Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Don't Forget Your Pulse !

This week I read an interesting article on Protein. It said many of us are not getting the recommended daily amount in our diet. It should make up a third of our daily intake of food and is essential for the production of muscle tissue. As we age it actually becomes even more important as our muscle tissue deceases. Muscle mass peaks in our 20's and then starts to decrease. At first it is by 0.5% a year, but after we reach 50 it declines by 1% a year. This makes it even more important that we are eating sufficient protein on a daily basis, especially as it cannot be stored by the body. Any protein not converted to muscle or used by the body in metabolic processes will be excreted as waste. When I think of protein, I immediately think of meat or fish, but it is found in a variety of other foods - eggs, tofu, soya products, milk, dairy, nuts, seeds and also pulses. I enjoy using pulses quite a lot in my cooking. They are a really versatile ingredient that can be used in soups, stews and casseroles. They thicken and add bulk to dishes and enhance flavour. They are also cheap, filling, count as one of your five a day and are a good source of fibre. Pulses come in many forms- red and green lentils, chickpeas and a variety of beans (including, butter, kidney, borlotti and cannelini). To be honest I didn't really use to cook with pulses that much. I thought that they were quite boring and bland and just a food for vegetarians in order to get their protein intake. I have since changed my mind and now use a wide variety in my cooking, I enjoy using red lentils in a couple of  different soup recipes. I also put them in a chicken and lentil curry that is made in the slow cooker. Since I have started getting into vegetarian cooking I have experimented with pulses a lot more . There are lots of good curry recipes that use chickpeas, and this week I made a squash and red lentil curry and I am going to try squash and lentil pasties. 

So if you want to get fit or build muscle make sure you get your hands or at least finger on some pulses !

Chicken and lentil curry.

Serves 4

75g of red lentils
2tbsp curry powder
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds
350ml of chicken stock
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
200g fresh spinach
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Place the lentils in a sieve and rinse under cold water
Drain well then put them in the slow cooker
Add the curry powder, ground coriander, cumin seeds and stock
Cover and cook on a low heat for 2 hours.
Add the chicken to the lentil mixture, stir to cover the chicken in the spices
Cover and cook on low for 2.5 hours
Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for a furthur 30 minutes
Season with salt and pepper and stir in the fresh coriander
Serve with basmati rice and veg

Carrot and Lentil soup

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stick chopped
1 garlic clove peeled and finely chopped
4 large carrots peeled and thinly sliced
75g red lentils
600ml of fresh chicken or vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper

 Heat a tsp of vegetable or olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat
Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots, stir, cover, reduce the heat to low and sweat for 10-15 minutes until softened
Add the lentils and stock and stir to combine
Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. 
Add more water or stock if required
Season to taste with black pepper.

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