I love eating fresh and minimally processed foods. However, eating well often requires preparation and a certain amount of planning. Of course, if you work during the week, it isn’t always easy to get your act together in the kitchen.
When I come home from work, I try to avoid the trap of reaching out for something quick, processed and convenient. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just doesn’t. But, what I often do, if this can be of any help to you, is make a big batch of quinoa and lentils ahead of time and store them in the fridge. You can also freeze cooked quinoa and lentils in the deep freezer for up to 8 months. They thaw nicely either at room temperature or in microwave and they will promise you a delicious and wholesome plant-based meal.
My favourite combination is black beluga lentils with red quinoa for their rich and earthy flavour, but you can go with the kind of lentils and quinoa that you prefer. All that you do is cook them separately on stove-top, toss them together in a bowl, let them cool at room temperature and store them in sealed containers.
Cooking quinoa and lentils ahead of time is a smart and quick way to prepare a dish rich in protein, fibre and whole grains. There are multiple ways to put a meal together, ranging from veggie burgers to wholesome salads or warm dishes with grilled veggies. This summer, you can even grab whatever vegetables or fruit (tomatoes are a fruit!) you have in your kitchen or garden and improvise a meal or a side dish right on the spot. Just chop and mix to your cooked quinoa and lentils. For extra flavour and depending on the recipe I have in mind, I like to add some fresh herbs, spices, seeds or nuts, a simple dressing or a sauce. To give you some ideas, you can view the recipes here and here.
Below is a step by step method for cooking quinoa and beluga lentils. I’ve been making them this way for over 20 years without any problems. One thing I want to say about cooking quinoa is that you don’t need to rinse them out under running water. Just dry roast them in a skillet on stove-top before boiling them, but don’t rinse them out because they won’t taste as good and the texture will be off. Dry roasting them will take care of any residual saponin on the grains. I wrote a post on this and you can read it here.
It sounds like a lot but with practice, it just gets easier and easier. It really is simple and eventually, you won’t have to follow or read a recipe. You’ll just go ahead and cook them.
Beluga black lentils and red quinoa
Makes 5 cups cooked beluga lentils and quinoa
1. Beluga lentils
- 1 cup dry black beluga lentils
- 1½ cups salted water, brought to the boil
In a strainer, rinse the dry lentils with cold tap water. Add them to the boiled salted water. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 13-15 minutes. If you prefer them softer, go for 15 or even 20 minutes total cooking time. At 13 minutes, taste a few lentils to see for yourself. When done to your liking, drain excess water in a strainer and transfer cooked lentils to a bowl. Set aside.
Makes 2 cups cooked beluga lentils.
Note: If using another type of lentils, cook according to package.
- 1 cup dry red quinoa
- 2 cups salted water, brought to the boil
In a pot on stove top, start by boiling the 2 cups of salted water.
While the water is heating up, place a dry skillet on high heat on stove top and pour the dry quinoa into it. Roast the quinoa grains for several minutes on medium-high heat tossing them constantly and until they pop frequently and smell like popcorn. Transfer the roasted quinoa to the pot of boiling water. This is a mistake that some people make: The water has to boil before adding the roasted quinoa! If your quinoa has roasted and is ready and your water isn’t, then set the pan with the quinoa aside on counter top and wait until the water is boiling. Then, you can add it!
Immediately reduce heat and give it all one gently stir. Allow to simmer uncovered from anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes (timing depends on the type of quinoa) and until ALL of the water has evaporated. Don’t touch them or stir them anymore until they are done.
But honestly, I never time the quinoa. This is what I always do: Half way through simmering when the water has reduced, make a small well or hole so that you can see the bottom of the pot. Let it cook more, checking the well from time to time. When there is no more water that’s shimmering at the bottom, they are done! Take pot off the heat and give the quinoa a gently stir.
Makes 3 cups cooked quinoa.
Transfer the cooked quinoa to a bowl to cool. Here, I transferred it directly to the bowl with the cooked lentils. Toss gently to mix them.
Let cool to room temperature. Store in fridge in a sealed container and add to your salads or other dishes. They will last 3-5 days in fridge. If not using immediately, you can also freeze them. Store cooked lentils/quinoa in sealed containers in the deep freezer for up to 8 months.