Thursday, June 23, 2011

Colombian-inspired Lentils


Every time I make this dish, I dream of Colombia. Of sun-bleached beaches and steep, dark rainforests and remote plantations studded with coffee bushes. Of noisy, crowded family dinners ... full of wine and laughter and - of course - food.

The only problem with my little fantasy? I haven't been to Colombia yet. 
I have my Colombian friends Daniel and Antonia to blame for this. They're part of our extended, adopted family here in Australia - the people we spend holidays with, celebrate with, cheer ourselves up with. And in all the time we've spent with them, I feel almost like I could describe Colombia to you.

And I want to go there. Badly.


In the meantime, we have to console ourselves with this dish - my recreation of Antonia's classic, most-requested dinner. Though the original dish uses beans (pinto/black/white - whatever you prefer) - I've used lentils because they don't require soaking, which I'm likely to forget to do. You could also try this with canned beans if you're short on time.

***********
Colombian-inspired Lentils
serves 6-8

The time
15 min prep + 40 min cooking

The ingredients
The beans
2 1/2 cups lentils
1 red onion - chopped
2 large, peeled carrots - chopped
1 large plantain - chopped*
5 cups water or veggie stock
1 1/2 tsp cumin powder

*You can substitute a potato here, but it won't taste quite the same ... 

After cooking
juice of 2 limes
small bunch of cilantro (fresh coriander) - leaves and stems separated
1 cup tomato puree
1 tsp sea salt
up to 2 cups of water, as needed

To serve
extra cilantro leaves (if you forget to save some, you can cheat with parsley - as I did)
sea salt, to taste 
diced chillies (optional)
guacamole and sour cream (optional, but highly recommended)
brown rice

*As always, try to use organic ingredients when you can.

The process
1. Put the lentils, veggies, plantain, water, and cumin in a large pot and bring to a boil - then lower the heat and simmer until soft (around 30-40 minutes). Antonia uses a pressure cooker for this part, which helps speed up the process if you're using soaked beans. You could also try a slow cooker - which would free you up to do other things.

2. Add the cilantro stems to the pot and then use a hand mixer or blender to puree the beans, adding additional water as needed. You want it to be thick, but not dry. Stir in the lime juice, tomato, salt, and cilantro leaves.

3. Serve with brown rice and garnish with cilantro leaves and chillies. I like to have bowls of guacamole and sour cream on the table, for people to serve themselves.

The cost
The great thing about using dried beans is that they're super-cheap ... and lentils (at least) are fairly quick to cook. So I recommend you buy some different varieties of organic lentils (like brown or green or red or chana dhal) to stock your pantry. My big batch of organic, Colombian(ish) lentils cost me around $8 to make - or $1 a portion without rice. 

Ciao, ciao. Nos vemos en Singapore.
Amanda xx

7 comments:

Spicie Foodie said... [Reply to comment]

I love, love lentils! I could eat them every week and with mouthwatering recipes like this one I could eat it twice a week. Thanks for sharing and making my mouth water. Hope you have a great weekend and your Columbian dream comes true :)

The Vanilla Bean Baker said... [Reply to comment]

Hope you arrived in Singapore safely. Keep dreaming of Columbia for one day you just may find yourself in the middle of rainforest pinching yourself to make sure you aren't dreaming :)

Marnely Rodriguez said... [Reply to comment]

I needed a recipe for lentils and this looks AWESOME!

Sherilyn @ Wholepromise said... [Reply to comment]

Oh what a wonderful meal to share with the family. I love lentils and this sounds delicious and somewhat comforting for me.

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic said... [Reply to comment]

How wonderful to open up my computer - in my hotel in Singapore - and see all these lovely comments! You guys make me so happy! :)

Natural Health Foodie said... [Reply to comment]

This looks delicious, simple and cheap. My favorite! Thanks for sharing. I love your blog by the way <3

LRH said... [Reply to comment]

I made this recipe for my boyfriend (who is a food snob) and I, and we both loved it! Very flavorful, and easy to make. I made a TON of lentils though. Can I freeze this recipe? How long do you think it will keep in the freezer for?

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Thanks for commenting! Amandaxx

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