Versatile and simple, this recipe can be transformed into a wintery soup, a vegetable side dish or a meaty main course.
I love cavolo nero as it has a slight bitter flavour which complements the earthy taste of lentils, but really any green vegetables will work. Kale, broccoli, spinach and even rocket can be used. Serve with plenty of parmesan to sprinkle on top and bruschetta on the side. For a really hearty meal, serve with sausages.
· 250 g small round green lentils
· 1 onion, chopped
· 1 carrot and a piece of celery
· 2 cloves garlic, chopped
· a stock cube
· sprig of parsley
· parmesan to serve
· chilli oil or extra virgin olive oil to serve
· a clove or garlic for the greens
· cavolo nero, spinach, broccoli or kale
Cook the onions, carrots and celery
Heat a little oil in a deep pan and cook the vegetables until they are soft. When they are soft, add the garlic.
Add the lentils
Rinse the lentils in cold water and put them in the pan with the vegetables. Add water to cover the lentils. They should be well covered with about half as much water again as there are lentils. Add a stock cube and mix well. If you have it, add a sprig of parsley whole to the mixture and then take it out at the end. This will add another flavour to the lentils.
Bring to the boil then simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender but not soggy.
At this point you can start with the variations….
Leave it soupy and serve in individual bowls, with parmesan and a trickle of olive oil (or chillie oil if you like it a little hot). It is delicious with a bruschetta smeared simply with garlic and olive oil. For a fuller meal, serve with broccoli bruschetta (see my recipe).
Add cavolo nero to make this into a more substantial main course.
Take the hard stalk away from the leaf of the cavolo nero (hold onto the end of the stalk with one hand and run the other hand down the stalk until the leafy part comes off and you are left with an empty stalk which you discard) Cut the leaves of the cavolo nero into largish pieces.
In a frying pan, heat up some oil and cook a clove or two of finely chopped garlic. Add the leaves and stir. Pour a little water (a centimetre or so at the bottom of a glass) into the pan and cover. Stir occasionally and when the cavolo has wilted nicely leave uncovered to allow all the water to evaporate.
Serve next to or mixed in with the lentils. Add parmesan and olive oil on top. Amazing with a poached egg, on toasted sourdough, or with a bruschetta.
My favourite is cavolo nero for it’s particular taste, but it is not always readily available and really any green vegetables will be good. Purple sprouting broccoli also has a good strong taste, although the big fat broccoli is fine; broccoli will need to be blanched before you add it to the garlic in the pan. Kale will need a little more wilting in the pan to soften it. Spinach will just wilt and so can be added to the lentils directly.