The people who live in this house divide between those who think lentils all taste the same (horrid, mushy, nasty, pointless, to use a few recent descriptions), and the person who is a bit of a lentil connoisseur. That person was pleased to discover that Merchant Gourmet has started to import a new type from Spain, pardina lentils, and found them on introductory offer in Waitrose.
New recipe needed for new lentils: I decided to serve them with roasted spiced beetroot, pinching this idea from Sarah Raven's new Garden Cookbook (although completely changing the nature of her original dish). I like to try new lentil recipes, as, ever the optimist, I am sure that one day I will find a dish all my family will devour - and legumes are such heart-healthy food that I like to persevere in the face of severe discouragement.
Cook 150g lentils in a mix of white wine and water, with slivers of garlic (actually, homemade stock would be better, and plain water would do just as well). I would normally use Puy lentils, which would take around 20 minutes to get to the tender-not-mushy stage; the pardina lentils took nearly 40. Meanwhile, roast four or five beetroots, coating them with olive oil, and a mush of the following spices bashed in your mortar: two star anise, seeds from 4 cardammoms, and 2 teaspoons each of juniper berries, caraway and cumin seeds. This aromatic combination will bring out the earthiness and sweetness of the beetroot. I nearly didn't bother with the cumin, because I often don't like the note it imparts, but here - well, try it for yourself.
When the lentils had finished cooking, I tasted them, and found them sharp, rather unpleasantly sharp. No chance of changing any minds about lentils. What to do? Looking in the fridge for redcurrant jelly, I found instead blackcurrant jelly, and put a tablespoonful into the lentils, where it melted away. I then added chopped mint and parsley, less than I wanted, because we seem to have weeded away most of the mint plants (they have come to rest, inconveniently, in a rose bed), and because of course the rabbits have got to the parsley first. A big handful of each would be ideal.
I put the lentils onto a shallow dish, and strewed the sliced beetroot over. Delicious. The boys made a terrible fuss (two horrible foods at once, etc) before eating a miniscule amount, Lettice ate only the beetroot with one or two lentils clinging, and Lucius ate it silently, with the air of someone concentrating hard on doing his duty. I ate lots. I'd have liked it better with fat juicy black Puy lentils. Turns out pardino is Spanish for small and grey!
PS this is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Anna at Anna's Cool Finds
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