This dish was created one day when a hardcore vegan came to visit during a dinner party, and amidst the stuffed turkey, chicken kebabs and goulash (and knowing she wouldn’t be able to have anything but rice or bread) I knew i’d have to make something vegan for her, and really really fast. The pantry only had pasta and lentils, so I opted for the more protienish staple - Lentils it was going to be!
Now, it’s known in the family that I make a mean chunky salsa. Incorporating my freshly boiled brown lentils and my simple homemade salsa was probably one of the greatest culinary discoveries that took place in my kitchen. Who’d’ve thought plain old lentils could go so far? Not me! And not my hardcore vegan friend who shoveled it down with pita bread. I’m not sure what the secret is but, here’s the catch - brown lentils, when added to salsa and combined with cumin and other spices, release a rich and almost smokey flavor that’s quite a surprise. With no butter or oil, it’s also a heart-healthy option and (for all you busy people looking for nutrients and speed!) it takes around 30 minutes to make. Doesn’t get easier than that!
300-400g brown lentils
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1/4 teaspoon all-spice (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil your lentils for about 20-30 minutes in a large pot of water until cooked (you should be able to chew right through the lentil. If you feel it’s a bit tough, leave it to boil for another 10 minutes or so).
Drain your lentils, and set aside when done.
Gently fry your onions and garlic in the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot until onions are transluscent (I do this while the lentils are boiling).
Add tomatoes, peppers, and sugar to the onions. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon until the tomatoes start to sizzle and break down. Add tomato paste, spices, and a cup of hot water.
Bring your salsa to boil. Add salt and pepper at this stage, to your taste.
Add boiled lentils to the salsa, and stir thoroughly.
Pour half a cup of boiling water onto the lentils and salsa, stir, and cover. Leave to bubble together gently for about 10 more minutes.
Note: Every stove is different. If you feel its getting a little too dry, add a bit more water. Make sure you’ve added enough salt and pepper.
Serve lentils in a casserole dish with hot pita bread or have it simply on its own with a fork. Leftovers can stay in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!