a mission to give some good press to lentils and consider how you can easily (and cheaply) include them in your family’s meals.
I think lots of people have experience with the brown lentils that come in a tin. For some reason, the fact that they come tinned and ready to use puts in mind that they must be hard to prepare. Because the alternative comes dried, in a packet and usually stuffed in the back of the pantry it feels like a bit of an effort to prepare them. Maybe, we think that they need 24 hours to soak like the dried beans and chickpeas we have hidden along with them.
But they don’t reserve their reputation as high-maintenance. They are a simple, fairly quick and ridiculously cheap way to make a meal. And they are really good for you. The type of fibre they provide is resistant starch that has more protective benefits than other types of fibre. So this week is about finding ways to cheaply and easily incorporate lentils into family meals. Starting with…
Rice, Lentil and Pomegranate Salad
This salad is actually made from leftovers. Combining the rice and lentils creates a complete protein and looks a little more appealing than just one or the other. This combination can be used as a side dish or a bed for a casserole-type meal. It’s not pictured, but this combination is extra delicious if you also have some leftover roasted orange vege (like pumpkin, sweet potato or carrot) to include and a handful of chopped coriander over the top. If it’s not pomegranate season, you can use currants for sweetness, but they don’t have the same visual appeal. Fetta cheese is, of course, always advisable!
For dinner the night before, serve rice and lentils done this way:
Heat a little oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat.
Combine one cup of dried brown lentils and one cup of brown rice in the saucepan and toast in the oil for 5 mins, stirring constantly.
Then add 3-4 cups of water (or stock) and one bay leaf. Simmer until lentils tender and water absorbed.
Refrigerate half the mix for the salad.
The next day, lay a few handfuls of leafy greens (like salad mix, baby spinach etc) on a platter and sprinkle the remaining rice and lentils mix over the top, along with the seeds from half a pomegranate, the juice of half a lime and a few grinds of black pepper.