Cooking with lentils

The best advice I’ve had about cooking lentils was from Maggie Beer and it was one word: patience. Both styles of Nolans Road lentils  - our French Lentils and our Matilda Lentils  - are varieties of green lentil.  Green lentils may also be referred to as brown, yellow, Chilean or Continental lentils.  They are easy to prepare and make delicious stews, soups and salads, especially when tossed with good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. They do not need soaking and hold their shape when cooked.

Maggie Beer also has crucial advice when buying lentils -  check when they were harvested.  Even though pulses are sold dried, the older they are, the less nutritious they will be and the harder they will be to cook.  Which is why we put the harvest date on our pulses.  Ideally, buy Australian grown pulses in the 12-month period after their harvest date.

To prepare, rinse thoroughly in cold water. 50g of dried lentils will produce a cooked serving size of 115g. Then drain and inspect them. Remove any grit and little stones. Put them in a saucepan with at least three times their volume of cold water.  Bring them to the boil and, with Maggie’s advice in mind,  keep that water at a bare simmer for as long as it takes for the lentils to be soft to the bite.   Start checking them for doneness after about 45 minutes, and continue to so so every 10 minutes or so.  They can take anything between an hour and an hour and a half to be ready.  Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat. Most importantly, do not add salt until they are cooked.  Both the gentle cooking and the lack of salt will ensure they are beautifully tender.

If I'm serving them warm as a salad or side dish, or even if I'm leaving them to serve cold, I always dress them lightly with good extra virgin olive oil as soon as they are cooked and drained. The warmth from the lentils will release the aromas of the oil and that will bring even more delicious flavour to your food. Dee Nolan

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