PULSE: As in the edible seeds of a legume—and as in, mine quickens at the thought of anything made of lentils right about now. And so I could not resist the last casserole of Lentil, Mushroom and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie that I had stashed in the freezer in November (those are the ingredients before assembly, above). Now it’s gone! That and other favorite lentil recipes, including my own Barbecue Lentils (minus the grill) and, of course, some lentil soup.
Lens culinaria is said to be the oldest pulse in cultivation, and originated in the Middle East. I have never grown it, but a few catalogs, including Sand Hill Preservation, offer seed of various kinds. It is a cool-season crop, like peas.
I smiled to see that the acclaimed restaurateur and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi (author of “Plenty” and “Jerusalem”) was in a similarly lentil-mad state this first month of the New Year, according to his latest column in “The Guardian” newspaper. He calls them “the ultimate comfort food,” and shares two recipes – the hummus-like Crushed Puy Lentils with Tahini and Cumin, and also Lentils with Mushrooms and Preserved Lemon Ragout. (Get out your metric weight converter to get the measurements right if you’re cooking on this side of the Atlantic.)
The dish that was sleeping in my freezer was not Ottolenghi’s, though, but one-third of a batch of a great one I’d found on TheKitchn [dot] com almost exactly a year ago. I guess January makes cooks everywhere think of lentils. It’s by contributor Anjali Prasertong, a food writer and graduate student who says she is “obsessed with vegetables,” and is studying to be a registered dietitian after shifting from her career as a personal chef. And this:
Anjali just announced today on her personal blog that she is pregnant with her first child, ending a blogging silence of late because she was so ill that, “even thinking about food made me sick.”
Oh, dear; a true occupational hazard for a foodie, this morning sickness. (And congratulations, Anjali. Your own blog and articles on the Kitchn website are great!)
The shepherd’s pie base is, of course, lentils, with mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion—enlivened with red wine, bay leaf, smoked paprika, tamari, garlic and parsley. I am not sorry that my paprika was a little on the spicy side, which made a nice contrast to the sweet-as-can-be mashed roasted sweet potato topping. But the secret ingredient that makes the lentil filling all hold together, because of the starch it releases: steel-cut oats. Brilliant. And perfect for assembling to freeze for baking later.
- Barbecue Baked Lentils (minus the grill)
- Lentil Soup (my friend Katrina’s way)
This seriously cold weather makes me crave dishes like this! Thank you for the food inspiration! I am already on a black eyed pea tear from our New Year’s Day intake! Love the legumes!!!!
Mujadara is another great lentil dish. Lots of carmelized onions, cumin, salt/pepper and bulgur in there……..hearty and delicious (some may swap out bulgur for basmati rice).
Margaret, thank you for this beautiful post. I haven’t had any kind of shepherd’s pie since my meat-eating days, when my family and I would make it the next day out of Thanksgiving leftovers – layering turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Long time ago…This lovely lentil dish sounds as hearty and satisfying and made to order for my almost vegan soul. And you know what I like as much? The colors. Aren’t sweet potatoes gorgeous?
Oh my, how did you know that I bought 3 bags of Lentils just this week? You are right, Lentils and January are go-togethers….
Another great soup…Gypsy soup with the addition of red quinoi..muy healthy. It was from Mollie Katzen, Moosewood.
Added the quinoi because Dr. Oz today siad it was good and I happened to have a box in my cupboard.
Sounds good, Alice, thank you! I don’t know about Gypsy Soup but I will look it up!
There is also a version of Gypsy Stew (with full credit to Katzen) in Jane Brody’s Good Food cookbook
You are right, Lentils and January are go-togethers. Indeed in Winters it is go to option. Thank you for the food inspiration!
Yummy! Lentils are the best!
This looks so yummy. I use lentils in Mjeddrah – lentils and brown rice cooked with onion and then smothered in chopped salad, EVO, and balsamic vinegar. Not exactly traditional but delish nonetheless. But that’s a spring dish and this looks so very middle of the winter cold-and-windy day.
Made it! Devoured it! Loved it! Thanks Margaret and love your new website site design!
Margaret, thank you so much for the kind words! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe — you’re right, January has lentils written all over it. Now that the nausea has abated and I’m eating normally again (hooray!), this is definitely a dish I’ve been craving.
I am so happy to hear from you, Anjali. I am a giant fan, and hope that our paths will cross before too long in an even bigger way. This recipe is outstanding, and the work you do for theKitchn is, too — Sara-Kate is an old friend, BTW. So glad you feel better!
Dear Zip: That sounds “delish” as you say to me, too. Thank you for saying hello today, and for the combination to try next time!
Yum! I love the idea of adding steel-cut oats.
Red Lentil Soup
Use a large stockpot
2 pounds red lentils organic
3 large onions chopped
8 stalks celery chopped
10 carrots chopped
8 cloves of garlic peeled & sliced 1/4 inch
2 28 oz cans Muir Glen diced tomatoes fire roasted
2 Bay leaf
Crushed red pepper
Dried Oregano or Italian seasoning
1 lemon juiced
7 quarts Ozarka spring water
( 2 x 101 oz jugs)
In a large stock pot add olive oil onions & red pepper flakes
Season well with salt & pepper. Stir.
Turn heat to medium low and place a sheet of parchment over Veggies to “sweat” .
Add carrots, celery and garlic and season with salt, pepper and oregano or Italian seasoning
Add bay leaves.
Stir. Cover with parchment.
Sweat for 45 minutes until softened.
Add the lentils and a little more olive oil. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
Add diced tomatoes
Add Spring water
Stir and set heat to medium.
When bubbling reduce heat slightly.
Simmer for about 90 minutes.
REMOVE bay leaves
Blend soup with a hand held immersion blender.
Add juice of 1 lemon
Adjust seasoning & enjoy
Cool and refrigerate for 1 day to allow flavors to come together.
Package in single or double servings & freeze. (Quart ziploc bags work well)
To serve add desired contents to a sauce pan. Add 1/2 cup of bottled water and heat on medium low.
Once thawed adjust heat to medium, heat through and serve.