JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Monday, February 04, 2008

Braised mixed lentils

This is what I've been living on for the past few days ... a really fabulous lentil mixture, perfumed with cinnamon, flavoured with smoked paprika, which lends the dish a trace of meatiness (it's the predominant spice in chorizo).

The recipe came from Fiona, the Cottage Smallholder, part of a three-step recipe for vegetarian moussaka. I have been meaning to make the moussaka, but there hasn't been time. I was going to make it tonight with the last helping - but YIPPEEE, I can't, because LUCIUS IS COMING HOME.

It's good hot or cold ... lunch today was a dollop of cold lentils, some spiced cabbage, a tiny bit of roasted onion which has been lurking in the fridge unnoticed for nearly a week, some fromage frais and a little of Delia's spiced apricot chutney which I made a couple of years ago and then forgot about (I'll post this excellent chutney in the next few days), sprinkled with mixed seed sprouts. Excellent combination.

Braised mixed lentils
for 6

2 cloves garlic
250g Pardana lentils
25g Puy lentils
50g red lentils
a little red wine
1 tin chopped tomatoes
stock (or water)
1/2 tsp mixed herbs
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
one cinnamon stick
pinch of sugar

Gently fry three or four chopped onions - more if you like them (and we do). When they are soft and not quite golden, add a couple of crushed cloves of garlic and continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes. Add a good glug of red wine and bubble up. Add the tomatoes, herbs and spices, then add enough stock or water to just cover the lentils. If you are lucky, you will then remember to add the sugar, although it probably wouldn't be a disaster if you forgot. Pepper would probably be good, too.

Simmer this, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes. You should end up with a fairly dry mixture, although you want a little sauce, so add more liquid if necessary.

If you are going on to make the moussaka, at this point you add 70g grated feta, 2tbsp grated parmesan, and 1-2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs. This you would then layer in a flat dish with cooked aubergine (starting and ending with aubergine), or courgette. You would top this with some kind of white sauce - a cheesy bechamel is usual, but I would use my egg and yoghurt topping (perhaps flavoured with some anchovy rather than nutmeg) - quicker, easier, lighter, tastier.

A couple of notes: Fiona says this recipe comes from Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book - I couldn't find it there, or anything like it. But I may have been in too much of a hurry, and I'll go back to it soon, because she has a very interesting section on lentils.

The other point is that - practically speaking - there's not much difference between the Pardana and the Puy lentils. By that I mean that they take about the same time to cook, and neither type disintegrates when you cook them. So you could use just one of those. But don't be tempted to leave out the red lentils, as their mush lends an important (but small) element of texture to this dish - although not, I think, enough to put off those who say they dislike the texture of lentils and dhal.

This post is for My Legume Love Affair, an event being organised by Susan, The Well Seasoned Cook.

Related posts:

Nigel Slater's lentil stew
Pasta with braised lentils
Lentil soup with ruby chard
Beetroot and lentils
Lentil salad with homemade cheese


Anke said...

I frequently cook with lentils, red wine and paprika but I've never thought of combining the three. sounds like a great combo :-)

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

It did sound like a good combo, especially if trying to cut down on meat.

Hope Lucius is doing well and that you are not too frazzled. Take care. x

Sophie said...

Such good news that Lucius is coming home today. I bet you'll miss being able to eat all those lentils mind :-)

Susan said...

Smoked paprika sounds fabulous, Joanna! Chorizo has great flavor, but since I don't eat pork any more, I am happy for your simple idea.

Thanks for sharing your lovely recipe!