by Gina Sunderland, MSc, RD
Cook 1 cup (250 mL) of rinsed dry lentils in a large pot, with 3 cups (750 mL) of water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Drain and rinse with cold water.
Lentils are economical, and a fantastic source of plant protein. Protein is important for maintaining muscle mass. Lentils can be cooked in large batches, frozen in 1 cup quantities, and added to a variety of dishes including soups, stews and pasta sauces.
Cocktail-Sized Baked Lentil Meatballs
Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce (optional)
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbsp white vinegar
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- Meatballs: Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). In a large bowl, whisk egg with milk, then add remaining meatball ingredients and combine until well mixed. Form into approximately 40, 1 inch balls (Note: mixture will be sticky). Place meatballs in a rectangular glass 9 x 13 inch (22 x 33 cm) baking dish.
- Bake uncovered for 35–40 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in the centre of a meatball reads 170°F (77°C).
- Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring continuously, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce reaches desired thickness.
- Makes: 40 meatballs. (2 meatballs per serving)
While lentils were first grown in Asia thousands of years ago, Canada is now the world’s number one producer and exporter of lentils, with Saskatchewan being the leading producer in the country.
Lentils are part of the pulse family and while they take many different shapes and forms, the ones most commonly used by Canadians are large green lentils and split red lentils. Since split lentils cook more quickly, they are often used in curries, soups and purées. Whole lentils typically work well for things like salads.
Lentils are an excellent food choice with health-promoting benefits and their key nutrients include complex carbohydrates. In fact, lentils are very high in fibre with 15 grams of dietary fibre per cup! They are also a good source of vegetable protein, folate and other vitamins and minerals like potassium and iron. All of which support a healthy diet.
Technology plays an important role in the success of lentil production in Canada. Since the plant has a shallow root system, it does not compete well against weeds. As part of an integrated pest management system, farmers have access to herbicides to control weeds when necessary and ensure a healthy crop. Canadian farmers also have access to herbicide tolerant lentils, which improve weed control by allowing farmers to apply an herbicide to control weeds without harming the crop.