Canada is the world’s leading exporter of lentils, with Saskatchewan growing 97 percent of total Canadian production. While we enjoy dried or canned lentils year-round, they are harvested in late summer after they’ve ripened in their pods and dried naturally.
Chef Michael Smith, an award-winning cookbook author and host of several TV shows on the Food Network Canada, is an advocate for simplicity and sustainability in food and cooking, so he’s a big fan of these versatile, economical and convenient legumes. We met up with him recently in Saskatoon (where he was playing host to the winners of the Love Your Lentils Canada contest run by Canadian Lentils, which took place in early summer). We delved into dishes made with locally grown lentils’a member of the pulse family’and discussed healthy eating.
‘Balance is one of life’s great challenges. In my case, it’s about staying grounded,’ says Smith. ‘I live in rural P.E.I. and am an active, outdoors kind of guy.’ As passionate as he is about work, a huge priority is family time with his partner, Chastity, and their kids Gabe, Ariella and baby daughter Camille. They regularly incorporate lentils into their meals. ‘We’ve been eating them forever,’ he says. ‘They are so easy to throw into a pot. With two minutes’ effort, you’ve got something simmering and ready to eat in about 30 minutes. My son is now 11, but some of the first solid food he ate was brown rice and lentils. We often say it’s his ‘mashed potatoes.”’
Lentils pack benefits including fibre, protein and iron. Having a pantry with one or two varieties’green, red, black Beluga or French Green ‘Du Puy”means a myriad of recipe ideas are a ‘pulse’ away. Lentils work in everything from breakfast to baked goods.