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Yes, you read correctly: muffins with lentils! But before I reveal more about this amazing idea for sneaking healthy proteins into your next sweet snack:

Welcome to the New Year! Wishing you all that is good and beautiful for 2015….. which very neatly brings me back to lentils: eating lentils at the beginning of the new year is an Italian custom that associates lentils with prosperity. And although I am in no way Italian, I enjoy symbolic traditions (and lentils). I was searching for a creative new way to prepare them when I stumbled across this recipe, which of course I could not resist. I will admit I was a little doubtful, but (trust me on this) it works!

These muffins are moist, not too sweet, full of flavour (and none of it ‘lentily’) and last but not least they are actually rather healthy: I made them using half whole wheat flour (I have not tried but am sure you can experiment increasing the whole wheat ratio). Also they are made with oil instead of butter. Granted, they contain sugar, but really…… who is going to be thinking about that when they are biting into a muffin that is studded with power packed lentils 😉

I split the batter in to batches to experiment with frozen cherries, blueberries and raspberries. It was a close call, but I slightly preferred the raspberries because of beautiful contrast between the tart fruit and the rich chocolate. Nonetheless I think I will take the same approach next time and making different batches as I liked the variation.  I am sure there are many more options for filling them: chocolate chips and walnuts, half a plum, a strawberry, poached pear…..By the way, I did make some without any fruit, but I found them a little dry and plain in comparison.

But whatever you add, do not leave out the lentils 🙂

Ingredients
(a hardly altered from the blog “Our Fresh Kitchen“)
12 muffins

75g (3/4 cup) green lentils
About 225ml (1 3/4 cup) water
1/2 tsp salt
60g (1/4 cup) all purpose flour
65g (1/4 cup) whole wheat flour
50-60g (1/2 cup) Demerara sugar (NL: donkere basterd suiker DE: dunkeler brauner Zucker)
30g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1 generous tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
125ml (1/2 cup) mild tasting olive oil
2 eggs (see “tips” for vegan alternative)
1 tsp vanilla essence
200g frozen fruit (either half blueberries half raspberries or all of one sort)

Recipe

  1. Bring lentils, water and salt to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for about 45 min. Check half way through to ensure there is enough water. Cook until lentils are very soft and all the water is absorbed.
  2. When the lentils are done remove from heat and allow to cool slightly about 10 min.
  3. Preheat oven to 190C (375F).
  4. Prepare your 12 hole muffin tin(s) (If using a silicon muffin tin no grease is needed otherwise you might want to grease your tin or line it with paper cups).
  5. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients – the two types of flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and – soda as well as the chili flakes.
  6. In a second bowl or measuring cup combine oil, egg and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
  7. Stir the cooked lentils into the dry mix and combine. Then stir in the wet ingredients – the oil, egg and vanilla.
  8. Fold fruit into the batter (even if you are using both types of fruit you can easily use the one large bowl to fold blueberries under half the batter and raspberries under the other half)
  9. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.
  10. Bake for about 20-25 min or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (do not over bake as the muffins will dry out).
  11. Remove the muffins from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  12. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

Tips & Variations

  • For a vegan recipe replace the eggs with a mix of 2 tbsp chia seeds and 6 tbsp water that you allow to sit for 5 min until it forms a gel
  • Instead of the berries you can fold in chocolate chips and/or walnuts, half a plum, a strawberry, poached pear

I have linked this post to the novice gardener’s fabulous initiative of hosting fiesta Fridays
https://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/fiesta-friday-50/

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Conjuring up spring with vibrant salad

Conjuring up spring with vibrant salad


I realize it is only late February, but this week I have been feeling the promise of spring in the air. Maybe I am noticing it because I was away for a few days, but suddenly the days seem longer – the light lingers until evening instead of fading in the afternoon. And that tree by the door – it is full of tight little green buds that are ready to burst into life.

Suddenly I was craving colourful and fresh foods (with a bit of substance as there is still a crisp edge to the day). This quinoa salad hit the spot: vibrant and soothing at the same time.

