Lentils are a staple ingredient in diets all over the world — something SSI’s diverse SRSS team picked up on during a discussion about the best way to cook this high protein legume. The only way to settle the debate was to take the dishes to Community Kitchen for a lentil cook-off.
SRSS Team Leader Nils Bethke and Case Manager Michelle Naike were head chefs for the day, each bringing along a lentil recipe they’d grown up with.
“It all started with a conversation between team members in the kitchen at work,” said Mr Bethke. “The topic of lentils came up and we all exchanged our cultural recipes. There was an Afghan recipe, my European one, a South American way of cooking lentils. It sounded like they would all be quite different.”
The cooks decided to bring their recipes along to SSI’s Community Kitchen, a fortnightly social day where refugees and people seeking asylum practise English, take part in recreational activities, and share a multicultural meal with volunteers from the Australian community.
Mr Bethke’s contribution was a central European lentil dish that he had while growing up in Germany.
“It’s basically a combination of my mother’s recipe and my mother-in-law’s recipe. I never realised lentils were used in so many parts of the world. I am not sure how and when they came to Germany because they don’t grow there, but they are widely used there too,” he said.
At home, Ms Naike usually cooks food from a mix of other cultures, but for Community Kitchen she drew on her Afghan roots to cook a Middle Eastern style lentil stew.
“I don’t know where I learned the recipe. If you’re brought up with people cooking around you, you pay attention to that and remember the dishes,” she said.
Dall — Middle Eastern lentil stew
Two onions, thinly sliced
One bag fried onions
One small piece of ginger
Cube of vegetable stock
Pinch of turmeric
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of garam masala
Pinch of coriander powder
Tbsp tomato paste
400g lentils, soaked overnight
Olive oil, to taste
- Place the onions and garlic in a pot with a splash of oil. Put on a lid and simmer until soft.
- Add dried onion, turmeric, cumin, garam masala and coriander powder, along with a cube of vegetable stock and the tomato paste.
- Put on a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the lentils and enough water to cover by a few centimetres.
- Stir the lentils regularly and add oil until the lentils soften. This should take 15-20 minutes. The lentils should be sticky and firm when served, with a similar texture to risotto.
- Serve with basmati rice and Afghan bread.
Linsensuppe — central European lentil stew*
400g lentils, soaked overnight
Two carrots, diced
Two potatoes, diced
One brown onion, sliced
Handful of fresh parsley
Splash balsamic vinegar
One vegetable stock cube
Pinch of pepper
- Add the onions and carrots to a large soup pot and sauté until brown.
- Add the lentils, stock cube, and potato.
- Cover and simmer until all ingredients are soft, stirring occasionally.
- Add parsley, pepper and vinegar to taste
*Usually this dish is prepared with bacon, sausages or other meat. Out of respect for other cultures and customs, it was decided to cook a vegetarian version at Community Kitchen.