Monday, September 26, 2011

Braised French Lentils

As a vegetarian who doesn’t like tofu, I eat a lot of lentils as a source of protein. To prevent boredom, I endeavour to find as many ways as possible to prepare them. A couple of years ago I was at a restaurant on the Danforth (in Toronto) and tried braised French lentils – it was my first time having French lentils (also called du Puy lentils) and I really liked them for their earthy flavour, and firm, round texture.

I figured out how to make something that tasted pretty much like what I had in that restaurant, and this weekend I invited a friend over for some cooking and we made this dish. We went to the grocery store to purchase the ingredients and to my chagrin; I could not find French lentils. So the photo you see for this recipe is actually of mostly red lentils, with whatever amount of French lentils I had left in my pantry thrown in to the mix! It was still delicious and I plan to eat it today for lunch.

For those of you out there who eat and enjoy meat, you can serve this with whatever meat or fish you like. When I first had it in that restaurant, they served it with pistachio-crusted salmon, and green beans. At the time I was still eating fish, and this was just a fabulous combination. For all the vegetarians out there, this can easily be a main dish as it is quite hearty. Below you will find my made-up recipe – enjoy!

Braised French Lentils
1/8 cup olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 – 3 stalks celery, diced
2 – 3 carrots, diced
½ bottle red wine
1 large sweet potato, diced
2 cups French lentils
6 cups of just boiled water
Rosemary & thyme (or herbes de Provence) - a few teaspoons of herbs in total
salt & pepper

Slice the onions and yes, you guessed it, caramelize them in the olive oil (I am sure you have noticed by now that I am a big fan of caramelized onions!). To caramelize the onions, start the heat on high, and then after a couple of minutes lower the heat to medium. The process will take 20 to 30 minutes in total. At around the last 5 minutes mark, add the crushed garlic and some salt and pepper.
Add the carrots and celery and the red wine to deglaze the pan. Let this cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Then add the sweet potatoes, the lentils, the water, the herbs and the salt and pepper.

Let this simmer on low heat, uncovered, until the lentils are the texture you like (I like mine still a bit firm, which last night took about 20 - 25 minutes).

Serve as a side dish, or as a main. Perfect for those blustery autumn nights ahead of us.

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