A handful of broad beans thrown in adds a boost of protein, fiber, potassium and energy-providing B vitamins. Broad beans are also known as fava, butter, Windsor, horse or even English beans.  Dicke Bohnen in German and tuinbonen Dutch. Shelling them takes a few minutes, but I loved peeling back the wintery grey shell to reveal that fresh nugget of powerful green. The earthy taste of the beans is echoed by the creamy avocado and is then contrasted by the zing of the radishes and lemon juice.

I have made this salad a few times and have noticed that sometimes I love the strong zingy flavour of the lemon whereas other days I really want a more mellow flavour. (And sometimes I am just too lazy to segment a lemon.) Depending on your mood you can leave out the lemon segments and use more or less juice.

For a simple lunch the salad with some crusty bread, olive oil and balsamic. It is also makes a great dinner paired with a chicken filet or a steak.
Or if you are like me and cannot choose: split your portion into two before adding the avocado. Have half for dinner with some chicken halloumi skewers (recipe to follow soon) and the rest the next day for lunch.

Ingredients
(adapted from Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’)
Serves 6

200g quinoa (or leftover cooked quinoa)
500g shelled broad beans (fresh or frozen) (NL: tuin bonen DE: Dicke Bohnen)
2 lemons
2 ripe avocado
200g radishes
50g purple radish cress (or small purple basil leaves or regular garden cress)
1 tbsp ground cumin
75 ml olive oil
1/4 tsp chili flakes
salt and black pepper

Recipe

  1. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve (that removes the bitter flavour.) Place in saucepan with 1,5 times the amount of water. Bring to the boil. Place on the smallest burner on the lowest heat and allow to cook about 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow to stand 5 min. Spread on a plate and allow to cool.  (for the original method Ottolenghi uses see “Tips”)
  2. Bring water to the boil. Throw the beans into the water. Bring the water back to the boil and then immediately drain and rinse the beans. Gently press each bean to pop it out of its shell.
  3. Optional: Cut the bottom and top off each lemon. Stand each one on the chopping board and cut of the rind and white from top to bottom following the curve of the lemon.
  4. Over a bowl slice in between the membranes to cut out each of the lemon segments. Add segments to the bowl and squeeze in any juice that is left in the membranes.
  5. Cut the avocado in half right up to the stone. Separate the two halves. Use a knife to cut the avocado into cubes inside the skin. Spoon out the cubes and add them to the bowl of lemon.
  6. Slice the radish into thin slices.
  7. Combine quinoa, avocado the lemon segments (and some or all of) the lemon juice, the radish and half the cress. Season with cumin, oil, chili, salt and pepper. Carefully toss and check the seasoning.
  8. Plate and top with remaining half of cress.


Serve with

Tips & Tricks
Ottolenghi prepares the quinoa for this dish by bringing it to the boil with plenty of water and allowing it to simmer for 9 min. He then drains it in a fine sieve, rinses it with water and leaves it to dry.

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Some of the health benefits

  • Folate participates in biochemical processes that create genetic material, build cells and metabolize amino acids. It’s so essential for the growth and development of new cells that it helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord when taken before and during early pregnancy. Everyone needs folate to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. One cup of cooked broad beans contains 44 percent of the recommended daily intake of folate.
  • Iron: Most beans, including broad beans, are good sources of iron. One cup of broad beans has 3 milligrams of iron, which is 32 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 14 percent for women. In addition to carrying oxygen throughout the body, iron-dependent enzymes sense when oxygen levels drop and initiate processes that allow the body to compensate. Iron supports the immune system by functioning as an antioxidant that protects the white blood cells responsible for destroying bacteria.
  • Zinc: Enzymes are proteins that activate and speed up chemical processes inside your body. Almost 100 enzymes depend on zinc to fulfill their roles, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. In this role, zinc is vital for normal growth and development. Zinc deficiencies can cause growth retardation and delayed neurological development. Your immune system also suffers if you don’t get enough zinc. Decreased levels of zinc are associated with fewer white bloods cells available to fight invading pathogens and infection. The zinc from 1 cup of broad beans provides 15 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 21 percent for women.
  • Parkinson’s: If you have Parkinson’s disease, talk to your physician before eating broad beans. Broad beans are a natural source a levodopa, which is converted into the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is one of the medications used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s, but consuming levodopa from broad beans can cause both good or bad effects, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Their possible impact should be assessed by a doctor familiar with your condition.

