Lentil: Our super soup | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 27, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 27, 2018

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Lentil: Our super soup

Those who can recall the decade of the '80s, a time when entertainment primarily came in the form of BTV, Bangladesh Betar and nothing more, the government sponsored campaigns on health, hygiene and other social issues, which were enough to put us youngsters to sleep way before bedtime.

It was a deliberate plan to ensure that the mass no longer associate nutritious food solely to red meat and fish. Lentil, being the super food it always has been, was promoted and the whole design was a success.

Tables have turned now. While the marginal segment of our country still has lentil out of necessity, lentil in its myriad forms, for some is now gourmet!

The nutritional benefits of lentil are unchallenged; high in fibre, and complex carbohydrates, but low in fat and calories. Their high protein content makes them a perfect option for those looking to boost their protein intake. They are naturally gluten-free, and godsend for those who need a gluten-free kitchen. Their exceptionally low glycemic index value and resistant starch content make them suitable even for a diabetic diet.

A mere half cup of dry lentils provide 26 grams of protein. About 100 grams of dry lentils pack in 80 percent of your daily dietary need for roughage. In addition to gut mobility, dietary fibre is associated in maintaining low blood cholesterol levels, and even guarding against probable colon cancer, as well as preventing the development of type 2 diabetics. Lentils have also been recommended in diet as it can prevent constipation.

Astonishing as it may seem, 100 grams of dry split red lentils has more potassium than a large banana! We are so driven to reduce salt that sometimes we forgot to look at the other half of the equation: getting enough potassium!

Potassium can counteract the damaging effect of sodium and has been shown to lower blood pressure.

Lentils are also an excellent source of folate. A type of B-vitamin, folate helps support red blood cell formation and proper functioning of the nervous system. Folate also plays an important role in lowering the chances of damaging the artery.

In addition, the water soluble vitamin may help prevent anaemia and protect against developing heart disease, cancer, and even dementia. Folate is particularly important for women of childbearing age, as it is needed to support increasing maternal blood volume.

Iron plays an integral role in the formation of haemoglobin in blood and myoglobin in the muscles, both of which carry oxygen to the cells. That is why fatigue and tiredness are usually the first symptoms people notice when they are low in iron. For vegetarians, getting enough iron is particularly challenging and lentils help fill that gap.

Lentils are also a great source of manganese. A hundred grams of red lentils cover the total daily need of an average person.  This mineral is stored mainly in our bones and in major organs including the liver, the kidney, and the pancreas. Manganese plays a role in maintaining normal blood sugar level, and helps protect against free radical damage.

Lentils with high protein content are considered a cheap source of protein. They are a rich source of essential amino acids like isoleucine and lysine. They are also good source of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals.

Our organs and muscle need a constant supply of protein for repair and growth of the body. Lentils, especially in sprout form, contain all essential amino acids that are needed by our body for proper muscle development and smooth functioning of the body.



Traditional polao gets new life with the addition of chickpeas in this revamped Middle Eastern recipe. Polao, also known as 'pilav', is a traditional rice dish that is widely popular across the Middle East, East Africa, and Southern and Eastern Asia. Depending on the region and local culinary traditions, pulao can be made with meat, fish, vegetables, or even dried fruits — making it an adaptable dish that can be served as a side dish or entrée. In this recipe, chickpeas offer fantastic flavour and texture and the use of canned chickpeas takes an already simple recipe to another level of ease.


1 cup chickpeas

1½ cup long grain rice

2 cup chicken broth

¾ cup chopped onion

2 clove garlic, chopped

½ tsp ginger, chopped

2 tbsp oil

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper


Drain chickpeas and rinse thoroughly. Set aside. In a large pan, sauté onion, garlic and ginger in oil until they turn soft with a light golden colour. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in rice, chickpeas, salt and pepper. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with a fork. Serve immediately.


Lentil in our country is mostly taken in the stew/soup form. Well I have tried to make red lentils cutlets. And what should say, they are amazingly delicious that they have a firm place on our meal plans! You can make a big batch of them and freeze them so that you always have a quick dinner.


250g red lentils

150g peas

2 carrots, grated

2 large onions

150g cheese

4-5 green chillies, chopped

2 eggs

2 tbsp corn starch

¼ cup bread crumbs

Oil for frying


First, cook peas and red lentils together just lightly covered with water. When the water dries up, remove from heat and allow it to cool. In a large bowl grate the carrot and chop the onion. Fold in the cheese with your hand and add the chilled lentil mixture. Chop the green chillies and add to the mix. Season with salt and mix everything well.

