Friday 24 March 2017

Something to sprout about

Aoife Barry

Sprouts may not be the prettiest of ingredients, but they're extremely good for you and -- despite their size -- are packed full of nutrients.

It's surprisingly easy to germinate your own sprouts at home, and much cheaper than buying them in the supermarket. Last week, I decided to try this with some green lentils, and within three days I had a jar full to the brim of delicious crispy sprouts.

Sprouting is what occurs when pulses or seeds germinate, and the resulting sprouts are full of amino acids, proteins, vitamins, enzymes and minerals. They really are 'living' food, which is why they're so beloved of raw foodists. You can sprout lentils, chickpeas, mung beans and seeds such as fenugreek and broccoli seeds -- but not all pulses and seeds can be sprouted, so check before you try.

All you need to start sprouting are your seeds or pulses (one type per jar), a large jar, muslin cloth (or a square cut from an old pair of tights!) and a large rubber band.

To sprout my lentils, I filled one-eighth of a large glass jar with green lentils, then filled the jar up with water. After soaking them overnight in a warm place, I drained the lentils and put a square of muslin cloth on the top of the jar, securing with a rubber band. I tipped the jar upside down, propped it up at an angle and left it to drain over a small bowl. Each day, for three days, I rinsed the lentils in a colander and put them back in the jar (without water) -- and delighted in the fact that they seemed to sprout before my very eyes. After the three days were up, the sprouted lentils were ready to eat, so I transferred the jar to the fridge.

When looking for a delicious recipe to use these blooming sprouts in, I turned to an essential book for Irish vegetarians -- Cornucopia at Home (Atrium), the cookbook created by the team from Cornucopia restaurant in Dublin's city centre. It's jam-packed with recipes, tips and anecdotes about life in a vegetarian restaurant. It also has a very moving preface written by Deirdre McCafferty, who set up Cornucopia along with her late husband Neil. The couple introduced 'living' salads to their menus nearly a decade ago and they are consistently among the most popular items on the menu.

This recipe makes enough for six to eight people in my estimation, so you might want to halve it if it's for fewer people. It's delicious after a few hours in the fridge, when the flavours have had time to mingle.

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