(source: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-broad-beans-4389.html)

Fennel and rice make a perfect match with in this tasty twist on Mujaddara

Fennel and rice make a perfect match in this tasty twist on Mujaddara

By now I can hardly believe it, but I am sure that were years and years that I did not eat one single green, brown or black lentil. Not because I do not like them, I have always enjoyed them. But simply because they never crossed my mind; so they never crossed my lips.

But somehow they managed to sneak themselves back in, by hiding in little tin cans when I discovered that a can of lentils makes a great base for a salad. Perfect for anything from a bbq party to those rushed evenings where you need to rustle up a meal with what is left at the back of the fridge.

Once they found their way into my house they quickly became a staple. By now I have about five or six different types of dried lentils in my cupboard. I also still have a can for emergencies, but I prefer cooking them from dried as it is so simple to do.

Lentils are a great way to introduce more legumes into your diet.  Legumes are high in protein and fiber and they provide a steady source of glucose for energy. But if your body is not used to them, they can be hard to digest. The secret is to introduce them slowly and steadily into your regular diet. The best legumes to start with are apparently lentils, as they are easier to digest than beans. It also seems to help to combine them with rice. Another trick is to cook them with vegetables and spices that have antiflatulent properties. (This recipe combines all these using rice, a fennel bulb as well as cumin, turmeric, bay leaves.)

So really all you need to do is to fry some onions and cook them with lentils, rice and spices. In Arab this is also know and a Mujaddara (a great dish if you fridge is completely empty and you have to resort to the store cupboard). But to add some extra flavour and goodness this recipe also includes some leeks and greens. This dish works as a simple one pot dinner (maybe with some yoghurt) or as a part of a fabulous meal (with some kofta or lamb chops hummus and pita.)

So here is my attempt to sneak some more legumes into your house by pairing them with my vegetable of the week, fennel, to make a match that is tasty, healthy and easy to stomach.

 

Ingredients
(adapted from ‘fd feeding an md‘)
Serves 3-4

150g (1 cup) green or brown lentils
oil
2 leeks
salt
2 garlic cloves
100-150g (3/4-1 cup) whole grain rice
1 fennel bulb
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
ground allspice (NL, DE: Piment. Can be replaced with a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
optional: turmeric
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
black pepper
salt
1 tbsp apple vinegar (a not very authentic but tasty optional addition)
6 handfuls of greens – I used spinach (see tips& variations)

 

Recipe

  1. Place the lentils into a bowl and cover with warm tap water. Soak for 10 min.
  2. Slice the leeks open lengthwise and rinse. Slice the leek thinly.
  3. Heat a pot or Dutch oven and add the oil.
  4. Add the leeks, cover with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 5-10 min.
  5. Remove half the leeks, salt en keep seperate until later.
  6. Slice the fennel into half down the center and then into thin slices.
  7. Add to the leek, cover and cook until softened, about 3-5 min.
  8. Add in minced garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 sec.
  9. Stir in rice and sauté about 2 min.
  10. Mix in the cumin, allspice, cayenne and turmeric (if using).
  11. Drain the lentils, rinse and add to the pot.
  12. Pour in 1 liter (4 cups) of water.
  13. Add the bay leaf and the cinnamon stick.
  14. Cover and bring to the boil. As soon as it has comet to the boil, turn the heat low and cook for 15-10 min or until the lentils and rice are almost cooked. (I move the pot to my smallest burner and turn it down as low as possible.)
  15. When you are testing the rice to see if it is done, remember you have not added salt yet. Do not underestimate what it does for a dish!
  16. Season the dish generously with salt, pepper and a splash of apple vinegar.
  17. In the meanwhile wash the greens. They should be the size of a young, small spinach leaf so depending on what greens you are using chop if necessary. Remove any hard stalks.
  18. Lightly fold the greens into the lentil mixture. Top with the reserved leeks. Cover and cook for another 5 min until the rice and lentils are tender and the greens are wilted.
  19. Remove from the heat and let stand 5 min.

