Lentils are grown throughout the world and about half the worldwide production of lentils is from India, but Canada is the largest exporter. The plant originated in the middle east and has been part of the human diet since the neolithic, being one of the first crops domesticated. With 26% protein, lentil is the vegetable with the highest level of protein, and because of this it´s a very important part of the diet in many countries, specially South Asia, wich has a large vegetariam population. Lentils also are low in fat, hight in fiber, vitamin B1 and minerals.
A variety of lentils exist with colors that range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black. They are sold in many forms, with or without the pods, whole or split. The best, most delicate lentils are the peppery French green lentils or Puy lentils. These choice of lentils were originally grown in the volcanic soils of Puy in France, but now they're also grown in North America and Italy. They're especially good in salads since they remain firm after cooking and have a rich flavor. The most common variety is the milder brown lentils. These are the standard khaki-colored lentils you see on grocery shelves everywhere. They can easily turn mushy if overcooked and if you want them to be firm add oil to the cooking water and cook them just a short while, about 15 minutes.
Indian markets carry a wide variety of split lentils, called dal. Dal is the Indian term for peas, beans, or lentils that have been split and often skinned, but the name is sometimes used for all lentils, peas, or beans, or to cooked dishes made with them. Split lentils don't hold their shape well, so they're often cooked into soups or purées.
Before cooking, always rinse lentils and pick out stones and other debris. Unlike dried beans and peas, there's no need to soak them. Lentils cook more slowly if they're combined with salt or acidic ingredients, so add these last. Bigger or older lentils take longer to cook. Store dried lentils for up to a year in a cool, dry place.
Dhal of pink lentils: 250g of pink lentil, ½ teaspoon of curcuma, 600ml of water, 3 tablespoon extra virgin oil, 1 onion (minced), 1 chili pepper (minced), 180g tomatoes (chopped), 2 garlic cloves (minced), 1 big piece of ginger (minced), 1 teaspoon cumin, 3 cardamom beans, 4 tablespoon of cilantro (minced).
Cook the lentils with the water and curcuma for about 25 minutes, until soft. In the meanwhile, in a medium saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of oil, add the onion and cook until it begins to brown. Add the chili and tomatoes and cook about 10 minutes. In a small frying pan heat 1 tablespoon of oil, add the ginger, garlic, cumin, and cardamom and cook for 2 minutes. Add the spice and the tomato mixtures to the lentils. Season to taste. Arrange in a serving plate and decorate with the cilantro.