Lentils are indigenous to Western and Central Asia but are cultivated in North America and Europe. They are one of the earliest domesticated crops in the Old World with their remains found in Greece dating back to 11,000 BC. They are used worldwide to cook different dishes and are most widespread throughout South Asia, the Mediterranean regions and West Asia.
How to cook lentils
Lentils are cheap and have lots of flavour as well as being a good source of plant-based protein.
Certain types of lentils, namely red lentils, can become mushy when cooked on the stove, so are best used in curries, dals or soups.
Black, brown, green and de Puy lentils are ideal for stove cooking.
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Bring the pot to the boil then reduce it to a very low simmer.
Turn the stove to the lowest as possible because if you simmer the lentils at too high a heat they can become mushy.
Cover the pan and let the lentils cook then drain the water and tuck in.
The cooking time will differ depending on the type of lentils you are using.
Once cooked, lentils can be frozen for future consumption.
They will last up to four months in the freezer.
They can also be stored in the fridge for about four to five days.
In the Indian subcontinent, lentil curry is part of the everyday diet, eaten with both rice and roti.
Also popular in India and in Pakistan is a dish that sees lentils and rice cooked together.
In Egypt, a similar dish known as Kushari is one of two national dishes.
Lentils are used in soups all over Europe and North and South America. In western countries, cooked lentils are often used in salads while in Italy, the traditional dish for New Year’s Eve is a pork sausage known as Cotechino served with lentils.