Hearty lentils are perfect for meals on cold winter days

The term pulse refers to the dried edible seeds of certain plants in the legume family. In Canada, the four main types are dry peas, lentils, beans and chickpeas.

All pulses are very high in fibre and protein, low in fat, inexpensive and shelf-stable. Pulses come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and can be consumed in many forms including whole, split, or ground into flour.

Lentils do not have to be soaked before cooking. They cook up nicely in about 20 minutes. However, old lentils and dried peas will take much longer or may not become tender.

Chickpeas are best if soaked overnight in water with a teaspoon of baking soda. The baking soda helps to break down the outer shell making them creamier when pureed into a hummus or soup.

Many people have the attitude that pulses are mainly for vegetarians. Not at all. They are neutral in flavour and go well with meats in stews and soups and almost any combination of spices and herbs. They are also nice in combination with pastas and rice.

All the pulses I used in these recipes came from farmers’ fields within a 20 kilometre radius of where I live in Swift Current, Sask. They are fresh from the 2020 harvest.

Greek red lentil soup

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. dry oregano 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. cumin5 mL
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes 2 mL
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 c. crushed canned tomatoes 250 mL
  • 8 c. low-sodium vegetable broth 2 L
  • 2 c. split red lentils, rinsed and drained 500 mL
  • kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • fresh parsley for garnish
  • crumbled feta cheese to serve, optional

Heat three tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Cook three to four minutes, stirring regularly. Add spices and bay leaves. Cook for a few seconds till fragrant, keep stirring so spices don’t burn.

Add crushed tomatoes, broth, lentils. Season with kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until lentils are fully cooked.

Remove from heat. Remove bay leaves. Let soup cool a bit before using an immersion blender to puree. Pulse a few times till you reach the desired creamy consistency.

Return soup to heat, and stir to warm through. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and fresh parsley.

Ladle soup into serving bowls and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. If you like, top each bowl with a generous sprinkle of feta cheese.

Lamb, chickpea and lentil soup

  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil 30-45 mL
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds 10 mL
  • 1 lb. lean lamb, cut into bite-sized cubes 500 g
  • 2 tsp. turmeric 10 mL
  • 1 tsp. paprika 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 5 mL
  • 2 tsp. sugar 10 mL
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste 30 mL
  • 4 c. lamb or chicken stock 1 L
  • 1 14 fl. oz. can of chickpeas 450 mL
  • 1 14 fl. oz. chopped tomatoes 450 mL
  • 2/3 c. brown or green lentils 150 mL
  • small bunch of parsley, coarsely chopped
  • small bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan. Stir in the onions, celery and carrots and cook until the onions begin to colour. Add the smashed garlic and cumin seeds and toss in the lamb. Cook until lightly browned. Add the spices, sugar and bay leaves and stir in the tomato paste. Pour in the stock and bring the liquid to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer until the meat is tender, one to two hours.

Add the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and lentils to the pan and cook gently for a further 30 minutes, until the lentils are soft and the soup is almost as thick as a stew. Top up with water, if necessary, as the lentils will absorb most of it. Season the soup with salt and pepper and add most of the parsley and cilantro.

Serve piping hot, sprinkled with the remaining parsley and cilantro and with wedge of lemon to squeeze over it and plenty of bread for dipping.

Lentil and orzo stew with roasted eggplant

For rich, golden cubes of roasted eggplant, a high-temperature oven is required.

I love the combination of pasta and lentils.

Serve this stew warm or hot, topped with crumbled salty feta or a soft-poached egg, if you like. The lemon zest and juice are essential.

  • 1 large or 2 small eggplants, skin or peeled, chopped into 1-inch pieces 2.5 cm
  • 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. olive oil 60 mL plus 30 mL
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed 10 mL
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste 15 mL
  • 1 c. dried lentils, green, black or brown 250 mL
  • 5 c. chicken or vegetable stock, or water 1.25 L
  • 1/2 c. orzo or other small pasta 125 mL
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon, plus 4 lemon wedges for garnish
  • 1/4 c. crumbled feta 60 mL

Heat the oven to 425 F (220 C).

In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with one-quarter cup (60 mL) olive oil and crushed coriander seeds until coated; season with salt and pepper.

Arrange in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until eggplant is tender and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, giving the baking sheet a shake halfway through roasting to toss the eggplant pieces for even cooking.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining two tablespoons (30 mL) oil over medium. Add the carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about three minutes.

Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato paste begins to darken on the bottom of the pan, about five minutes.

Stir in the lentils until coated. Pour in stock or water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to medium and simmer until lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the type and age of lentils you use.

Stir in the orzo and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the roasted eggplant pieces, crumbled feta and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

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Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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