BRAISED LENTILS WITH SPINACH

THIS RECIPE I LEARNED FROM MY GOOD FRIEND ADRIAN; IT’S BECOME ONE OF MY STAPLES, AND MIGHT BE THE MOST AFFORDABLE, ACCESSIBLE THING I COOK. AT A COST OF ABOUT $6, IT MAKES SOME FIFTEEN TO TWENTY PORTIONS, AND KEEPS FOR AGES (UP TO TWO WEEKS IN THE FRIDGE, INDEFINITELY IN THE FREEZER).

the recipe also INCLUDES TWO NEAT AND USEFUL TECHNIQUES: “BLOOMING” SPICES, and a method for CREAMING SOMETHING WITH ITSELF (I.E. WITHOUT ADDING ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS like CREAM).

YOU CAN VARY THE SPICES, BASED ON WHAT YOU HAVE. SMOKED PAPRIKA AND FENNEL, FOR EXAMPLE, WORK EXTREMELY WELL.-JRS

INGREDIENTS

– 900 g package of red lentils
– 280 g package of spinach
– 1 head of garlic, separated into cloves, peeled and minced
– 1 rounded tsp each of ground spices (e.g. coriander, cumin, fennel, paprika, black pepper)
– 2 bay leaves (optional)
– 1/2 an onion, skin on (optional)
– 1/2 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil)

Pour the lentils into a large colander and rinse thoroughly with water until the water runs clear. Transfer to a large pot.

Add about 1.75 litres of water, and a heaping tablespoon of salt. If you have and are using, toss in a couple bay leaves and the 1/2 onion.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat and let simmer. Skim any white froth from the top and discard (optional step). While the lentils are simmering, proceed with the next step.

BLOOMING THE SPICES

“Blooming” basically refers to roasting the spices in oil. It’s a great technique to deepen their taste and add flavour to the oil. (Plus, as a general tip, it’s best to avoid tossing raw spices into soups, etc., without roasting or toasting them first.)

To do it, pour the oil into a pan and warm over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and let simmer (not colour) lightly for 2-3 minutes.

Add all the spices and stir. The oil will foam and grow fragrant. Cook for thirty seconds or so (too long and you risk burning the spices) and then pour the contents of the pan into the pot with the lentils.

CREAMING THE LENTILS

Red lentils cook in about 15 minutes or so. After about ten minutes, taste the lentils every minute. When they’re tender, they’re good to go. (You may need to add extra water during the cooking process if they seem dry.)

Ladle about 1 litre of the lentils and liquid into a blender and blend into a puree. Stir the blended lentils back into the pot. This thickens the lentils and adds a creamy texture—without diluting the flavour. Neat, huh?

FINISH

Roughly chop the spinach leaves and toss into the pot a few handfuls at a time, stirring through. Let the mixture simmer for a few more minutes.

Taste for seasoning (see my post on seasoning with salt here). Does it need more salt? More pepper? Maybe you want to add some white wine or balsamic vinegar. If so, add a tsp at a time, tasting each time, until you’re happy with it.

Done!