 

Tips & Variations

  • Instead of spinach you can use any other type of green like purslane (NL: postelein, DE:Portulak) or turnip tops (NL: raapstelen, DE: Stilmus/Ruebstil )
  • The back bones of this recipe are the onion (or leeks) rice, lentils and some spices. All other additions are optional.


Serve with

For a simple quick meal with

  • Yoghurt (with mint and cucumber cubes)

For a dinner spread with

Some more lentil recipes

Some of the health benefits of fennel:

Cancer: The most important nutrient in this vegetable might be anethole, a component in the volatile oil of fennel and one of the most powerful agents against cancer occurrence, possibly due to a biological mechanism that shuts down or prevents the activation of NF-kappaB, a gene-altering, inflammation-triggering molecule.(source: food facts) http://foodfacts.mercola.com/fennel.html

Flatulence: Fennel is very popular as an antiflatulent, due to the carminative properties of the aspartic acid found in fennel. Its extract can be used by everyone, from infants to the elderly, as a way to reduce flatulence and to expel excess gas from the stomach. It is commonly used in medicines to reduce symptoms of non-ulcer dyspepsia and flatulence in infants and young children.

Anemia: Iron andhistidine, an amino acid found in fennel, are both helpful in treatment of anemia. Whereas iron is the chief constituent of hemoglobin, histidine stimulates production of hemoglobin and also helps in the formation of various other components of the blood

Immune System: 1 cup of fennel bulb contains almost 20% of the daily requirement of vitamin-C, which makes fennel quite a rich source of this beneficial element of our diet. Vitamin-C improves general immune system health, produces and repairs skin tissue, helps to form collagen, and also protects the blood vessel walls as an antioxidant against the harmful effects of free radicals that can frequently lead to heart disease!

Menstrual Disorders: Fennel is also an Emenagogue, meaning that it eases and regulates menstruation by properly regulating hormonal action in the body. Furthermore, fennel is used in a number of products to reduce the effects of PMS, and it is also used traditionally as a soothing pain reliever and relaxing agent for menopausal women.

Blood Pressure: Fennel is a very rich source of potassium, which is an essential nutrient in our bodies and is vital for a number of important processes. One of the attributes of potassium is its quality as a vasodilator, which means that it relaxes the tension of blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure. High blood pressure is connected to a wide range of health issues, including heart attack, stroke, and artherosclerosis. Also, for diabetic patients, blood pressure issues can make management of their insulin and glucose levels very difficult, and can be the cause of many potentially lethal complications. A cup of fennel bulb in your daily diet will pump you full of potassium and all the benefits that come along with it.
.(Source: organic facts)

http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/health-benefits-of-fennel.html

Comfort food - simple and heartwarming

Comfort food – simple and heartwarming


My “Vegetable of the Week” had to be something comforting and belly filling that goes with the these dark and cold winter evenings. So this week I am serving aubergine (eggplant) cooked into a creamy one-pot wonder with lentils.

I am not sure what it is about this dish, it is not fancy tasting or beautiful looking, but I have been cooking it over and over again in the last few weeks. Maybe it is because it comes together in just about half an hour. Maybe it is because it takes hardly any effort – just a little chopping and some stirring and in the end there is only one pot that needs washing.
But I think, mainly it is the earthy taste in combination with the soothing texture – every single spoonful brings a feeling of total comfort and warm fuzzies. The only problem is that I am always left wanting seconds and thirds, fourths and…. Well, you get the picture. At some point I even stopped cooking double portions as the second serving never made it to the next day.

I will be honest, this is not a dish you serve guests. It is not fancy or complex; this is honest weekday fare you make for your family or just for yourself.

Typically I eat this stew as a main course with some cooked green beans and maybe a dollop of yoghurt. You could also serve this as a side to spicy kofta or lamb chops.

There is only one secret you need to know to make this dish work: always taste it a few times towards the end of the cooking time and season it until it tastes so good you do not want to put the spoon down. Be prepared that the first bite will not blow your socks off. The secret is adding just the right amount of balsamic vinegar, lemon and salt. (I realise that balsamic is not authentically Lebanese, but in my opinion is absolutely essential.)

