Middle Eastern-inspired Lentils

Lentils aren't necessarily something everyone has tried, or indeed many people rave about, but hopefully once you've tried this dish you'll be converted.  My family love this meal - in fact my kids are always really happy when I tell them I'm making it for dinner.  It is super easy to make (one of those one-pot-wonders), is hearty and delicious, and most importantly it's healthy.  Lentils are a protein powerhouse packed with iron, folate and potassium, as well as being a rich source of dietary fibre.  Plus they are low in calories and contain virtually no fat!  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not into super foods or anything - I'm more of a super flavour type of advocate ;) - but lentils are one of the original foods touted by health experts and fanatics, and when cooked right they are truly amazing!  The other good thing about this dish is that not only is it great as a stand-alone meal, but it also goes well served with rice, macaroni, or mashed potato.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

375g whole green lentils
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 large Bay leaves (fresh or dried)
1 heaped teaspoon beef stock powder (or a veggie-based stock powder)
 Sea salt flakes, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
Extra virgin olive oil
Dried oregano, to taste (approximately 2 teaspoons, which I crush between my fingers as I sprinkle into the dish)

Carefully pick through all the lentils for any stones, rubbish or bad ones by sprinkling a half a cup at a time onto a large plate in order to spread them out to check them.

Place the lentils into a large, heavy based saucepan.

Add the diced onion, crushed garlic, bay leaves, beef stock and salt and pepper to the lentils.

Fill the saucepan with tap water until just before the halfway mark (approximately 2 to 2 1/2 litres, depending on the size of your saucepan).

Put the lid onto the saucepan and bring to the boil.

Once the lentils reach boiling point, turn down to a medium heat and allow them to cook with the lid on for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whilst the lentils are cooking, place the cumin and coriander seeds into a dry fry pan and toast them on a low heat until they are aromatic (be careful not to burn them - shake the pan regularly and do not leave them unattended).

Once the cumin and coriander seeds are toasted, place them into a mortar and crush them using a pestle until they are completely ground into a fine powder - set aside.

After 15 minutes, remove the lid and add a good glug of olive oil, the tomato paste, ground cumin & coriander, and oregano.  Stir well and place the lid back on, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow the lentils to continue cooking for at least another 25-30 minutes.

Continue to simmer the lentils until the sauce has thickened and the lentils have softened.  Make sure you continue to stir the lentils during this time to ensure they do not stick to the bottom of the saucepan.

Once cooked, you can serve them as-is with some nice crusty bread, or on top of rice, macaroni or mashed potatoes.

I love to top mine with some sliced onions that I've fried-off in a little olive oil and butter until they are golden brown, which adds a lovely flavour to the meal.


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