Lentils, not just for Hippies

Lentils for hippies and humans
Miserable hippy, liked lentils

Lentils are great, and not just for Neil off the Young Ones! I used to operate almost exclusively with the red variety mainly making dhals, it  took me a long time to realise just how many types there are. I’m lucky, I live in Balsall Heath,  right on the edge of Birmingham’s ‘Balti Triangle’, so there are a lot of cheap Asian ingredients readily available. So, I have stocked up with six varieties of lentil, all from my local shop and all very cheap.

If you buy these sort of ‘East End‘ products, or the equivalent, from regular supermarkets you pay over the odds, much better to go to an Asian grocery shop, and why not pick up your spices at the same time. I bought three lentil varieties that need only 30 minutes soaking and three that require an overnight job. Predictably, I’ve used the first three types more often, but with a little planning the others have been used too.


Soaking time

Chana Dall – split yellow gram

30 minutes

Toor Dall Dry

30 minutes

Brown Lentils

30 minutes

Urid Dall Chilka

5 hours

Cow Peas

5 hours

Moong Dall Chilka

5 hours

Soaking lentils to remove phytates

Soaking is important and these times should be considered a minimum. Lentils and other legumes contain phytates which inhibit enzyme activity and make them difficult to digest. The soaking negates this annoying legume feature and eases the digestion difficulty  Phytates are also present in nuts and is why raw vegans soak their nuts!

In years gone by I’d think of lentils as a staple food in times of need, a saviour when cash-strapped, nothing fancy at all. I have, however, tried some recipes more salubrious than simple dall, which in conjunction with dinners at a Hindu friend’s house, have elevated the lowly lentil beyond survival food. This winter, after purchasing my six varieties I have had a bit of a lentil renaissance.

Why do lentils make you Fart?

One reason a lot of people ignore and avoid lentils is an unfortunate side-effect often experienced when over-indulging; wind. Lentils make you fart, there’s no getting away from it. This side-effect is due to fermentation in the gut, which produces gas but is a completely natural outcome of digestion. All legumes, including lentils contain complex carbohydrates which mean they are low on the glycaenic index and as a result take time to digest. Bacteria are involved in this process and sadly lead to fermentation and farts! Read this post for more information on bacteria and the fermentation process.

But, it’s possible to greatly reduce this problem by going overboard on the washing, as detailed below

  • Wash the lentils before soaking in three or four changes of water, the best way I found to do this is to put them into a jug and fill it with water then empty it through a sieve, to retain the lentils.
  • Always change the water after soaking, and wash them again before cooking
  • During cooking occasionally remove froth
  • Once cooked they can be washed a final time
  • NB note the added tip at the bottom of the post!
Lentil Stew - not just for hippies
5 lentil winter stew

I used this method with five of the varieties to make a thinish stew this afternoon. I soaked the overnight lentils and added to them with brown lentils and chana dall then cooked them – boiling hard for ten minutes then simmering for 30 or so. In the meantime I slowly steamed potatoes, sweet and regular with a  few carrots. Then I fried thickly chopped onion for a few minutes before adding some garlic. Before adding the other ingredients, I threw in paprika, cumin and coriander for a final fry.

I then mixed in the cooked veg and lentils, finally adding the ‘steaming’ water (with three stock cubes dissolved) and let the whole thing tick over on a very low heat for 10 or 15 minutes. I wanted the lentils to thicken the stew a little whilst being careful to not let the vegetables disintegrate. The result was pretty good, a lovely hearty stew for this freezing snowy day, which the photo fails to do justice. Lush!

Further tips to stop lentil farts!

EDIT – further tips

Extra tip #1

I’ve just read a great post with a further tip on reducing the fart potential of lentils further. Alexx Stuart suggests

By soaking your dried beans like kidney, adzuki or cannelini overnight or up to 24 hours in a bowl of water with a tablespoon of whey or yoghurt in the bowl, you get: Fart free beans and a fantastic array of easily absorbed nutrients! Fuller for longer and lots of goodness going through your body instead of embarrassing noises!

Extra tip #2

In addition Alex from Beet the System has pointed out that curry spices – tumeric (haldi), cumin (jeera) and coriander (cilantro to the Americans or else dhania) – reduce the fart potential in cows. This makes perfect sense, of course, as lentils are a staple in Indian food and as the spices work on the gut bacteria this should work for humans too!

Extra tip #3

And one more tip from the comments. Silly says that you must ensure you cook lentils for long enough. Failing to do so will disturb the stomach!

11 thoughts on “Lentils, not just for Hippies”

  1. The biggest crime against Lentils is under cooking… They must be well cooked to avoid gut disturbance..

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