Yotam Ottolenghi calls lentils “the ultimate comfort food” and I couldn’t agree more. It seems that everyone in my family has been ill this week, and thus this was the perfect concoction of flu-expelling chilli and comforting lentils, with an added bonus of the strengthening iron of spinach.
We used to go to a wonderful restaurant, Edin’s, in Nottingham, which does delicious, reasonably priced food, including some great vegetarian options. This recipe was inspired by one of their best, a spicy lentil stew with courgette fritters and fried halloumi. Most of the ingredients are optional- all you really need is lentils, tomatoes, onion, stock (or water) and some sort of fresh or dried chilli. You could probably use brown lentils, but cooking times may vary- don’t use red lentils as they don’t retain their shape when cooked.
Spicy lentil and spinach stew with a poached egg
3 tbsp oil (sunflower is most suitable)
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1-2 sticks celery, chopped (optional)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp mild chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala (optional)
1/2 tsp cumin (optional)
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree (optional)
500 ml stock
A mug full of puy lentils, rinsed
200g spinach, washed and shredded
Salt and pepper
Eggs (or plain yoghurt)
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion, carrot and celery.
- After 5 minutes cooking (or once the carrot has started softening), turn down the temperature and add the garlic and fresh chilli.
- Once the onion is soft, add the spices and cook for about a minute.
- Add the tomatoes, the tomato puree, the stock and the lentils and stir.
- Put the lid on top and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft. Season to taste.
- Add the spinach, stirring it in until it’s wilted (this may need to be done in stages if you have too much spinach to fit in your pan). If you’re cooking eggs to go with your stew, wait until you’re ready to do the eggs before you add the spinach as it cooks very quickly. If you’re keeping some of your stew for leftovers, you may want to retain some of the spinach and add it when you’re about to eat it, as it tastes much better when fresh.
- For poaching the eggs, I subscribe to Delia’s method, but if you have a method that works well then go ahead and use that! If you don’t have any eggs, a spoonful of yoghurt also goes really nicely with this stew as a substitute. For Delia’s method, you need a large frying pan. Fill it 2.5 cm deep with water, and bring it to the boil. Crack your egg into a mug, and add a dash of malt vinegar if it isn’t fresh. I wouldn’t try cooking more than one egg at a time. Delia’s method says to put your egg into the pan when there is only the merest trace of bubbles on the bottom, but I find that the water needs to be a little hotter than that. It’s easier to pour your egg into the water if you dip the edge of your mug into the water first and just let it slide in. Let the egg cook to your taste (about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes) – if you have a lid for your pan, put it on whilst it’s cooking. Sometimes my egg just goes straight to the bottom, but I just ease it off with a spatula or spoon whilst it’s cooking. Once it’s done, pick it out with a slotted spoon and tap it gently to get all the water out, and pop it on top of your bowl of delicious stew.