LENTILS are well regarded within western cuisine in their whole form but there are very few recipes including lentil flour.
In the subcontinent lentil flour is a prized ingredient and included in countless recipes.
A joint initiative between Charles Sturt University (CSU) and Agriculture Victoria is looking to get Aussie cooks to follow the subcontinental lead regarding lentil flour and by extension increase lentil consumption in Australia.
The aim of the project is to develop new products which may also deliver health benefits to consumers and boost returns for producers.
One of the major pushes is to get Australians to eat more lentil flour, mainly by incorporating it in recipes containing wheat flour.
CSU PhD candidate Drew Portman, from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Functional Grains (FGC), is examining how lentil flour can be incorporated into wheat based foods.
“Lentils are widely consumed within Indian subcontinent and that’s where the bulk of the product grown in Australia is exported,” Mr Portman said.
“Although lentils are gaining popularity as a food source in western diets, wheat is the staple grain used for manufacturing food products,” he said.
“That means many of us are missing out on the nutritional benefits of lentils as they’re a great source of protein and the essential amino acids.”
One product under investigation is bread made from a lentil and wheat flour mix.
“This has the potential to make a product that most of us eat every day more nutritious,” Mr Portman said.
The use of lentil flour could have a key boost for lentil producers in that it provides a market for off-specification product.
“We hope this will result in a higher-value market for lentils that have been downgraded which are not suitable for splitting and currently sold as stock feed,” Mr Portman said.
Currently farmers complain there is often ‘cliff-face’ pricing, where the No 2 classification lentil price is substantially lower than the price for No 1s.
The research at Agriculture Victoria’s Grains Innovation Park in Horsham and involves testing the rheological and baking properties of flour as well as evaluating the quality of bread and its nutritional
properties for potential health benefits.
“The aim is to optimize the blending ratio so that the bread has the baking and eating qualities seen in traditional wheat based products but also delivers the nutritional benefits of lentils,” Mr Portman said.
“Moving forward we will also be investigating how lentil and wheat flour blends can be used in the production of extruded foods such as pasta and snacks foods.
“We’re also investigating if the lentil seed-coat, which are currently discarded, can be used to increase the fibre content of food products”.