Now there is only one more question to answer: To peel or not to peel? You can go either way. Peeling the aubergine will result in a more creamy stew. I leave the skin on: I prefer the texture, a large amount of the nutrients of the aubergine are in the skin and last (but certainly not least) it is less work.

Ingredients
(inspired by the blog “Tortore”)

Serves 2

2 red onions
oil
1-2 garlic cloves
150g lentils (I like green lentils for this dish although Puy or French would also be good)
300-350ml water
½ cube vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
2 large or 3 medium aubergines
balsamic vinegar (the secret ingredient)
lemon juice
optional: ground chili flakes
salt, pepper
optional: chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander (cilantro)
optional: pomegranate seeds

Recipe

  1. Chop the onion finely.
  2. In a pot heat the oil and gently fry the onion until translucent.
  3. Squeeze in garlic and fry until soft.
  4. Wash the lentils and add.
  5. Add the water.
  6. Sprinkle in the stock.
  7. Add bay leaves.
  8. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil.
  9. Turn down the heat to low and cook 10 min.
  10. Cut the aubergine into chunks (you can peel them as well). Add to the lentils after they have cooked 10 min. Cover again with the lid.
  11. Stir around every 10 min and cook until the  lentils are tender and the stew is the consistency you like. With peeled aubergine this is around 20-30 min with unpeeled 30-40 min.
  12. Now for the important bit: this dish is nothing if you do not season it right. Add about 1 tbsp of balsamic, salt and pepper. Now taste – usually with the first bite you will doubt how this could ever turn interesting. With the right amount of balsamic and salt it will taste fabulous.


Serve with

  • I usually only have some cooked green beans on the side, but it would also be great with
  • Spicy kofta
  • Lamb chops

Other aubergine recipes

Some of the health benefits

  • Low in calories, no fat and high in fiber.
  • Good for the heart: Research studies show they can lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. But you must cook them the right way to get these benefits.
  • Improve blood circulation and nourish the brain. But remember—these nutrients are concentrated in the skin of the eggplant.
  • Relieve stress through being high in bioflavonoids.
  • Strengthens the capillaries and prevents blood clots with vitamin K.
  • And if that was not enough, they are full or iron, calcium and other minerals.
    (source: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-great-reasons-to-eat-eggplants.html)
A simple weeknight treat

A simple weeknight treat


I present, “The Vegetable of the Week“: leafy green spinach.

I couldn’t stand the stuff when I was a child – ugh, that pureed frozen stodge, usually heated for ages. But then I discovered that spinach is actually a lovely fresh leafy vegetable….that is, if you only heat it ever so briefly or eat it raw.

Now spinach is one of my favourite veggies, especially for a quick weeknight meal.

This dish, for example, is one of my go-to dinners for busy week days. Usually I take the 30 minutes to cook some dried lentils, but when I am really rushed and starving I just pop open a tin of lentils and have a plate of healthy, comforting food ready in 15 minutes.

By the way, instead of cooking the fish in a fry pan, you can also prepare it en papillotte (wrapped in parchment paper and baked in the oven). Although it took me a few tries to get a feeling for the time the fish needs to cook, I now prefer this method. I’ll share my ‘recipe’ (more like an instruction) for fish en papillotte soon!

And if you like the idea of pairing fish and lentils have a look at this unique and delicious recipe for Tuna with lentils and strawberries (yes! Strawberries.)

Ingredients
(from the blog ‘Dishing up Delights’
Serves 2

150g lentils – I like using French Lentils, but regular green lentils are great to (or a can of lentils)
375ml water
optional: ¼ stock cube
optional: 1 bay leaf
2 tbsp fresh parsley
2 tbsp fresh basil
2 tbsp fresh mint (optional)
400g spinach, organic*
1 small shallot (or a ¼ onion)
1 tbs oil
100g cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 fillets of firm white fish like halibut

