If you’d popped past my little kitchen over the past few weeks, you’d probably have noticed a bunch of lentils quietly sprouting away in one corner.
I tried sprouting once, developed an obsession and soon began germinating legumes at such speed that the creation of multiple yum recipes was needed quick smart to use them all up, lest our house collapse beneath an ever-expanding sprout mountain.
Which is how this pretty spectacular (if I do say so myself) sprouted lentil dip came into being.
Before I get to the recipe, a quick word on sprouting. The process is super easy (exact steps are detailed below) but it does take a couple days. So why bother?
Well, sprouting seeds, grains and nuts makes them heaps more digestible and ensures your body can access all their nutrients.
Sally Fallon, of the famed book Nourishing Traditions (well worth a read), says the process of germination changes the composition of grains and seeds in a bunch of beneficial ways, like:
- Increases vitamin B content, especially B2, B5 and B6.
- Produces vitamin C.
- Dramatically increases carotene, somethings eightfold.
- Neutralises phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains that inhibits calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc absorption.
- Neutralizes enzyme inhibitors present in all seeds. These inhibitors normally neutralize our own enzymes in the digestive tract.
- Breaks down complex sugars responsible for intestinal gas (read: you’ll fart less).
- Inactivates aflatoxins, potent carcinogens found in grains.
- Produces numerous enzymes that help digestion.
Plus, they look pretty cool. Case in point:
How to sprout seeds, beans and grains (hint: it’s really, really easy)
Okay, here’s how you do it. Dump a cup or two of grains, seeds or legumes in a large container, cover them with water and then leave to sit for 12 to 24 hours.
Drain the water and thoroughly rinse the grains before popping them in a large sieve like the one pictured above.
Cover with a tea towel and leave to sit for another couple of days. You’ll need to pour a little water over them once or twice a day to stop them from drying out. Check the table within this post for more details on exactly how many days to wait for each type of grain, seed or bean to ensure full sprouting before eating.
Sprouts will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for around a week.
Tip for eating: Don’t go overboard eating raw sprouted grains as they contain irritating substances designed to keep animals from eating the tender shoots, so you’ll end up with an upset tummy. To neutralise these substances, just lightly steam or fry your sprouted grains, or throw them in soups and casseroles.
Now, to the recipe. It’s deliciously spicy and, dumped atop fresh bread, makes for a rather hearty lunch or snack.
Spicy African-style sprouted lentil dip
1½ cups of sprouted green lentils
1 carrot, quartered and sliced into small pieces
1 medium onion, diced finely
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to season
2 tablespoons vegan butter
Sprout the lentils. Alternatively, boil lentils in water until cooked, then drain and blend in a food processor. You may need to add a little water so they blend properly, and the end result will almost certainly look less pretty but will be equally delicious.
In a large saucepan, fry the sprouted lentils until they begin to soften and golden. Throw them into a food processor with a good glug of olive oil and blend until they begin to form a paste.
In the same saucepan, fry the carrot and onion in a little olive oil until soft and beginning to turn golden. Make sure the carrot, especially, is soft otherwise it won’t blend well. Throw them into the food processor and blend with the lentils until well mixed.
Returning to the same saucepan once again, melt the butter and then fry off the cumin, ginger, nutmeg and cayenne pepper until fragrant, about three minutes.
Add in the lentil puree and cook, stirring, for about five minutes.
Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Serve over pita toasts, on fresh bread or dumped over rice crackers. A sprinkle of fresh coriander brings out the flavours even more.