Legumes and pulses are an important part of any Indian meal. The subtle use and variation of spices make any dish exotic and unforgettable one.
Lentils do not significantly differ in nutritional content from common beans. Lentils are good source of protein, folic acid, and dietary fiber. They also contain many trace minerals. India has over 60 varieties of pulses which provide a primary source of protein for her millions of vegetarian and many health benefits. While the most common types of lentils in the United States are either green or brown, they also come in black, yellow, red and orange. The different types of lentils offer varying consistencies, with brown and green varieties retaining their shape better after cooking and the others generally becoming soft and mushy. Though the flavor differs slightly among the varieties, they generally feature a hearty, dense, somewhat nutty flavor. Lentils, when cooked, they can be left whole or pureed, making them extremely versatile as ingredients for curries, stuffing and patties. They can be even roasted or deep-fried for garnishes or snacks.
The larger varieties should be soaked overnight before cooking (at least 10h). If you are in a hurry you can bring them to a boil, continue boiling for a couple minutes and then take the pan off the heat and leave it to stand for 1h before cooking. Soaked beans are best rinsed to get rid of some of the starch. They will then need to simmer (with the lid slightly open to let the steam escape) from 15 min to over 1h (depends on size). Sometimes beans are simmered with a few of the aromatics (ginger and turmeric are favorite flavorings) that will be used in the curry. Asafetida is often added to combat flatulence. Sprouted pulses are even more nutritious than not-sprouted ones. Bought in some supermarkets and health food shops they are expensive but it is cheap and easy to sprout your own lentils at home. Spread them out in a shallow dish and sprinkle them with water. As soon as the water is absorbed (after 2h) spray them again. Keep them moist for 3 day, and once they have sprouted, they will be ready to eat.