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Grains of success: cooking with grains, pulses and lentils - The Irish News

Grains of success: cooking with grains, pulses and lentils

Steak and spiced chickpeas
Niall McKenna

GRAINS, pulses and lentils are becoming more and more popular as people realise that they can be easily incorporated into a delicious meal without having to rewrite the cookery book.

The benefits of eating plenty of these are many as they have so many vital nutrients packed into their small size. One of the best sources of potassium, calcium, fibre, protein and iron, grains, pulses and lentils are proven to help lessen the risks of many serious medical problems.

Yet cooking with them can be difficult as they often end up in a gelatinous lump you could stand a spoon up in.

Thankfully, this week's recipes are both fairly foolproof and can be enjoyed on their own or as side dishes.

With it still being summer (apparently), we still like to get out and barbecue as much as possible – so I have included a delicious way to cook steak that works perfectly with the lentil dish and is a sure crowd pleaser for any weekend or evening get-together.

Paul McCartney and his daughter Stella have a well-known tradition of 'Meat Free Mondays' with a strong focus on lentils and, if like us, you always have a few cans of them in the kitchen cupboard, you can enjoy them on any night of the week.

Finally, this week sees the Heart of the Glens Festival taking place in Cushendall.

One of the most successful community festivals in Northern Ireland, the programme is varied with something for everyone to enjoy.

I will be checking out the food village and cookery demonstrations, – so maybe see you there!

Spiced Steak with Courgette and Crispy Chickpeas

400g chickpeas, canned is ok, drained and rinsed

4 x 220g sirloin steaks, trimmed

1 squash, thinly sliced

2 courgettes, thinly sliced

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tblsp sea salt

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tblsp fresh lemon thyme leaves

4 tblsp olive oil

black pepper

parsley or salad leaves to serve


Start by placing the chilli flakes, coriander and lemon thyme leaves in a small bowl and mix and then leave to the side. You will use this to season the steak later.

Heat up a tblsp of the olive oil in a non stick frying pan over a high heat. Add the rinsed chickpeas and cook for about 6 minutes or until crisp and remove from the pan and set to the side.

Wipe the pan with a cloth to remove any excess water. Drizzle the steak with a little olive oil and massage until coated.

Next, season the steak with the steak seasoning mix and cook on a high heat in the pan for 2 to 3 minutes each side for medium rare, longer if you would like a medium steak.

Once cooked, leave to the side and cover in tinfoil to rest for about 5 minutes.

Wipe the pan dry again and heat a tblsp of olive oil in the pan, add the sliced squash and courgette, stirring occasionally until they are soft.

To serve slice the steak and place on the plate with the spiced chickpeas, you can serve with a bit of yoghurt with fresh mint.


Courgette, pancetta and puy lentil salad

8 smallish courgettes, thinly sliced lengthways

70g pancetta or Hannan’s guanciale, cubed

250g puy lentils, ready to eat

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tblsp white wine vinegar

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Salad leaves to serve

Start by thinly slicing the courgettes lengthways – I would use a mandolin in work, but it is a very sharp tool and usually the most common reason for us needing a supply of sticking-plasters in the kitchen.

So, if you use one, be careful – otherwise a sharp knife and a keen eye will suffice.

Toss the courgettes with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper and using a griddle pan, griddle until you have grill marks on the courgette and they are al dente.

Cook the pancetta in a hot pan until it is golden and crisp. Make the dressing by placing the mustard, vinegar and 2 tblsp of olive oil and some salt and pepper in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Warm the lentils in a pot on a medium heat then place the lentils, courgette and pancetta in a bowl and toss in the dressing. Place on a serving platter or in a bowl and dress with some salad leaves.


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