LENTILS - by Gabriele Fantelli
Lentils are a legume relatively easy to prepare. Whilst cooking, they often absorb a great variety of flavours from other foods and they are available all year round. Lentils are packed with great nutrients such as B-vitamins, magnesium, iron, folic acid and they are high in protein and fibre contents. Their high nutritional value with virtually no fat makes it one of the healthiest foods we could possibly include in our diet. One cup of cooked lentils has 230 calories and constitutes 90% of our Recommended Dietary Allowance of Folic Acid and 44% of our RDA of dietary fibre.
Lentils are full of iron and very beneficial for people with iron deficiencies and especially for growing children and pregnant women. Their high fibre content helps manage blood sugar levels with well documented studies that show significant benefits for people with hypoglycaemia or diabetes. Steady levels of blood sugar have also been linked to good mental health. The lack in our diet of magnesium, Vitamin B1, Iron and Folic acid, which lentils are full of, have been associated with symptoms of depression, poor concentration, memory loss and anxiety. Having a regular intake of lentils could really help reduce those symptoms as well as boost our general health.
Eating our lentils together with foods rich in Vitamin C, like tomatoes and peppers, makes it easier for our body to absorb the Iron.
“Mamma Bonaria’s” Lentil and bacon soup
Ingredients: Serves four
1 garlic clove
1 medium carrot
1 medium potato
½ celery stick
1 small/medium courgette
3 tbsp. olive oil
150gm pancetta cubes (or 4/5 bacon rashers cut into small pieces)
150gm Puy lentils (or other types. Some types of lentils need soaking, always read the labels)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1.5 Lt Vegetable stock (or same amount of seasoned water)
100gm of spaghetti, broken into small pieces
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp. Dried mixed herbs
Finely chop the onion and garlic and cut all the other vegetables into small cubes. Fry them gently in a saucepan with the olive oil, bacon, dried herbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the lentils and keep stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, pour in the stock. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 2 hours (first 1&½ hours with the lid on), stirring occasionally and making sure you keep an eye on the liquid level.
After the 2 hours put the spaghetti in (make sure there is enough liquid), bring back to the boil, cover the saucepan with the lid and turn the heat off. Leave for 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked, taste for salt and pepper and serve it with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and crusty bread.
Preparation time -10 minutes
Cooking time - about 2 ¼ hours
Difficulty - medium