Recipe

  1. If using dried lentils: Rinse the lentils in a sieve. Put in a small saucepan with the water and the stock , bay leaf (if using). Cook according to package instructions (usually: bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cook 30 or so min).
  2. If using tinned lentils: Rinse the lentils in a sieve. Put in a small saucepan with a tiny bit of water and warm gently whilst preparing the rest of the meal.
  3. Chop the parsley finely and carefully cut the basil and mint into very fine small ribbons.
  4. Wash the spinach. Chop the shallot. Cut the tomatoes into halves
  5. Heat the oil and gently fry the shallot until soft.
  6. Add the tomato and fry gently, turning them carefully a few times.
  7. Remove the tomato and shallots on to a plate. (Keep the pan on the stove.)
  8. Heat a separate pan and cook the fish.
  9. When the fish is almost done, throw the spinach in the pan you used for the onion and. Move the spinach around just enough for it to wilt.
  10. Add the chopped herbs and the lemon juice to the lentils and check for pepper and salt.
  11. Plate up the lentils mixed with the spinach and topped with tomatoes and fish.

* Tips

Spinach is one of the high pesticide-containing foods, so it’s important to eat organic spinach if you can.

Other recipes using spinach

 

 

 

Some of the health benefits

  • This is a very nutrient-dense food. It’s low in calories yet very high in vitamins, minerals. For example:
  • Spinach is loaded with flavonoids which act as antioxidants, protecting the body from free radicals. Researchers have discovered at least 13 different flavonoid compounds that act as anti-cancer substances. The various nutrients offer much in the way of disease protection.
  • Another of the benefits of spinach is that this is a heart-healthy food. It’s an outstanding source of vitamins C and A which are antioxidants that help reduce free radical amounts in the body. The antioxidants work to keep cholesterol from oxidizing. In addition, folate is good for a healthy cardiovascular system, as well as magnesium, a mineral that helps to lower high blood pressure.
  • In comparison to red meat, spinach provides a lot less calories, is fat and cholesterol free, and an excellent source of iron. Because iron is a component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all body cells, it’s needed for good energy.
    (source: www.naturally-healthy-eating.com)
Some lentils, cleriac, nuts and  a bit of seasoning - amazing that something so simpel can taste this increadible

Some lentils, cleriac, nuts and a bit of seasoning – amazing that something so simpel can taste this increadible

Do you already own Yotoma Ottolenghi’s amazing recipe book ‘Plenty’? No? It is a collection of extremely creative and unbelievably tasty vegetarian recipes.

I already shared recipes based on his chickpea pancakes and his lentils with roast vegetables and grilled aubergine. As I mention in this last post, I will not be sharing many of his recipes as you really should buy his book. But to whet your appetite, here is one more wonderful dish.

And just so you know: I have cooked a few other dishes from the book. I loved them, but will not share them with you. I will not even tell you what they are called so you cannot search for them on-line. You will just have to get the book yourself and explore 🙂

A big thank you to RE for the beautiful little dishes I served the lentils in. Such a lovely present – you know me so well 🙂

 

Ingredients
( hardly altered from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe from ‘Plenty’)
Serves 3-4

60g whole hazelnuts
200g Beluga or Puy Lentils
700ml water
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
1 small celeriac (about 650g)
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp hazelnut oil (alternatively use walnut oil)
3 tbsp balsamic (or red-wine) vinegar
4 tbsp chopped mint
salt, black pepper 

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 140C..
  2. Scatter hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast for 15 minutes.
  3. Allow to cool and chop roughly.
  4. Combine lentils, water, bay leaves and thyme in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or all dente.
  5. Drain in a sieve and discard leaves and thyme.
  6. Peel the celeriac and cut into 1 cm chips.
  7. Bring water to the boil. Add salt and cook celeriac for 8-12 minutes or until just tender. Drain.
  8. Mix the hot lentils (if they are cool they will not absorbe the flavours of the dressing) with olive oil, 2 tbsp of the hazelnut oil, vinegar, pepper and plenty of salt.
  9. Add three quarters of the celeriac and stir. Adjust seasoning.
  10. To serve warm: stir in half the mint and half the hazelnuts. Spoon on a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining tbsp of hazelnut oil. Garnish with the rest of the celeriac, mint and nuts.
  11. To serve cold: allow the lentils to cool and adjust seasoning again; possibly adding some more vinegar as well. When you are ready to serve finish the dish the same was as when serving hot.

