I can’t think of any vegetarian dish that doesn’t require shedloads of cutting.
If you are a young person recently moved out of your parents’ home, there’s a number of reasons why you don’t want to do shedloads of cutting:
- Unless you are extremely rich and can afford to rent a place all on your own (in which case you wouldn’t be reading a blog post tagged ‘thrifty living’), you are sharing a kitchen with other people. Even those few horizontal surfaces that appear to be clean, most likely are just dried-out dirty.
- Either you are too busy studying or working or you ought to be, to have time for endless chopping
- Chances are that there isn’t a sharp knife around (and all the better for that, I say).
This is why lentils are ideal for you. The fantastic thing about lentils – even more fantastic than the fact that they contain all nine essential amino acids, plus roughage, vitamins including folic acid, and minerals including iron, all for a much lower amount of cholesterol than meat – is that you don’t need to pre-soak them. Crucially, this means that you don’t have to plan your meals in advance but can carry on living by the day.
There are many types of lentils. Choose the dark grey/green plump ones like the ones in the photo. There many kinds of these, all with different names: Italians have theirs, Indians have theirs, but so far I’ve never tasted any round dark lentil, whatever its name, that wasn’t nice. The flat green ones are cheaper but not so nice.
Puritans would tell you that they’re more digestible if you add them to the pot when the water is already boiling, but I say: how many pots have you got? If you own only one pot, you will rinse the lentils in that one, fill it up with fresh water and put it on the hob just because you’ve got no other place to keep the lentils after you’ve rinsed them. Do whatever is easier for you because otherwise, I’m sure, you just won’t cook them again.
Bring them to a rolling boil on a high heat for about 10 minutes (or whatever it says on the packet, if there are instructions) and then reduce the heat and simmer, adding water as required and salt, until they are the required texture. If you want to add them to a salad you want them quite ‘al dente’ but I don’t advise making a salad, for the reasons I mentioned before.
In the I-own-only-one-pot scenario, I suggest that you add quite a lot of water, a stock cube or jelly, if you have it, and throw in some small pasta shapes, the type best suited for soup.
(If you own two pots, it’s best to cook the pasta separately and add it little by little to your plate until you’ve had enough, so that you can keep any leftover pasta e lentils separate, which stops the pasta swelling to double its size. But I assume that you only have one pot and no leftover-storage facility, so just cook a handful of pasta and a handful of lentils, together).
Make it as soupy or as dry as you like it. When the pasta is ready, turn off the hob, drizzle with olive oil, and eat.