Red Lentils with Tomato & Spinach
I wasn’t a big fan of red lentils because I found they often ended up mushy. Then I discovered the secret was to only cook them for a short while so they kept their shape. Win win really. This is a great thing to make when you’ve been over-indulging and are in need of something hearty but, with a healthy feel to it. Or if you’re in the mood to dabble in a little veganism.
enough for: 2
takes: 10 minutes
2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely sliced
150g (5oz) red lentils
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 box frozen spinach (approx 250g / 9oz) OR 1 bag baby spinach leaves
1 handful almonds, optional
1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet.
2. Cook garlic over a high heat for about 30 seconds, or until starting to brown.
3. Add lentils, frozen spinach (if using) tomato paste and 1 1/2 cups water. Simmer for about 8 minutes or until lentils are just cooked, but still al dente.
4. Add almonds and if using baby spinach add it now. Stir until the spinach is just wilted.
5. Taste, season and serve.
nut free – either remove the nuts OR replace with a handful of toasted bread crumbs just sprinkled over at the end.
carnivore – after you’ve browned the garlic, add about 250g (1/2lb) minced (ground) beef or pork. Stir until browned then proceed with step 3. You can still use the nuts if you like but it probably won’t need it. Pork sausage, bacon or chorizo are other lovely additions.
different lentils – any dried lentil can be used here, you’ll just need to increase the cooking time, some may take 1/2 hour or longer. And also be prepared to add more water if needed.
different legumes – cooked or canned beans or chickpeas can be used in place of the lentils. Just skip the water if using cooked legumes.
carb lovers / more substantial – increase the lentils and water. Or serve with cooked couscous or quinoa.
more veg – soften an onion first.
paleo (gluten, grain + dairy-free) – replace lentils with ground (minced) meat. Brown in the pan with the garlic before adding tomato and spinach. You won’t need to add water.
Problem Solving Guide
lentils too crunchy – it can be a challenge to get the lentils cooked so quickly, especially if you’re using frozen spinach. Just allow them to cook a little longer, a few minutes should do the trick. If they are looking too dry, add a little more water (1/2 cup at a time).
lentils stuck to the bottom of the pan – either you haven’t stirred enough, or you didn’t have enough water or both. Add 1/2cup water at a time and stir vigorously, adding more water if you think it needs it.
bitter flavour – this probably means you’ve overcooked the garlic in step 2. Not much we can do now, but next time, be more vigilant when browning your garlic, try a shorter time, or lower temperature.
lentils falling apart / mushy – this means you’ve cooked them for too long. Not much can be done now, but next time try a lower heat or shorter cooking time.
Waste Avoidance Strategy
garlic – keeps in the pantry in a brown paper bag.
red lentils /tomato paste / almonds – pantry.
frozen spinach – freezer.
OR 1 bag baby spinach leaves – either pop them in the freezer or wilt down in a covered pot with a little olive oil. This way they’ll keep in the fridge for a few weeks.