Then add 2 eggs, corn starch and breadcrumbs, mix well again. Now shape them as a cutlets. Heat oil in a pan, fry the cutlets on both sides for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.



For lentil shells —

1 cup yellow lentil

2 tbsp rice flour

2 tbsp all purpose flower

Salt to taste

Oil for deep fry

For stuffing —

2 cup grated coconut

¼ cup coconut milk

1 cup date palm jaggery


Heat a non-stick pan and add coconut in it. On a low flame, keep on stirring for few minutes and add the coconut milk. Now add jaggery. Keep on stirring on low flame till the jaggery melts and mixes well with the coconut. Cook for 15 minutes or till you get a little lumpy mixture. Leave the mixture to cool. Now roast yellow lentils in a pan till it gives an aroma. Now add just enough water to boil the lentils; once boiled, strain excess water if any. Let it cool for sometime and mash it. Add the rice flour, salt and all purpose flour to the mashed lentils to make a soft dough.

Refrigerate for half an hour until it stiffens a bit. Pinch a walnut size ball from the lentil dough and give it a small bowl like shape. Stuff it with the coconut-jaggery mixture, fold and seal the ends together. 

Prepare rest of the stuffed shells and keep aside. Heat enough oil for deep frying. Fry the pitha in a medium flame until they turn crisp and golden. Serve hot or at room temperature.




1 cup arhar daal

1 tomato finely, chopped

2 onions finely, chopped

1 tsp coriander, powder

1 tsp red chilli, powder

½ tsp turmeric, powder

1 tsp methi seeds

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 inch ginger, minced

3 tsp lemon juice

3 green chillies

3 tbsp coriander leaves

1 tsp sugar, 3 tbsp ghee


Soak the daal for 30 minutes. Then place it in a pan with salt, turmeric powder and water. Let it cook for 20 minutes. While the daal is boiling, sauté onions, ginger, garlic, red chilli powder, methi seeds, and salt. Add tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the above mixture to the boiled daal. Add lemon juice and sugar. Cook for 5 minutes. When done, garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve.



½ cup moong daal

1 cup red lentil (masoor daal)

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp red chilli powder

½ tsp coriander powder

1 medium onion, sliced

3-4 clove garlic

½ tsp cumin seeds, ¼ cup oil

Salt to taste


Wash the lentils well, add 4-5 cups of water and all the powdered spices. Bring to a boil then cover with the lid. Cook for 30-35 minutes, until the lentils are tender and integrated with the water.

Add handful of chopped coriander leaves on top of the daal. To prepare the tarka, heat oil and add sliced onion, and garlic in a separate pan. Fry till they become golden brown. Add cumin seeds.

Once the tarka is ready, pour directly over the daal. Serve with rice or roti.




2 cups lentils

1 large onion, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

2 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 clove garlic, chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

1 bay leaf, 1 tsp dried basil

½ cup crushed tomatoes

8 cups water

½ cup spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced

2 tbsp vinegar

Ground black pepper to taste

Salt to taste


In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery, cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in garlic, bay leaf, oregano and basil. Cook for another two minutes. Stir in lentils, add water, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for at least one hour. When ready to serve stir in spinach, and cook until it wilts. Stir in vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.




¼ cup red lentil

¼ cup yellow moong daal

¼ cup Bengal gram

Salt to taste, 2 tsp chilli powder

2 tsp amchur powder

Oil for deep fry


Wash and soak the daal for 4-3 hours. Rinse again 2-3 times and spread evenly in a kitchen towel, or thick cotton cloth for 15-20 minutes so all the water is absorbed and daal becomes dry.

Heat oil in a wok until smoking point, add daal in batches and fry until golden brown and keep in kitchen tissue to remove excess oil. Repeat same for rest of the daal. Once all the daal gets fried, add salt, chilli powder and amchur powder. Mix well and allow the mixture to cool completely before storing in air-tight container.




½ cup moong daal

¼ tsp ghee, 10-12 cashew nuts

½ cup rice socked and drained

3-4 cup grated jaggery

2 cardamoms

1 cup coconut milk


Heat ghee in a nonstick pan, add cashew nuts, and sauté till light golden. Drain and set aside on a plate. Add moong daal and rice to the ghee and sauté till fragrant. Add coconut milk and cover, and cook till both daal and rice are soft. Add jaggery and stir till it dissolves completely. Add cardamom powder and mix well. Cook on low heat for 4-5 minutes. Transfer into a large bowl. Garnish with the sautéed cashew nuts and serve.


Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Food styling: LS Desk

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