Saturday, March 22, 2014

Matthews' Lentils

There are two Matthews involved in the making of these lentils. One, the Matthew my sister brought over from Newcastle, who very kindly made vegetarian shepherd's pie and also very kindly left behind half a bag of lentils in my kitchen.

The second Matthew is Matthew Fort - whose cookbook "Cooking by Numbers" mysteriously turned up at my house one day. I seized it with both hands and, out of courtesy and guilt, I did ask random family members about its origin and ownership but nobody seemed to know anything.

Well! Finders keepers then.

So, due to the serendipity of having of lentils and a cookbook(!) turn up at my doorstep, I cooked lentils.

Lentils with Poached Egg

I made this with the last container of my home-made stock which I have written about before. They are perfect as a simple and delicious meal for a weekend night when you have some time but don't necessarily want to bother with a big show in the kitchen.

The lentils freeze well and form the perfect base for many other weeknight meals so don't be shy about making an enormous batch. The only drawback I find to making a bigger batch is that I tend to overeat - so perhaps just making a smaller batch is a good idea if you're greedy like me! Also if you've just had a week of particularly indulgent eating, this is a virtuous finish to the week that is still tasty and quite hearty.

Oh and I don't really bother poaching the eggs. I just fry them and leave the yolk runny because that's just how I like eggs or soft boil them.

1 carrot
1 onion
1 stick celery
1 leek
2 rashers of bacon (I know the temptation is to add more but be careful as it can make the dish quite salty)
about 3 tablespoons or so of olive oil
125g of green lentils (red/brown ones will not do)
350 ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp Vietnamese fish sauce (optional)
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt/pepper to taste
2 eggs

1. Chop all the vegetables finely. Slice the bacon into strips.

2. Heat the olive oil and fry the bacon. When bacon is brown around the edges and crisping, add the chopped vegetables and stir to coat with oil.

3. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until vegetables are wilted and onion is transparent.

4. Rinse the lentils in cold water then add to the pan, stirring it around.

5. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender but have not disintegrated.

(Try the lentils along the way. Matthew Fort recommended 15-25 minutes but I find that mine take a full 25-30 minutes)

6. Cool slightly and add the flavourings of your choice. Serve topped with the egg.

Note on the flavourings: The first time I made this, I didn't have any of the flavourings so I just went with salt and pepper. It was pretty good but not utterly fantastic. The second time I made them, I added Thai fish sauce, some whole grain mustard and some balsamic vinegar and it was delicious so I would recommend that you try it out with whatever flavourings happen to be in your kitchen.

Note on the leek and also the eggs: I almost never have leeks lying around so I usually omit the leek and just add 1 extra stick of celery because I love celery. It doesn't seem to have made a great deal of difference - this recipe is pretty flexible. But I'll update this if I do try it with the leek eventually.

With the eggs, you're supposed to break it up and have the yolk run into the lentils - Fort describes it as "unctuous" and it is - the yolk coats the lentils and gives the whole dish this richness.

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