Serve with

  • As a vegetarian main with a side salad. Yotam recommends radish, cucumber, dill dressed with sour cream and olive oil
  • As a side dish to a plain steamed white fish
Honest and hearty tasting lentils with crunchy roast vegetables and silky aubergine

Honest and hearty tasting lentils with crunchy roast vegetables and silky aubergine


Welcome to 2013!

Although I am not superstitious, I really do enjoy rituals of celebration. So what better way is there to start the New Year than with a plate full of lentils for abundance of happiness (or is it money?).

This recipe is from Ottolenghi’s “Plenty”.  (It cannot be a coincidence that I gifted this book to myself on Thanksgiving last year 🙂  )

As lovely as all this the symbolism is, I believe that the first days of the year are for relaxing and lounging around rather than standing in the kitchen for hours on end. So I would not be suggesting this recipe if it were not so easy to put together. The only thing that takes a little effort is the grilled aubergine. At the same time it really tastes amazing and adds another dimension to the dish. I have two suggestions:  either make as much of this fabulous grilled aubergine as possible; keep the rest (refrigerate or freeze) to make baba ganouch to have later with some soft warps and lamb, for example. Or take a short cut by leavening out the aubergine and replacing it with a piece of delicate steamed fish.

By the way, Ottolenghi’s “Plenty”  is a wonderful vegetarian recipe book. I will not be sharing many recipes from it on my blog as I think you really should get it yourself. So consider this a little amuse bouch for the New Year.

Ingredients
(virtually only ratios altered from Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’)
Serves 2

1-2 medium aubergine for this dish (but make as many as you can)
2 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar (alternative: balsamic)
4 tbsp olive oil
150g lentils (Black Beluga I love for this dish as they keep their shape but Puy will do)
5 small carrots
4 celery sticks
2 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme (or a little dried if you are at a pinch)
1/2 white onion
18 cherry tomatoes
1/3 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh coriander
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 tbsp fresh parsley
salt, black pepper
optional: 2 tbsp yoghurt (or creme fraiche)

 

Recipe

Aubergines

Although the traditional way to cook aubergines is oven an open flame, I prefer making them under the grill so I can prepare as many as possible in one go.

Grill: Line a baking tray with a double layer of aluminum foil. Pierce aubergines a few times with a fork (to stop them from exploding.) Place them directly under a hot grill for about 1 hour, turning them a few times. The aubergines should deflate and the skin should burn and break.

Hob: Pierce aubergine a few times with fork. Place them directly over two moderate, open flames. Roast until burnt (about 15 min).

Lentils

  1. Rinse the lentils. Place them in a medium saucepan.
  2. Cut 2 carrots and 1 celery stick into large pieces. Add to lentils.
  3. Add 1/2 onion in one piece as well as bay leaves and thyme to the pot.
  4. Cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 25 min (or until lentils are tender but not mushy.)
  5. Drain in a sieve and remove all the vegetables and herbs.
  6. Transfer lentils to a mixing bowl, add 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp vinegar.
  7. Season with plenty of pepper and especially salt.
  8. Set aside somewhere warm (this dish is best served warm but can be served at room temperature.)

Vegetables

  1. Whilst the lentils are cooking, cut remaining 3 carrots and 3 celery sticks into 1-2 cm chunks.
  2. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.
  3. Throw the vegetables into a large oven dish and mix with1 tbsp olive oil, the sugar and some salt.
  4. Cook in the oven for 20 min until carrot is tender but still firm.

Assemble

  1. Chop the coriander, dill, parsley.
  2. Add 2/3 of the vegetables and herbs to the lentils. Carefully combine.
  3. Taste to adjust seasoning.
  4. Spoon lentils onto serving dish. Top with remaining vegetables and herbs.
  5. Pile aubergine on the top.
  6. Add a dollop of yoghurt if using.

Tips & Variations

  • If you are rushed for time skip roasting the aubergine and steam some fish instead
  • If you do have the time to make the aubergine make plenty refrigerate or freeze it to use for baba ganouch dip


Serve with

  • Some blanched green beans