I have a confession.
I rarely cook with lentils.
I feel like a bad dietitian for even saying it, but it’s true. Lentils do not make it into my weekly meal plans very often. I have no good reason why. I actually quite enjoy lentils. They are versatile and easy to cook. They are economical. And they have all sorts of awesome health benefits going on. But I just never think to use them. Beans? Sure! I’m all over that. But lentils…they sit in the back of the cupboard forgotten. And you know, I don’t think I’m the only one. Admit it, some of you out there reading this are nodding your heads in agreement. In fact, I know I’m not the only one – every time I talk to families about what meat alternatives they might consume, lentils rarely get mentioned.
So why is it? They aren’t trendy like say, chickpeas. Chickpeas have the whole hummus thing going for them, which I’ve read is the fastest growing dip in North America. Black beans like to turn up in all sorts of Mexican inspired eats, like soups, quesadillas, burritos, etc. Kidney beans are a staple in chilli. All foods many of us are familiar with. But we aren’t quite all as familiar with the lentil. Sure, it shows up in delicious Indian dal recipes, and lentil flour is used to make some Indian flat breads. But you don’t see them put out on salad bars, or on chain restaurant menus. I would almost be so brave as to say lentils aren’t exactly mainstream here in North America. Which is crazy, because Canada is one of the top 3 lentil producing countries in the world! Wanna eat local? Try lentils.
I wanted to come up with a tasty recipe to make lentils more approachable. To ease people into the idea of eating lentils as an alternative to meat. I know from teaching my group, vegetarian meals can be a scary idea for some people, for a whole variety of reasons. I thought – why not ease into meat alternatives by pairing them in a dish with a little meat. That way you still feel like you’ve had a “real meal” (their words, not mine), but you also benefit from less saturated fat and more fibre.
I decided on a soup, because who doesn’t like soup? Not to mention it’s still bloody cold around here, and in most parts of North America! Plus soup is easy – even if you have only basic cooking skills. This soup is pretty much a full meal deal – you have your lentils and some hot Italian sausage, plenty of veggies with carrots, celery, onions, and kale, and barley for some whole grains. It’s full of textures, colours, and flavours. Oh yeah, and lentils :)
Tuscan Lentil Barley Soup
serves 8 – 10
Give lentils and chance! Nourish yourself with a big bowl of this hearty soup featuring lentils, barley, Italian sausage, and kale. It’s packed with flavour and fibre, and will keep you warm on a cold evening.
- 1/2 cup dry green or brown lentils
- 1/3 cup pearl or pot barley
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 hot italian sausages
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 bunch kale, leaves removed from stems and torn into small pieces (any kale will do)
- 8 cups vegetable stock
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Put the lentils and barley into a pot, and fill with water so that the lentils and barley are covered by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 40 min, until tender. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Remove the sausage from its casings into the pot, and break up into small pieces. Sauté until brown.
3. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery into the pot with the sausage. Sauté for about 5 minutes.
4. Add in the kale, cooked lentils/barley, and stock. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 min. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Note: If you don’t like spice, use a mild italian sausage.
Do you cook with lentils on a regular basis? Got any good recipes to share? Let’s spread the lentil love!