Today is a lentil day!
I don’t know if this can be a fun fact about legumes, but many of my friends and students I see at our cooking classes are afraid of legumes. Most of them say it’s because they are not sure how long to soak legumes and which veggies and spices make a perfect combo with which type of legume.
To tell you the truth, it’s such a shame to miss on legumes. They have so much to offer – they are a fantastic source of protein and make very hearty, grounding dishes.
I don’t want you to be intimidated by legumes anymore, so I’m revealing secrets from my kitchen.
I’ll start with the legumes I usually have in my kitchen – red kidney beans, black turtle beans, yellow and green split beans or dhal, black gram, mung bean and orange and brown lentils. Side note: the colours of these legumes are just fabulous and inviting.
If you take a look at these, they are all roundish in shape and hard (except orange lentils) and that’s why all of them need soaking except the orange ones.
But for how exactly and for how long do you need to soak these?
When I started exploring the world of legumes more, I asked different chefs for advice and some of them told me that legumes don’t even need soaking. But I didn’t stop there. I asked the most amazing aunties and uncles who cook and eat legumes on regular basis and one of the things I learnt is how to actually soak legumes.
This is the secret – to one cup of legumes (chickpeas included), I add 4 cups of fresh water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. As I mentioned, orange lentils don’t need soaking; brown lentils need to be soaked for a couple of hours, and all the other lentils are to be soaked overnight.
After soaking, you will need to rinse your legumes thoroughly and they are ready for cooking.
The cooking process for all of these beauties is different. For instance, those harder legumes have a longer cooking process like red kidney beans (3 to 4 hours) and black turtle beans (3 to 5 hours). Yellow and green split beans have a bit shorter cooking time (2 to 2.5 hours) and it will take about 30 mins to an hour to cook black gram, mung beans, orange and brown lentils.
Now comes the fun part! In my online cooking classes I show how to combine legumes with other ingredients and spices into fabulous, savoury dishes such as nacho beans for instance.
Red kidney beans and black turtle beans are good for Mexican-style dishes. I usually saute onions with cumin, chili, smoky ing paprika, garlic, and ginger. Just imagine all of this sauteeing nicely into oil and the aroma of smoked paprika. To this I add soaked beans and fresh water and let it cook.
Yellow and green split beans and orange lentils are perfect for Indian-inspired dishes like dhals. They would match perfectly with cumin, coriander, turmeric, ajwain and nigella seeds, curry powder, chili, and fennel. You can saute all this with onion and garlic before adding your legumes. This is perfect as a meal on its own, with some steamed basmati rice or with fresh, homemade flatbread.
Black gram is a bit different and it goes well with a tomato-based gravy infused with the aromas of sauteed onions and garlic, cumin, coriander and chili.
Mung beans – tiny, powerful beans – are my first choice for legume soup. My favourite is definitely a very earthy, grounding detox soup. Besides mung beans, I use cumin, clove powder, cinnamon, and ghee and when the soup is almost ready, I end it with lemon juice and coconut sugar.
And finally brown lentils – they make a nice combo with rice. You can prepare it only with garlic, onions, oil, salt and pepper and it’s freaking delicious.
See?! Legumes are not intimidating at all. Give them a chance to show off their power and share some photos with me on Facebook.
From my kitchen to yours,
Chef Cynthia Louise xx
Chef Cynthia Louise is an Internationally acclaimed MasterChef, speaker, author, restaurant consultant, teacher and television presenter in wholefood, dairy-free cooking. She also has the worlds first online cooking classes focused on dairy-free plant-based whole foods with recipes that people are raving about and changing people's health, one delicious bite at a time. Chef Cynthia loves nothing more than educating people about the simplicity and vitality of a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle. Each dish is like art on a plate and her flavour combinations nourish the soul and get everyone talking.