Ever since I started to think more about nutrition and food in general, has my relationship with lentils been contradictory. On the other hand I love the taste of the lentils, the versatility and the nutritional side of them, but on the other hand I’ve been thinking about the gut health: the legumes can be hard to digest and possibly can cause some harm in the intestine (and this is why Paleo diet suggest to avoid them totally). Anyways, as I’ve started to eat more and more plant based (trying to eat meat only couple of times in a week) I’ve started to reconsider using lentils regularly again: if prepared right, could they be just perfect, easy and cheap source of protein and other nutrients?
The answer is yes.
Lentils can be all that. To start with, lentils are reckoned to be the easiest of legumes for gut to handle, but the preparation makes a great difference too. When soaked long enough, and when cooked slow, most of the anti nutrients will vanish, making the lentils easier for digestion and also make the nutrients in them more available for you to use.
And why see this trouble, you might wonder? Well, at least because lentils (and other legumes too) will provide you ecological protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals (as long as prepared right). They’re environmentally friendly, you don’t need to be part of animal factory farming, and you will get delicious and inexpensive food! Try out these lovely mediterranean lentil balls, you might be surprised how good they really are!
I would like to point out that of course lentils doesn’t _need_ to be prepared this way. If you can handle them and you feel great using them without soaking, go ahead. I for example love roasted chickpeas and chickpea pasta, they seem to fit me well. But in case you are worried about your gut or having some troubles with legumes, I would recommend soaking them before!
So how exactly should the lentils be prepared? The most important part is soaking them long enough, in water where you have added some lemon juice or vinegar – something acidic, anyways. You can soak then as long as you want, but I’ve noticed that starting soaking them night before cooking is enough, at least for me. Also the rinsing before soaking is important.
In this recipe of mediterranean lentil balls the lentils are first rinsed, then soaked (over nigh, in room temperature, with some lemon) and finally the lentils are soaked once again properly. After cooking the dough is made, and the structure of the balls will be soft and easy for digestion.
The lentil ball dough will be seasoned with dried thyme, garlic, fresh ginger and oregano. It also has some delicious and acidic small capers, that brings that “little something” along, making them so, so nice. The balls are served with herb sauce and parsnip puree – lovely, nutritious and gut friendly as well!
I was happy to create this recipe for Urtekram. They have three different kind of lentils in their assortement: red and green + beluga. I do recommend to try out the recipe – you might be surprised, how big difference the preparation really makes!
Mediterranean lentil balls with parsnip puree and herb sauce
1,5 dl red lentils (soaked)
1 dl beluga lentils (soaked)
0,5 dl quinoa
1 small onion
4 gloves of garlic
handfull of fresh parsley
1-2 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled
small glass jar (around 50 g) of small capers
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp curcumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tl dried thyme
2 dl sunflower seeds
0,75 dl virgin olive oil
1 bunch of fresh basil
juice of half a lemon
n. 0,5 dl water (or more)
n. 800 g parsnips
n. 400 g turnip (or other root vegetable)
full fat coconut milk
virgin olive oil
salt, black pepper
On top: pomegranate seeds
Start the preparation by rinsing the lentils with care. Place the lentils into a bowl, and add plenty of water, and something acidic to the soakin water. Let them be in room temperature over night, rinse well once again and you’re all set for cooking!
1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Cook first the quinoa and the lentils in their own pots. Rinse quinoa, and cook as instructed on the package. Rinse the lentils as well, and add some water to the pot: enough to cover the lentils. Heat the water to boiling point, and let cook slowly (about 15-20 minutes) until the lentils are soft. Add some water on the way, if needed.
2. Mix cooked lentils and quinoa together, and add all the rest ingredients of the quinoa balls. Make dough by using a hand blender. Place a baking paper on top of a baking tray, and start making small balls from the dough. Sprinkle some olive oil or coconut oil on top of the balls, and bake them around 35 minutes, until ready.
3. While the lentil balls are baking, make the parsnip puree: wash parsnips well, and peel turnip and onion. Cut all into small pieces, and cook in water until soft and cooked. Use hand blender to mash them, add a bit of coconut milk and mix well. Season and check the taste. (Isn’t it good?)
4. When the root veggies are boiling, you have time to prepare the sauce: add all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add a bit more water, until the texture is nice and creamy.
5. When the lentil balls are ready, take them out of the oven and let be for a while. Serve them then with the lovely puree and sauce, and add some pomegranate seeds on top. Yummy!