This Spring’s Featured Ingredient is Lentils.
Lentils are part of the legume family, along with beans, peas, and peanuts. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, from yellow to orange-red to green, brown and black.
Archeological evidence shows lentils were eaten over 10,000 years ago. They are believed to be one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East.
Lens is the Latin name for Lentils, due to their lens shape, like the lenses in our eyes.
Millions of tons of lentils are grown throughout the world every year primarily in Canada, India, Turkey and the United States. Lentils are a staple comfort food in West and South Asia, as well as the Mediterranean. 1
In India, they are commonly given as an offering to the gods in temples. In Italy, eating lentils on New Year’s Eve traditionally symbolizes hope for a prosperous new year, likely due to their coin-like shape. In Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ “Cinderella,” her evil stepmother tells Cinderella she will let her go to the ball if she can fish all the lentils out of the ash in the fire place. 2
The National Lentil Festival is held annually in Pullman, Washington August 16-17th. This Palouse Region of eastern Washington and northern Idaho grows a quarter of the lentils in the United States. At the Festival one can enjoy a parade, kids’ lentil land, tournaments, farm exhibit, lentil trivia, the crowning of a lentil king & queen, as well as a plethora of foods containing lentils – including lentil pancakes! 3
Lentils contain protein, carbohydrate, iron, B vitamins, folate and fiber. 4
Unlike most of its fellow legumes, lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking, and cook more quickly. Lentils with husks remain whole with moderate cooking. Lentils without husks tend to cook down more quickly into a thick purée.
This Spring’s recipe is for Lentil Samosas. Our recipe is adapted from one by Food Network Chef Aarti Sequeira, called “Mum’s Everyday Red Lentils.”
A samosa is a fried or baked triangular pastry with a savory filling. Popular fillings include lentils, spiced potatoes and peas. Samosas are often accompanied by a sauce called chutney. They are popular in South and Central Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Africa.
Many cultures have their own version of the meal one can hold in one’s hand: American hot pockets, Mexican empanadas, British pastes, Italian calzones, Russian piroshkis, Jewish knishes. Stuffed with whatever strikes one’s fancy, samosas are an easy meal one can grab on the go. Make a batch, throw them in the fridge/freezer, and bake them up all week/month long.
Variations: Our recipe calls for brown lentils, which are still wearing their husks, take longer to cook, and retain their shape during cooking. For smoother, faster cooking lentils one can substitute a hulled variety of lentil, such as red lentils. Reduce the water in the lentil recipe to 3 cups, and reduce the cooking time to 30-40 minutes.
Another alternate cooking method to deep-frying is to dry sauté the samosas in a non-stick pan instead of baking them. Simply brown the samosas in the pan on medium heat on all sides. This method creates a softer samosa.
Preparation Time: 3 hours
Yield: 18-22 Samosas
1 batch of Lentil Daal with Spiced Oil (recipes below)
3-4 potatoes, mashed
16 large flour tortillas, cut into 3″ strips
large pot with a heavy bottom
small skillet with lid
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups water
1 cup brown lentils
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 inch fresh ginger root, peeled & minced
salt to taste, added at end of cooking
1 cup frozen peas & carrots
1 batch of toasted spices (recipe below)
optional: 1 serrano chile, seeded & sliced in half for heat
Lentil Daal Instructions:
Dry saute onions and garlic in heavy bottomed pot until translucent.
Add water, lentils, tomatoes, ginger and optional chile and bring to a boil.
Simmer for ~2 hours, stirring occasionally with spatula until lentils are tender, almost falling apart, and water has evaporated off creating a thick texture. Add water while cooking if lentils are becoming too thick but not yet cooked tender. Remove optional chile when lentils reach desired heat level.
Add toasted spices (recipe below), and frozen peas & carrots.
Add salt to taste.
Let cool while preparing other ingredients.
Spiced Oil (Bagaar):
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika or bafaat powder
Spiced Oil Instructions:
Put on hot mitts/gloves, a thick shirt with long sleeves, ski mask, and goggles.
Warm small skillet, over medium-high heat.
Add seeds and cover.
Add spices, stirring while toast before pouring into lentils.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Cut tortillas into 3″ wide strips.
Place a generous tablespoon of lentil daal, and of mashed potatoes onto the center of the tortilla strip.
Fold tortilla around filling into a triangular shape.
Place samosa on baking sheet.
Bake at 400F until golden brown and crisp, 10-20 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool until warm.
Enjoy alone, or dip in chutney.
1. “Lentils” – North Dakota State University Department of Agricultural Economics
2. “World’s Healthiest Foods: Lentils (India) – Health Magazine
3. Lentil Fest!