Fun facts and traditions about a winter ingredient: Lentils!
Lentils are a very versatile ingredient.
During the cold winter season, lentils become a staple ingredient for cooking ‘comfort food’ recipes, and definitely not just in Italy!
They are mostly used in soups, but are very good cold as well. You could make a spicy Middle Eastern-style salad, or you can use them to make tasty vegetarian burgers, if you’re exploring different dietary options.
In Italy, we LOVE them in a soup, and that’s why we sometimes use them as ingredients in our ZUPPA DEL GIORNO – the special soup of the day which is a regular feature on our menus. We do change the ingredients of our soups regularly, but if you’re lucky you might have the chance to taste a delicious ZUPPA DI LENTICCHIE the proper Italian way.
Did you know….
Lentils, are the oldest crop ever known to human kind. There are traces of this crop in Inda, Egypt, Greece and Italy that date back 13’000 years BC!
They belong to the legume family and are very rich in proteins. In fact, many choose them – and other legumes such as beans, chickpeas, peas and so on – as a replacement of meat.
They are also a good source of calcium, iron and vitamin B.
There are many varieties of lentils, but the most commonly used in cooking are Red, Brown and Green ones. Each has specific cooking characteristics that make it a better fit for different dishes. For example, red lentils are perfect to use in soups; while green and brown lentils are better for cold dishes like salads or stuffing as they retain their shape after cooking.
As a general rule, when you’re prepping your lentils before cooking, RINSE THEM. And, if you want to reduce cooking time, leave them to soak in water for a while.
There is an interesting and festive Italian tradition linked to lentils
If you ever spend NYE in Italy or are planning on hosting a party for Italian friends, make sure to have the ingredients to make LENTICCHIE E COTECHINO handy!
By tradition, it is almost a cardinal sin to arrive at the end of the evening, when it’s almost midnight, without having a pot of lentils bubbling on the stove, while everyone has started the countdown with their glasses of Prosecco at the ready.
The saying goes like this:
Chi mangia lenticchie l’ultimo dell’anno, avrà fortuna e tanti soldi tutto l’anno.
The one who eats lentils on the last day of the year will have luck and money throughout the next year.
This is not just an old saying, more so a cultural train since it is known to be something that already the Romans believed in.
In fact, our ancestors used to eat them at the same time of the year as we do now, and they used to give a little bag of lentils as a gift to people they loved to wish them luck and fortune.
Why fortune? Well lentils do resemble the shape of miniature coins and the hope and wish of the person giving them as a present was that they would actually become real money over the course of the new year.
In addition to that, lentils were considered “the meat of the poor”. Meat was too pricey and something only the nobles could afford, so wishing good luck to someone with lentils was a good omen.
Would you like to try some delicious dishes with lentils at home?
Here, we’ve found a few easy recipes for you, from some great chefs:
(Salsicce con lenticchie verdi e salsa di pomodoro)
“The Italians’ take on bangers and mash, with lentils and a good roasted sausage, is a genius combo ”
“This substantial salad, which is best eaten at room temperature, can be served on its own or with steamed seasonal greens such as broccolini or baby fennel.”
“This aubergine and red lentil curry recipe makes a warming and spicy vegetarian dish.”
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