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.
15 min prep + 40 min cooking
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 ...
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
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)
*As always, try to use organic ingredients when you can.
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 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.