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Solve my lentil problem

  • j
  • jjo Sep 14, 2006 05:00 PM

I made a standard (I thought) lentil soup but even after one and half hours the lentils didn't fully soften. All I did was saute onions, celery and carrot and then throw in the lentils and chicken broth. The soup ended up tasting well because I pureed about a third of the lentils, but those that remained were, shall I say, al dente.

Thoughts?

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  1. They were probably old lentils and are just not going to soften.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      I concur. Sometimes you can do everything right and legume skins will remain frustratingly tough. In my experience, black beans are the most likely to remain rock hard, despite soaking and slow simmering.

      1. re: Candy

        Lentil soup

        This wonderful Egyptian dish is very nutritious. During winter, it is almost an essential dish on every dining table. It can even replace a vegetables main dish. You can serve it with croutons of fried Shami or Egyptian bread.
        Cuisine Egyptian
        Main ingredients Lentil, Carrots, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Cumin.
        Time of preparation 30 Minutes
        Time of cooking 30 Minutes
        Serving 4




        Ingredients 1 cup Yellow Lentils
        1 Carrot ,medium size
        1 Zucchini ,small size, (optional)
        1 Tomato ,large size
        1 Potato ,medium size
        3-4 Garlic Cloves
        1 pieces Onion , medium size
        1 tbsp butter
        1 cup Chicken Broth ,
        1 1/2 tsp Cumin
        Salt and Pepper




        Directions 1. Peel all vegetables and chop into medium size pieces. Wash lentils very well several times and drain.
        2. Fill half a medium deep pan with water. Add lentils, carrot, tomato, potato and garlic. Leave to boil over high heat for 20-25 minutes. After 15 minutes add zucchini.
        3. Pour all components of pan in a blender. Blend well then strain in a medium bowl.
        4. In a medium deep pan, heat oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add strained vegetable mix, chicken broth, salt, pepper and cumin.
        5. Leave to boil for about 5 minutes. If texture of soup is thick, add more broth or water.

        Note: you can cut Shamy or Egyptian bread into bite sized squares, fry or broil them, and serve it with soup as croutons.

      2. Cook's Illustrated addressed this in one of their issues. They call for "sweating" the lentils with the veggies and aromatics before adding the broth. Do you have a subscription to the paper/online? If not, I will see what I can dig up.

        1 Reply
        1. re: debit

          I subscribe to the paper magazine but I do not generally keep them.

        2. I suspect old lentils.

          There has been a world wide shortage of lentils, I live in an area with a large ethnic population and my local supermarket hasn't had any lentils for a couple of months.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Alan408

            I think that your supermarket buyer is incompetent. Brown lentils around here (Los Angeles) are plentiful and cheap (75 cents per pound avg), a few months ago I saw some for 39 cents!
            BTW mine usually cook in ~15 minutes in purified water.

            1. re: DiveFan

              Due to a severly limited domestic supply of pulses, The Union Commerce Ministry of India has banned their export until March 2007. This has led to a global shortage. Prices have recently doubled in my area of NYC, and I've heard of it quadrupling at some locations. Frequent pulse eaters are seriously hoarding the stuff and some stores have resorted to rationing.

              1. re: Joe MacBu

                Just stopped by my local Indian market - yup, South Asian lentil prices are indeed up substantially. Most of the small markets near me seem to purchase their stocks from the bigger stores in Artesia (partial list at http://www.artesiaindia.us/grocery-st... ) who might offer a better price. Guess I'll be sticking to north and central American grown lentils for a while.

          2. You probably used the "smaller-sized" French lentils. They're brownish-green in color and take forever to cook. They seem to retain a firm texture even then (after 1 1/2 hours). Use brown lentils next time if you prefer a more "mushy" consistency. The brown lentils are slightly larger in size than the French ones.

            Have a look: http://www.foodsubs.com/Lentils.html

            Your problem should be solved. Also note, 'Bigger or older lentils take longer to cook'.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Cheese Boy

              Thanks for the good link. However, I used brown lentils, not the French ones. I've actually read the French ones are better, but haven't seen them sold anywhere.

              1. re: Cheese Boy

                My French green lentils cook in about 25 minutes. Never had them take longer.

                1. re: Candy

                  I don't like French lentils. Never have. I prefer a "mushy" soup over a "firm" salad here.

                  French Lentils: ... 'especially good in salads since they remain firm after cooking'.

              2. I've heard that if you add salt to legumes as they are cooking it will toughen them.
                Whether this is true or false I don't know.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Ida Red

                  This is true. It happened to me. You're supposed to add the salt at the end. JJO, could that have been the issue? I've never heard of old beans not softening, I've just heard that old beans take on a wrinkled appearance.

                  1. re: foodISlove

                    I tend to doubt that salt can be the issue because the majority of lentil soup recipes use chicken broth, which obviously has salt. I've also made soups, cooking with broth, with no problem. After reading all of these interesting responses, I'm just guessing I got an old or otherwise bad batch of beans.

                  2. re: Ida Red

                    I think this is an old wives' tale. Cooks Illustrated did a show on cooking beans and said salt made no difference at all. The main factor in cooking time is the pH of the water, beans cook faster in alkaline water which is why some cooks add baking soda.

                  3. Pressure cooker!!! put the whole batch in a go for 12PSI for about 10-15 mins. Most everything else will be mud, but it should taste good. If not...Yep, old lentils. Duck, chuck, & start over

                    1. If you suspect the lentils are old (or if you use the brown lentils in the supermarket), you could soak them in water like you'd do with dried beans, which may soften them.

                      1. If there's plenty of liquid and the lentils don't get soft after simmering two hours, put them all through the blender.

                        1. Hard water may be the problem. I live in a hard water town, and dried legumes won't get soft in the center with the city water.

                          Legumes require a neutral pH water to get soft. Acids like tomato or vinegar will also slow their softening. Some folks say "just add a pinch of baking soda", and while that does work, it also destroys thiamine, and it's easy to add too much soda and the beans get real mushy.

                          I keep bottled water on hand just for beans and for making concentrated reduced chicken stock. Local grocery has a machine that does de-ionized in bulk for $.33 per gallon, pH theoretically 7.0. This solved the softening problem completely.

                          As for "old beans", try the water solution first. I've used beans that were at least 4 yrs old (a free 50 lb bag of pintos...of unknown original provenance... Don't ask) and they did fine in bottled water.

                          Other chowhound threads here:

                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                          http://www.chowhound.com/search/std?q...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: FoodFuser

                            I have always lived in places with hard water and have never had a problem cooking beans or lentils--and we make a batch pretty much every day. I never add baking soda or do anything else special. I do always use fresh beans bought from a place with high turnover. I don't store beans in my kitchen--I buy them every time I'm going to cook them. This makes a huge difference. The flavor of old beans is not good, even if they do soften.