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I've had lentils that are cooked through but retain their form, as well as lentils that are cooked down into an almost blended substance.

What's the origin of each type of preparation, and when is it best used? Are certain kinds of seasoning better for either method?

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Welcome to Seasoned Advice! The seasoning tips part of your question doesn't fit our site as well - we avoid broad questions with a lot of possible answers, especially more opinion-based ones. I'll go ahead and tweak that a bit, but you're probably better off searching for recipes, or you could pop into Seasoned Advice Chat and see if anyone has any thoughts. –  Jefromi Aug 21 '13 at 3:14
    
You're asking for quite a lot of information here. The consistency of cooked lentils has a lot to do with the variety of lentil you use (French green lentils hold their shape well, split red lentils are that blended texture you mentioned), but the final texture depends on the preparation style as well. This is just too broad to be answerable right now. If you say what texture you're going for, we might be able to suggest a type of lentil and/or cooking method to achieve that, but it's too much to ask for all possible types and methods. –  Laura Sep 20 '13 at 15:09
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2 Answers

There are many different kinds of lentils, each of which have unique properties when cooked. Some lentils, like French lentils, will hold their shape very well when cooked. Most whole lentils will actually hold up fairly well unless severely overcooked. Frequently for the dishes with a more homogenous texture, split lentils (frequently masoor dal) are used. In addition to being split, the seed coat of the lentils has been removed, so if they are cooked thoroughly there isn't really anything holding them together.

Usually they are just simmered in a liquid until tender. The seasonings are up to your personal taste, or the recipe you are using. The one advice that I would give is to taste as you go. If you want the lentils to remain whole, be sure to avoid overcooking them. Conversely, if you want a smooth texture, cook them until completely tender.

Also, a lot of the dishes that you refer to as having a blended texture may in fact be blended.

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Lentils with a husk retain their shape, but huskless they become mushy.

I use the huskless red lentils for dal, which is very common. It's sometimes thick and sometimes sloppy. I usually use tumeric at the start of cooking, and I usually add a tarka of spices at the end. I have it with rice, it's wholesome, filling, and delicious. Dal is, of course, from the Indian sub-continent.

I use puy lentils (with a husk) in salads or in stews, generally not spiced, more commonly with Mediterranean or middle eastern flavours.

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