I used to do loads of cooking but since we had Little O most of the food preparation in our household falls to Mr O as I tend to be trying to wrangle the little fella into bed at prime dinner making time. I decided I was definitely going to make at least one meal this week, even if it was a quick one. Enter this easy salad. Of course just as I finished making it Little O woke up and refused to go to bed for another two hours so I didn’t get to eat any until 10pm but it I enjoyed it none the less.
This lentil bake is sort of reminiscent of a moussaka but with more Middle Eastern flavours. The base recipe that I built this on showed the different layers as all being beautifully separate but when I cut into this it all kind of glooped together. That didn’t make it any less tasty though and I quite liked the fact that it all merged into a delicious goo. Of course that made it a nightmare to photograph so please don’t let the rather bland photo put you off, if you’re looking for a filling, healthy vegetarian dish, this is a knock out.
Spicy lentil bake
Very loosely inspired by this recipe on One Green Planet
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 spring onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
500g pre-cooked green lentils
6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 tablespoons of harissa pasta
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
A handful of chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1/2 cup water
For the cheese sauce
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 handfuls of cheese
For the layers
2 extra cups of cheese
Preheat your oven to 180 C.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the spring onions until lightly golden. Add the garlic and fry until also golden. Add the red pepper and harissa and cook until the red pepper has softened. Add the lentils and mix well. Then add the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 20 minutes.
While that’s on the go, slice the aubergines and courgettes lengthwise and cook them in your griddle pan until you have the nice grill lines on them. Set aside.
Then make the cheese sauce. Heat the olive oil until runny. Then remove from the heat and stir in the flour and a pinch of salt to form a paste. Add the milk a couple of tablespoons at a time and mix well after each addition ensuring that there are no lumps. Return to the heat, stirring continuously until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Add the cheese and stir over the heat until you have a smooth sauce.
In a large baking dish spread half the lentils. Then a layer of cheese sauce. Then a layer of courgette and aubergine. Followed by a layer of lentils, a layer of courgette and aubergine and a final layer of cheese sauce. Then top with the additional cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Serves 6 – 8
This tasty weeknight supper is another winner from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. Not only is it quick and delicious but it packs a really big vegetable punch as well helping you towards your five a day. As always with any of the Jamie Oliver quick meals, be prepared to work FAST!
Spiced chicken with bacon and lentils
Adapted from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals
For the lentils
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 400g tins of Puy lentils
1 ripe tomato
200g baby spinach
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 heaped tablespoons of natural yoghurt
For the chicken
4 skinless chicken breasts
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 cloves of garlic
1 handful of fresh thyme
4 rashers of smoked pancetta
A loaf of crusty bed to serve.
Preheat your oven to 180 C. Get out your food processor with the bowl blade in. Put a large lidded pan over a medium heat and a large frying pan over a medium heat.
Peel and halve the onion and carrot and then process with the rosemary leaves until fine. Put the carrot and onion mix into the large pan with a tablespoon of oil.
On a large piece of greaseproof paper toss the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. Fold the paper over and bash and flatten with something heavy (like a rolling pin) until 1.5cm thicken. Put into the frying pan with a tablespoon of oil, the unpeeled whole garlic cloves and the thyme, turning after 3 of 4 minutes until golden and cooked through.
Stir the tinned lentils and their juices into the veg pan with the roughly chopped tomato and put the lid on. Put the bread in the oven to warm.
Roughly chop the spinach in the process and add to the lentils and the red wine vinegar. When the lentils are boiling and the spinach is wilted, season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the pancetta and trimmed asparagus to the chicken pan and fry until golden and crispy.
Tip the lentils onto a platter, then marble through most of the yoghurt. Remove the chicken to a board, cut in half at an angle and serve on top of the lentils with the pancetta, asparagus and garlic. Dollop over the remaining yoghurt then serve with crusty bread.
Recently Mr O and I did a free trial of something called Hello Fresh. Basically it’s like a dinner graze box that you cook yourself. They deliver all the fresh ingredients for three meals up to once per week along with recipe cards and then you make what they’ve sent you and since it’s exact quantities (for the most part) there’s no wastage. It’s a little pricy for us but if you have the cash and you don’t like thinking about meal planning it’s ideal. If any UK based friends want to try it out you can get £20 off your first box by using this code: R7N2X9. I didn’t love all three recipes that came in our box but this chicken one was definitely a winner. In the end it was Mr O who did most of the cooking on this one, not me but it was so good I still wanted to share it with all of you.
