Category Archives: lentils

Lentil, Butternut Squash & Carrot Shepherd’s Pie

Green Lentils

God bless lentils, the small nubbly saviours of my student years. Back when I lived in halls (which is longer now than I care to admit), I used to live off gigantic bags of red and green lentils that I’d buy from the local health food store for £1. They went in pretty much everything I cooked – curries, stews, and – on one notable occasion – into a sauce made out of half a jar of sweet-and-sour-flavoured ‘Chicken Tonight.’ (Pro tip: don’t ever do this. It was possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve ever made.) By the time I graduated, I never ever wanted to see a lentil again, let alone contemplate the idea of actually making something edible out of them.

However, now I am an adult with a job which provides me with enough income to stop living off 20p instant noodles and Strongbow, I have come to reappreciate these lovely, protein-rich little flying saucers. I’m trying to eat less carbohydrates at the moment, and puy lentils go with practically everything you have in your cupboards – from chicken thighs to rich tomato sauces. They’re the kind of thing that it’s always good to have on hand, particularly in these dog days of Winter where it feels as though the sun will never shine again.

Lentil, Butternut Squash and Carrot Shepherds Pie (Lentil shot)

While at first glance this Lentil, Butternut Squash and Carrot Shepherd’s Pie looks like something that you might find in a vegetarian cookbook from the 1970s, it’s actually a joy to both make and eat. Puy lentils are simmered with winter vegetables, oats, herbs and a good glug of wine until their innards turn creamy and pop in your mouth with a delightful hit of umami. The mixture is topped with a creamy roasted butternut squash and carrot mash which is velvet smooth from being combined with creme fraiche and a good dollop of butter. This is healthy comfort food at its finest, a meal which sticks to your ribs and hugs your insides. Lentils may be cheap, but they’re definitely not just for skint students.

Lentil, Butternut Squash and Carrot Shepherds Pie

LENTIL, BUTTERNUT SQUASH & CARROT SHEPHERD’S PIE (Makes 4 portions)

Adapted from The Kitchn

You will need:

For the butternut squash & carrot mash

  • 1 large butternut squash, cut into chunks
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 4 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp dried sage
  • Salt & Pepper to season

For the filling

  • 150g puy (green) lentils
  • 50g porridge oats
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 punnet of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced into chunks
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 175ml vegetable stock
  • A good glug of red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • A large handful of chopped fresh parsley

Make It!

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°C/Gas Mark 6. Drizzle the butternut squash chunks with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour until soft to the touch. (make sure you don’t get distracted by Pointless and forget about them like I did.) Leave to cool, then peel. Boil your carrots with a pinch of salt for 10-15 minutes until they are soft and slightly mushy. Drain, and mash with the peeled butternut squash chunks, creme fraiche and butter. Add the sage, season with salt & pepper and taste. Once everything is to your liking, put the mash to one side until ready to use.
  2. In a medium pot, combine the lentils, oats, bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are soft (but not mushy!) Be sure to stir the mixture occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Discard the bay leaf and drain the mixture into a sieve.
  3. While the lentils and oats are cooking, warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook until soft. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything begins to turn soft. Add the lentil and oat mixture, followed by the vegetable stock, wine, tomato paste, soy sauce, smoked paprika, and parsley. Taste and season if needed. Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes until it has thickened.
  4. Evenly spread the lentil mixture into large baking dish. Spoon the butternut squash and carrot mash over the lentils, and smooth with a fork. Bake at 200°C/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling at the edges. Serve with green vegetables and a glass of red wine.
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Tomato and Red Lentil Curry

Red lentils

So, the honeymoon is definitely over. I walked out of the house on Monday and into a cold grey abyss of doom, bills, narky emails and never ending rain. I tell you, it’s enough to make a woman want to go into hibernation for the next few months.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore September. Autumn has always been my favourite season, a fact I put down to being a city dweller. As anyone who lives in a major British city knows, they always feel a bit quiet and jaded during Summer. It’s as though the urban landscape is holding its breath, waiting for people to return and for the business of living to start all over again. But when it’s continually pissing it down, and the third umbrella you’ve bought in the space of six months decides to break when you’re trying to walk home during the middle of a thunderstorm, and your feet feel as though they’ll never be warm again, and you’re wondering if it would just be easier and cheaper to laminate yourself…well, then desperate measures are called for.

I have a few recipes in my armoury that I always call upon when I need to fill my belly with something which is inexpensive to make, while also managing to be hot and tasty. One of these is this Tomato and Red Lentil curry, a dal-esque concoction which consists of red lentils stewed with some tumeric, and flavoured with tomatoes and an array of sizzling spices. I’ve adapted this from a recipe which I originally saw in Delicious magazine, and which over time has become a Monday night favourite. I tend to whip up a giant batch of this at the beginning of the week and dip into it for numerous breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Scooped up with flatbreads, spooned over brown rice or even shovelled down with an egg or top, it makes for a delicious, warming, easy meal – the perfect antidote to the squally September storms.

Tomato and Red Lentil Curry

TOMATO AND RED LENTIL CURRY (Serves Four)

Adapted from this recipe in Delicious magazine

You will need:

  • 200g red lentils
  • 500ml cold water
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A large fistful of fresh coriander, chopped roughly
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Make It!

  1. Rinse the lentils, and pop them in a saucepan. Cover them with the water, and add the tumeric and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum which rises to the top. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, and leave to cook for 20 minutes or so while you prepare the tomato sauce. Top the lentils up with some more water if the pan begins to boil dry.
  2. Put the shallots, garlic and ginger into a food processor and blitz into a paste. Fry this off in a tablespoon of olive oil for a minute. Then add the mustards seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds and cook for another 30 seconds until the seeds become aromatic and the mustard seeds begin to pop.
  3. Add the chilli flakes and garam masala to the paste and fry for another 30 seconds. Then, throw in the chopped tomatoes and simmer on the hob for fifteen minutes. When the sauce has thickened, add it to the lentils.
  4. Stir the tomatoes and lentils together thoroughly and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (if you have a rice cooker, this is exactly the amount of time it will take you to prepare a batch of rice). Once cooked, stir in the fresh coriander leaves and lemon juice. Garnish with a sprig of fresh coriander and serve either over pilau rice or scooped up with naan breads.
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