Braised Lentils with Kumera

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Every year I plant some orange Tumbling Toms, they are a cherry tomato that is happy growing in hanging baskets as well as window boxes and containers alike.  I grow a few full sized heirloom toms too.  Each have their unique qualities and I love them all, but these little tumblers are particularly special.  Not only are they so sweet and juicy but are always the first to fruit so, for me they signify the start of summer and all the delicious produce that will follow.  Well you can imagine how excited I was when I spotted not one but two little flowers blossoming with all their might despite the stormy and unseasonably cold week we have just had.

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Braised lentils may not seem like summer fare, but as I mentioned before the weather has seemed more autumnal than late springlike and to be fair I love lentils in any shape or form at any time of year, they are full of cholesterol lowering fibre, a good source of protein, minerals and B-vitamins as well as being a pretty cheap way to put a delicious meal on the table.  They are also fairly quick to cook, when compared to other dried legumes, most of which require soaking prior to a lengthy cooking time.  Most importantly for me at the moment though, is that I can make a  one-pot meal that suits the whole family including Giddy my little 7 month old who is venturing further into the world of solid foods but still needs something easy to eat and gentle on the tummy.

Start by dicing your onion, carrot and celery.  Pop it all into a heavy based saucepan or casserole pot along with a tablespoon of butter or olive oil.  In french cookery this in known as a mirepoix and can be used to form the base of all sorts of stews, stocks and sauces.

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Sweat the mirepoix over a gentle heat for 5 minutes until softened and then add in the garlic.

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 Cook for a further minute or so before adding in the lentils.  I like to use brown lentils for this dish as they are somewhere in the middle of red lentils which can break down completely and puy or green lentils which tend to be fairly robust and hold their shape.  The brown however break down enough to thicken the sauce whilst still retaining some of their integrity.

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Stir the lentils in and then top with the stock.  It will look like a lot of liquid but don’t worry those lentils are thirsty little things and will suck up the stock in no time.

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Bung the lid on and bring the pot up to a boil.  Once it is boiling reduce the temperature to a medium heat and allow the lentils to simmer away for 15 minutes.  While you are waiting prepare your kumera (sweet potato) by peeling and chopping them into 2-3cm/1 inch cubes.  In this batch I am using a cup each of the orange fleshed variety and the purple skinned, yellow fleshed kind but you can use whatever you have to hand be it kumera, butternut squash, pumpkin, potatoes or a combination.

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Once it has bubbled away for 15 minutes add in your kumera and cook for another 20-30 mins with the lid off, stirring periodically.  If at any point the mixture seems to be getting too dry and sticking on the bottom, turn the heat down further and add in another cup of liquid, water or stock will be fine.

It is ready to eat once the lentils are soft and the kumera is cooked through.   The longer you cook it the more everything will soften, breakdown and thicken so just keep cooking until it reaches the consistency you prefer.

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They are delicious with a dollop of greek yoghurt and some fresh parsley or coriander.  You can have them as a main or a side dish to accompany some grilled meat or good quality sausages.


Braised lentils with kumera

prep time: 10 minutes, cook time: 50 minutes
serves: 4 as a main or 6 as a side,  $0.95 per serve as a main or $0.65 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1tbs olive oil/butter
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3/4 cup dried brown lentils
  • 1 litre/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups kumera (sweet potato), peeled and cut into 2-3cm/1 inch cubes
  • Greek yoghurt and fresh herbs to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. Sweat the onion, carrots and celery in a heavy bottomed saucepan or casserole pot.
  2. Once they are softened (approx. 5 minutes) add in the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Stir in the lentils and top with the stock.  Pop the lid on an bring to the boil.
  4. When the stock begins to boil reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the kumera and after 15 minutes add it into the pot too.
  6. Cook for a further 20-30 minutes with the lid off.
  7. As soon as the kumera is cooked through and the lentils are soft it is ready to eat.
  8. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  You can continue to cook it for longer allowing the lentils to breakdown more if you prefer a thicker stew.

Serve with a dollop of thick set Greek Yoghurt and some fresh herbs.  A hunk of crusty wouldn’t be out of place either!

These lentils are a meal on their own but equally pair really well with roast chicken, grilled pork chops or some good quality sausages.

Note: If you plan on giving these to a baby new to solid foods make sure you use a low sodium stock (if you aren’t using homemade) and omit the seasoning until you have taken out the little one’s portion.  Depending on the stage that baby is at you can blend, mash or simply serve as for their mini portion. 

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