Food, Recipes

Frugal food to warm your cockles

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I had plans to laze about in the garden all day, doing nothing more strenuous than reading the paper from cover to cover. But the rain rather put a dampener on that.

Nothing for it then except to brew up a pot of spiced lentils. There’s something infinitely cheering about these, not least that they manage to pack so much flavour into every mouthful for so little dosh. And they taste sublime.

I’ve been practically living off these for the past few months and I haven’t got sick of them yet. This is my version of a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, tweaked to make it even cheaper.

It makes four portions and is a great freezer standby. It’s good to know there’s something hearty and healthy to bung in the microwave if you’re feeling too knackered to cook – or too hungry to wait more than 10 minutes.

Equally good spooned up in its simple soupy glory or pepping up a bowl of brown rice.

200g split red lentils
1 bunch fresh coriander

1 small onion, peeled

40g ginger, peeled

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 green chilli

1½ teaspoons mustard seeds

4 tablespoons peanut oil

1½ teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon paprika

1 tin chopped tomatoes
70g butter
juice of 1 lime

Wash the lentils in plenty of water, drain and soak in 350ml of fresh water for 30 minutes, while you get on with the spice paste.

Cut the coriander bunch somewhere around its centre to get a leafy top half and a stem/root bottom half. Roughly chop the leaves. Put the stem half in the bowl of a food processor, add the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli – all roughly broken – and pulse a few times to chop up without turning into a paste.

Put the mustard seeds in a heavy-based pot and place over medium heat. When they begin to pop, add the onion mix and peanut oil, stir and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.Add the spices and continue cooking and stirring for five minutes longer.

Now add the lentils and their soaking water, the tomatoes, and a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are fully cooked.

To finish, stir in the butter, lime juice and chopped coriander leaves, taste and season generously with salt.

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