LENTILS are the flattish, circular, dried seeds of an annual vine grown chiefly in Europe and Asia. They belong to the class of vegetables known as legumes, and are therefore high in protein in the form of legumin. They also contain a large amount of carbohydrate in the form of starch and are high in mineral salts.
There are three varieties of lentils, yellow, red, and black, and they resemble split peas in appearance. They have a distinctive flavor that is agreeable to most persons. However, like other dried legumes, long cooking is required to make them tender and palatable.
COOKING OF LENTILS - In general, the preparation of lentils is similar to that of dried beans, the cooking of which is now thoroughly understood. They may be put on to cook immediately after they are washed, but, as in the case of dried beans, their cooking may be hastened if they are first softened by soaking them in cold water for 8 to 12 hours. At the end of this time, it is advisable to parboil the lentils for about 10 or 15 minutes, or until their outer skins begin to crack, in water to which a pinch of soda has been added. This water being poured off, the lentils should be washed and then put to cook in fresh water to which 1 teaspoonful of salt is added for each quart of water used. Like beans, the lentils should be cooked slowly until they are soft enough to crush between the fingers.
LENTIL PUFF - A decided change from the usual ways of preparing lentils can be had by making lentil puff. Black lentils are used for this preparation, and they are made into a purée before being used in the puff.
(Sufficient to Serve Six)
1-1/4 c. lentil purée
1-1/2 c. riced potatoes
2 Tb. butter
1/2 c. milk
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Soak the lentils overnight in water that contains a pinch of soda, parboil them for about 10 minutes, and pour off the water. Put them to cook in cold water and cook until they are tender, allowing the water to evaporate completely, if possible, so that the purée made from them will be dry. However, if any water remains when the lentils are done, pour it off and use it for soup or sauce. Make the purée by forcing the cooked lentils through a colander. If it is found to be too wet, less milk can be used than the recipe calls for. Cook several potatoes and rice them by forcing them through a colander or a ricer. Combine the lentils and potatoes, and to this mixture add the butter, milk, salt, and pepper. Separate the eggs, and beat the yolks slightly and the whites until stiff. Stir the yolks into the mixture and, just before putting the puff into the oven, fold in the whites. Pour into a buttered baking dish, set in the oven, and bake until the puff is set and the surface is brown. Serve hot.