Finally! A recipe! That doesn’t involve butter and sugar! The last month has been crazy busy with work and life and while the more budget conscious probably wouldn’t condone it as a coping strategy, I’ve found that a bit of shopping is a legitimate way to reduce stress. So, when I had half an hour to kill waiting to meet a friend on a Friday afternoon I headed straight for Kinokuniya and picked up Lunch at the Shop by Petter Miller. It’s been doing the rounds of the blogosphere for a while (Food 52, 101 Cookbooks etc) and it’s been on my wish list for almost as long. Still, I resisted buying it because I have a plenty big enough collection of cookbooks already (and one of 2015 resolutions was to cook from them more often!).
In the end, I couldn’t resist. It’s such a beautiful book and an inexpensive splurge. The design and photographs are lush and not at all messy, which seems to be what’s hot right now. The recipes are simple and delicious but most importantly, I love how Miller writes about the power of sharing a meal with others and the many things that can be gained by stepping away from the screen for 20 minutes. At the same time, he isn’t at all precious about it – though there are recipes for soups, pasta and salad, they don’t require hard to find ingredients and they sit next to instructions to buy fried chicken or a burrito. I don’t have the time or space at work to assemble lunch and eat with friends every day (I wish!) but with these lentils in the fridge, I feel like I’m part of the way there.
Miller suggests that these lentils form the base for a lentil soup but I’ve been using them just as they are added to a leafy salad, warmed and topped with lots of feta or serving them with leftover beef pie to make a very satisfying Sunday meal. Whichever way you go, I don’t think you can go wrong.
A Third Way to Cook Lentils from Lunch at the Shop by Peter Miller
2 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 slices bacon, diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1/2 c fresh or canned tomatoes, roughly diced (with juice) (about 2 medium tomatoes)
1.5 – 2 L warm chicken or vegetable stock or water
1 c lentils, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1. In a medium saucepan or a large frying pan (with high sides), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bacon and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until lightly golden.
2. Add the celery (if using) and carrots. Stir and then add the tomatoes (with their juice). Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring every 5 minutes, for 20 – 30 minutes. If the pan is starting to get dry, add about 1/4 cup of stock or water.
3. When the tomato mixture is soft and well-combined, add the lentils and stir. Cook for about 4 minutes and then add enough stock or water to cover the lentils by about 2 cm. Bring the mixture to a slow boil over medium heat and cover.
4. Cook the lentils, stirring once or twice, for 30-35 minutes. If the mixture is becoming dry, add another 1/2 cup stock or water. The lentils are done when they’re soft and the mixture is thick. Taste to check the texture of the lentils. If they still have some bite, continue cooking for another 5 minutes, adding water if the pan is dry. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
5. At this point you can serve the lentils just as they are. Miller recommends processing a third of the mixture through a ricer and adding another cup of stock to form the basis of a soup. He also suggests stirring through 1/2 cup cooked white rice and a splash of red wine vinegar. The world is your oyster!
- I use whole red (or Persian) lentils. I think lentils du puy would be lovely too. You want something that will hold it’s shape so avoid quick cooking red or orange lentils (which are usually sold split).
- I never have a single stalk of celery lying around and this is still delicious without it so don’t worry about buying it especially for this.