I was recently given a few aubergines, they weren’t glossy and perfect but they were perfectly usable if I didn’t mind a bit of waste. This was my cue to get chopping. With a beautiful, new (to me) Dutch oven I wanted to make my first use of a stew type dish was obviously in order. This is an indulgent version with red wine in the sauce and tinned cherry tomatoes but you could easily replace the wine with water or stock and the cherry tomatoes with ordinary tinned chopped tomatoes. Ramiro peppers often look expensive but if you can find somewhere which sells them by weight they tend to work out a lot cheaper than supermarket prices.
Ingredients (feeds three or four)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 white onion
- 1 large aubergine
- 1 red ramiro pepper
- 1 generous teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 125ml(ish) glass red wine
- 125g/4oz approx’ puy type lentils (or fill the glass you measured the wine in if you’re not then drinking from it)
- 1tin cherry tomatoes in juice
- water to cover
Put the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.
Roughly chop the onions and sweat in the oil with the garlic.
Dice the aubergine into roughly 1 inch cubes and chop the pepper into pieces about 1/3 the size of the aubergine chunks; add both to the pan, stirring regularly.
After about 10 minutes add the allspice and stir for a minute more. Add the red wine, turn up the heat and bring to a lively simmer until the wine is reduced by about 1/3.
Add the lentils, tinned tomatoes and enough water to just cover all the ingredients. Cover the pan and simmer over a gentle heat for 20 to 30 minutes (until the lentils are cooked), stirring occasionally. I usually uncover for the last 5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.
I normally serve this with rice, mashed potato, or crusty bread.
There’s been a bag of red lentils languishing at the back of my cupboard for months, ever since my disastrous attempt at Baked Rice. I’ve used countless (well two or three) bags of puy lentils over the course of the year but those red lentils were in danger of becoming long term lurkers. This week I decided that they needed to leave the cupboard and find their way into the pot.
The World Vegetarian Cookbook offered an option to use all my leftover lentils and the Herbed Lentil Stew I chose to make only required me to buy one ingredient, fresh spinach, everything else was already in my kitchen. This was really easy to make and, while cooking took around an hour and a half, preparation took next to know time; it would have taken longer if I’d needed to chop the coriander and crush the garlic but I was cheating a little and using them in ready prepared form. I skipped using the potatoes, the instructions regarding them were vague to say the least and once I got to the mention of them it sounded like I should have cooked them along with the lentils ahead of adding them to the spinach and onion mix. The recipe was also a little muddled on what it’s ingredients should be; the ingredients list stated cayenne pepper, which I used, but the method stated black pepper and made no mention of cayenne.
Despite not being as well written as it could have been the stew itself turned out reasonably well. It was certainly filling and was tasty enough, though it wasn’t as good reheated as it was cooked fresh. Not something I’ll be in a rush to cook again but not something I’d rule out either.
3 out of 5 for ease of cooking and clarity of instructions (if it wasn’t so easy it would be scoring less).
3 out of 5 for tastiness.
Minimal preparation and only one pan
I’m conserving my energy at the moment, by next week I should have plenty but at the moment I’m at a low ebb; this pilaf, from Vegetarian Classics Simple Dishes for Every Occasion, looked like it would suit this weary cook nicely. With only one onion and a few mushrooms to slice, and minimising the washing up by being a complete meal cooked in only one pan, it doesn’t get much less strenuous to cook from scratch.
It’s almost all in the spices
Unusually, the aroma of the spices sautéing with the onion drew The Railway Modeller through to the kitchen to tell me how good it smelt. Uncertain as to whether The Railway Modeller would like bulgar, he doesn’t think he’d ever tried it, and knowing he doesn’t share my liking for lentils I was heating something else up for him but I promised him some of the pilaf to try as well.
Once everything was simmering in the pan with the stock it could more or less be left to itself. With an almost finished knitting project on my needles, which I’m keen to wear before it warms up too much, and the next knitting and crochet projects crying out for me to start them I was quite happy to let the pan simmer away with little attention beyond an occasional stir. My dinner didn’t suffer for my neglect, it was ready in the expected time with both bulgar and lentils cooked to perfection.
Almost too much of a good thing
The recipe suggested that it would make four portions as a main dish, you could probably get five or six portions out of it if you were serving it with a good salad or planned a dessert. Personally I think I’d prefer this pilaf as a side dish, it would compliment a nice, fruity tagine very well. The Railway Modeller seemed to like the balance of spices in it and I don’t think he objected to the bulgar but I’d need to come up with a lentil free version for him to try it again.
5 out of 5 for ease of cooking
4 out of 5 for flavour