Pan-friend chicken with creamy porcini lentils
Adapted from HelloFresh
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast fillets
1 tin green lentils
3 sprigs fresh thyme3 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 stick of celery
1 medium carrot
1 tablespoon dried porcini mushrooms
Soak the porcini mushrooms in half a cup of warm water. Trim the ends off the carrot and the celery. Peel the carrot and then dice both into tiny cubes. Cut the leafy top and the base off the leek and slice it into 1/2cm sections.
Strip the leaves off the thyme sprigs.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, leak and thyme leaves to the saucepan. Add a good sprinkle of salt and cook gently until soft (about 8 minutes).
Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of clingfilm and use something heavy like a rolling pin to bash them until they are less tat 1cm thick all over.
Remove the porcini mushrooms from the water but do not throw the water way. Chop the porcini very fine and add them to the vegetables.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot add the chicken and cook for about 4 minutes on each side until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper on both sides while cooking.
Thoroughly drain and rinse the lentils. Add them to the vegetable pan with 3 tablespoons of porcini water and the creme fraiche. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture onto two plates, top with the chicken and serve.
I know they get a pretty bad rap but I love lentils. Cooked with some creativity they are tasty, filling, high in fibre and a great vehicle for all kinds of other flavours. That’s why I am always on the look out for new lentil recipes. I adapted this warming vegetarian dahl from The Flexi Foodie.
Spinach and lentil dahl
125g red lentils
1 small red onion
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of pureed fresh ginger
1 tablespoon of grapeseed or corn oil
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of garam masala
1/2 teaspoon of tumeric
250g fresh or frozen spinach
200ml coconut milk
Juice of half a lemon
Cook the lentils for 8 minutes in boiling water. Drain and set aside.
Finely chop the garlic and onion. Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions. Cook at a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the onions become translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and spices and cook for one more minute.
Add the spinach to the pot and wilt for 2 – 3 minutes. You might need to do this in batches.
Add the coconut milk, water and lentils and cook for 5 more minutes.
Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
This veggie moussaka is really tasty and relatively healthy. I recently served it at a dinner party and it was universally loved by all our guests! It is slightly more complicated than my usual recipes and will require you to do multiple things at once… so read the recipe carefully before you start.
2 Aubergines, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup milk
1 large handful of cheddar cheese
100g puy lentils
1 litre vegetable stock
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides and grill until tender. I did this on the George Foreman grill but you could easily do it with a griddle pan on the stove or under the grill in your oven.
While the aubergine slices are grilling, put the lentils and stock in a medium sized saucepan and leave to simmer for 25 minutes.
Once you have the lentils simmering and the aubergines going, make the topping. Stir together the olive oil and flour to make a paste. Heat the milk in a small saucepan, taking care not to boil. Add the warm milk to the flour mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time whisking between additions. Pour back into the saucepan and put over a medium heat, whisking continuously until thickened but still easily pourable. Add in the cheese and whisk until melted in. Set aside to cool. Alternatively if you don’t fancy making your own cheese sauce you can always buy a 350g tub of it ready made. No one needs to know.
Once you’re done with the topping, heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, and garlic and cook until softened (about five minutes). Then add the carrot and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the cinnamon and tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. By now the lentils should be done, so drain them and add them to the tomato mix. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat the oven to 180 degrees. In a medium baking dish, layer the aubergine slices and lentil mix. Whisk two eggs into your cheese sauce (homemade or shop bought) until combined. Pour the topping over the top of your dish to cover completely. Bake 40 – 45 minutes until the top is golden.
Now that it’s getting colder it’s nice to have something hearty for dinner. This sausage hotpot is a great way to use up leftover veg. The original only has carrots in it but I’ve added all sorts, courgettes, celery, whatever is going. Just chuck it in at the same stage as the carrots.
Lentil and sausage hotpot
100g pancetta or bacon lardons
1 packet of good quality pork sausages (check the meat quantity on the label. Never go under 90%)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 springs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
150g lentils (Puy AKA French AKA green lentils are best but red will work as well)
400ml chicken stock
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
200g tin of chopped tomatoes
Put the lardons and sausages in a big non-stick pot without a lid and cook on a medium heat for ten minutes, turning the sausages regularly. Scoop the sausages onto a plate with a bit of kitchen roll but leave the bacon in the pot.
Chuck in the carrots, onions,potato, garlic and other veg if using and cook for another 3 -4 minutes until the onions begin to go soft. Put the sausages back in the pot and add the lentils, stock, rosemary, vinegar and tomatoes.
Bring to the boil and simmer rapidly for 5 minutes. Then turn down the heat, put on the lid and simmer gently for 45 minutes.
Serve with some nice crusty bread. Serves 4.