Thursday, 25 July 2013

Warm lentil salad

Yes, lentils. Those tiny little pearls of goodness that come in so many colours. Sunday I talked about red lentils, today I'm talking about green lentils and maybe next week I'll talk about black lentils…
They are just so good for us, I can't stop telling people! And this salad is one of my favourite (and most versatile) ways of eating them.

So you already know that these bad boys are great for preventing blood sugar levels to rise rapidly after eating food. But did you know that they not only are a source for 6 important minerals, two types of Vitamin B but also protein?! Isn't that great? All for 230 calories a cup. They are also one of those things you can cook in big batches and keep for a couple of days. And cooking couldn't be easier. Put lentils in a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Adding a bouquet garnis will add flavour as will adding spices to the water.

The sweet potato. Oh, how I adore you. Since starting my insulin resistant way of eating I have had to take out all carbs, starches and a whole bunch of other deliciously bad things from my diet. One of those ticked-off-my-list-things is the potato. How I miss mash…chips…crisps! However, the sweet potato is a completely different matter. These little orange potatoes can actually regulate our blood sugar! Research has shown that extracts of it can 'significantly increase blood levels of Adiponectin'. This, is a protein hormone produced by our fat cells that is an important modifier of insulin metabolism! Yes, you can eat this potato on your insulin resistance diet…happy days.

In this dish I use both red onion and spring onions. For two reasons; they both have very different tastes but work together beautifully and, spring onions are in season. Even though I talked about onions here, there is always so much to say and maybe one day I will have to treat you with a whole post just about the blessed onion! For now though, let's just say you should be eating onions every day.

In my local farmers market I can buy fresh garlic and I have to hang it up to dry for a couple of weeks before really getting the full flavour of it. I love the colours and smells of garlic. It's another great one for regulating blood sugar levels as well as strengthening the immune system. Ever notice the sticky feeling on your fingers after working with garlic? That's the sulphur containing compounds being released.

At this time of year when the weather is hot, ok, supposed to be hot. There is no better 'cooler' than mint. No-one can quite decide how many species of mint there are but, it's anywhere from 13-18. This green crawling sprawling plant has a number of properties that range from helping with depression to aiding digestion. I use it when I've eaten too much (happens quite often you'll be surprised to know). Add a few fresh leaves to boiled water and drink. Yum. In this dish it works wonderfully to counterbalance the sweet caramelised red onion and what can be the heady deep flavour of sweet potato to make this perfect and light for summer.

1 med-large sweet potato
6 spring onions
1 large red onion
2 whole garlic bulbs
300g green lentils
big bunch of parsley and mint
aged feta cheese

On a parchment lined baking tray place the spring onions, quartered red onion (held together by the root end!), half an inch thick sliced sweet potato and halved garlic bulbs. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put into a preheated 200C oven and leave till cook with an occasional turn. Usually 20mins.
In the meantime, cook the lentils in water and drain. Finely chop the parsley and mint and put into bowl. Mix with the lentils and a drizzle of olive oil. Mound the veggies in the centre of the lentils, crumble feta around and squeeze the lemon all over. Eat warm or cold!
- You can of course make this vegan by leaving out the feta and also making it for meat eaters. Add strips of cooked chicken breast or steak to the mix. Switch it up by sprinkling the veggies with some cayenne/paprika or adding some cumin seeds.

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