Winter is well and truly here and whilst the Winter Solstice has passed, there are a few more dark nights ahead of us. I thought I’d share a recipe that’s ticks all the boxes as far as hearty, comforting fare. A bowl of braised lentils with some crusty bread will stick to your ribs and you’ll be ready to get out there and chop some wood, wade through the snow or perhaps just mow the lawn.
I discovered this recipe quite by accident and to be honest, I can’t recall how. I have a sneaking suspicion that as blogger Tinned Tomatoes is from Scotland, it may also have been via wunderkind 10 year old Scottish food blogger, Never Seconds who blogs about her school dinners every day. Never Seconds has become a bit of a superstar in the blogging community and has managed to raise an astonishing £131 000 for charity Mary’s Meals school feeding projects along the way.
For some reason, this stood out from the many, many recipes I read every week. It’s made slightly differently from how I would normally cook lentils in that the tomatoes are added later in the dish and it’s cooked in the oven rather than on the stove. It’s dead easy and creates a beautifully rich sauce. My favourite way to serve braised lentils is with a buttery polenta and pork and fennel sausages. You can find the original recipe from Tinned Tomatoes here. She in turn borrowed the recipe from Alex Mackay who suggests making the lentils as a base for other dishes such as Lentil Moussaka.
Richly Braised Lentils
- 2 x medium onions, peeled and diced
- 2 x garlic cloves, peeled and diced
- 3 x tbsp tomato puree
- 2 x tbsp olive oil
- 700ml + 2 tbsp extra water
- 375ml robust red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon
- 250g Puy lentils, rinsed and picked
- 400g tinned, chopped tomatoes
- 2 x bay leaves
- large pinch of sugar
- generous seasoning of salt and pepper
- Heat olive oil on a medium heat in a large, oven proof pan and add onions, garlic and 2 tbsp water.
- Sweat for 7 – 10 minutes until onions and garlic are softened. Add another tbsp water if the mixture starts to dry out.
- Turn heat to high and add tomato paste. Fry, stirring constantly and watching that the paste does not burn but starts to brown. The advice is ‘when it smells like sun dried tomatoes – it’s ready’.
- Add red wine and lentils and bring to the boil. Boil until wine has reduced by half.
- Add the tinned tomatoes, bay leaves and water and boil for 5 minutes
- Cover the pan and place in an oven pre-heated to 170c.
- Braise for 30 minutes then take lid off and braise for another 30 minutes or until lentils are tender but hold their shape. Sit lentils once or twice throughout the process.
- When the lentils are cooked, the liquid should be thick and just at the level of the lentils. If there is too much liquid, place back on stove and boil for a few minutes.
- Add sugar, salt and pepper, sir and cover pan tightly. Set aside (off heat) to allow lentils to absorb seasonings.
Serves: 2 – 3 as a main / 4 – 6 as a side
– Puy lentils are best for this dish as they hold their shape but they often need some extra cooking time
– Why sugar? Always use sugar and salt in tomato based dishes to balance acidity
– This freezes very well in meal sized portions
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