A good hearty lentil vegetable stew is just the most wonderful meal to cook and share, to keep and have ready for more, to feel nurtured and fed well by. Green lentils are filling and wholesome, they’re a wonderful pulse. And pulse is a good description in that they’re so life-giving and so good for a healthy heart (we all need to look after our heart ♥). I find this type of food particularly rewarding as it is exactly what my body needs to be as healthy as it can be. It keeps me satisfied, slowly releasing carbs. It’s so tasty you just want more but it’s so filling a bowl is enough, so you’re not over-eating. It’s packed with flavour and goodness, rich but light, easy on the digestion. It’s warming for those cold months, which here is most of the year! It’s easy to make a lot of too (a big +), so there are meals ready that don’t need much preparing. It keeps really well and is versatile and can be lent to many other meals and dishes.
Green lentils are wonderfully healthy legumes, nitrogen-fixing plants that nurture the land as well as those who eat them. Filling, low fat, packed with protein, minerals, B-vitamins and fibre. This fibre is excellent because it lowers cholesterol, helps prevent heart disease and is what stops blood sugar levels from spiking after eating, giving a slow-release of energy, keeping you fuller for longer. And so they are great for those of us watching our weight, great for type 2 diabetics, great for anyone who wants to maintain a healthy lifestyle. They’re all in all a truly super food. And they taste so good, absorbing flavours, carrying a sauce, adding their rich, clean heartiness, and keeping their shape and texture heartily, unlike red or continental lentils. Broad beans (also known as fava beans) are also nutritious legumes, Dan and I love them. Out of season I do buy them frozen, and they add bite to the stew that’s very good.
Swedes have a bit of a bad reputation in the UK in my experience, especially among those old enough to remember them as bad school dinners and dreadful mush. Such memories can be hard to overcome! I’ve really discovered their good qualities this year, particularly as I avoid potatoes and other nightshade veg. I love this photo of the humble swede, with its lunar surface that I find just so thrilling! It is now my screensaver (even bigger it’s even more beautiful) and everyday I am lost in its texture. I love so much the abstract shapes and surface of things. And how if you take the time to really look and to see, things are just so surprisingly beautiful and transformative. It’s like a cross between Jupiter and the Moon…
Lemon and lentils go together, they are such great culinary friends, and the lemon zest gives an added depth and dimension of goodness, deepened by the cumin, freshened and brightened by the dill and ground coriander, and by the fennel bulb. Stews are so great because all the flavour and goodness stays in the pot, they’re easy to make, they’re always nurturing food, good to share, and they keep so well. I love using my organic vegetable box goodies, scrubbing them, revealing the beautiful root beneath the earth, scraping them, revealing the wonderful colours and layers, and cooking them, revealing the wonderful flavours and changing hues. Sweet potato is a beautiful addition to any stew, particularly if you are not using tomatoes, with the lemon they make a sweet rich tangy sauce that’s just delicious, and unlike tomato is not acidic.
Make this lentil vegetable stew in a slow oven if you have one, and it can be cooking gently all day, keeping those nutrients, ready when you want it, when you come back from work, cold and hungry, or from a walk. Ready. Such a good word. You can eat it as a stew alone, or accompanied by bread like this or this. For a really hearty meal make it with these veggie sausages on the side, or as dumplings, and a root vegetable mash, or you can layer mash on top and bake as a shepherd’s pie. It keeps well in the fridge and freezes well, so make more than you’ll eat and then there’s a healthy meal ready to go. Spruce it up with a squeeze of lemon and a grind of pepper and it’ll taste so good.
I soak the lentils prior to cooking, with a dash of acidity such as raw cider vinegar, as this activates the lentil, bringing to life the enzyme phytase that fights the natural phytic acid present, a substance which inhibits our ability to absorb nutrients, and so by soaking beans, pseudo-grains (and grains), seeds and pulses we make them easier to digest and more nutritious and bio-available. I have been lazy with this for far too long, and now am fully embracing getting the most from my food, therefor fully respecting both the food and myself, and anyone I am cooking for too. It is just a matter of getting into the routine of soaking, as it’s easy, just needs to be done in advance of cooking.
- 1 cup green lentils
- 1 med carrot
- 1/2 med/small swede
- 1 med sweet potato
- 1 fennel bulb
- 3/4 cup broad beans
- 1 med onion
- 1/2 unwaxed lemon
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 large bay leaf
- large handful of fresh dill
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or oil of choice such as mild coconut
- 2 tsp salt, to taste
- 1 heaped tsp finely ground black pepper (hot), or to taste
- 1 heaped tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 7 cups water, approx
Soak the lentils in warm water with a dash of raw cider vinegar, or other such acidic medium like lemon juice, for at least 30 mins, longer is better.
Finely chop onion and saute with the oil, salt and bay leaf on a low heat with the lid on for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until sweet and soft. Finely chop add add the garlic for a minute or so.
Dice the root veg small. Cut in half and slice the fennel, or how you like it, it cooks easily.
Finely grate the zest of half a lemon and add to the onions and bay leaf, also adding the spices, and stir for half a minute of so on a low heat, which brings out their aroma. Make sure not to burn. Add the vegetables and stir for a minute or so.
Rinse the lentils and add to the vegetables and spices, with the water, on a medium low heat and simmer with the lid on for half an hour or so, until the lentils are cooked and the vegetables soft. I like to crush many of the sweet potato pieces to sweeten the sauce, but this is optional. Finely chop the dill, discarding thick stalks, and mix most into the stew. Add more water and another squeeze of lemon if you prefer and season to taste. Add a little chopped dill as garnish and serve.
I’ve been listening to and watching… Laura Marling ‘When Brave Bird Saved’