Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Best Lentils Ever

According to Jamie Oliver, that is. And since I futzed around with them, probably not exactly, but they were damn fine. Unphotogenic, though.

I've just finished Sunday dinner in front of Dr Who, with a plate of slow cooked lamb on a bed of lentils, with home made mint sauce and roast potato, pumpkin, onion and fennel, and steamed broccoli. With a 1999 cab sav, Harper's Range by Seppelt. I went on line to look for it, and found it's still only $25 a bottle, so we didn't score very much by keeping it in the cupboard for almost a decade. Oh well. It's very yummy anyway, and at least it didn't go off.

I was very pleased with this. If you've ever made one of those lentil dishes with some fatty meat, you know you're supposed to add some vinegar to finish it. Balsamic, almost certainly. And if you are a roast lamb traditionalist, you will be thinking mint sauce. And if you are old enough, then you will remember fresh mint from the garden, chopped with sugar and doused in excessively potent malt vinegar.

Sooo... Balsamic or Malt? Hmmm... I've solved this: neither. Mint sauce old-style - but made with Homeleigh Grove Apple citrus vinegar. It's much more delicate, but still assertive enough to add the required sharpness to the lentils.

Recipe: Not Quite Jamie Oliver's French Lentils with Lamb
2 cups Puy lentils
2 carrots
2 onions
3 cloves garlic
1 small leek (2cm diameter)
1 medium potato
splash olive oil
splash brandy or cognac
1 litre beef stock
Bouquet garni
A small lamb roast
2 tablespoons mint leaves
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar

* Chop the carrot and onion small, and fry gently in a good glug of olive oil until onion is translucent.
* Add chopped leek and finely chopped or crushed garlic and fry another minute or so.
* Deglaze with a splash of brandy, then add in stock.
* Add lentils, chopped potato and bouquet garni.
* Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
* Add lamb to the top of the lentils.
* Cover and bake at 150C for 2 hours.
* Uncover and give lentils a good stir, crushing the potato in to make a creamy base.
* Squidge the lamb down into the lentils, so it's mostly covered; skin side up and uncovered.
* Bake for another half hour uncovered.
* Remove from oven and let rest for half an hour.
* Chop mint leaves with the sugar sprinkled over (this helps to bruise them). Put in a small jug and stir in the vinegar.

To serve, remove lamb and carve up. Put a mound of lentils on the plate, top with sliced lamb and pour over a generous serve of mint sauce.

Notes: My bouquet garni was a generous sprig of rosemary and thyme, tied up in string with 3 fresh bay leaves. I used Australian Puy-style lentils, available from most gourmet delis. My lamb roast was a small leg - just 1.3kg. I can't remember who raised the lamb, but it was from one of the stall-holders at EPIC.

The half hour rest gives you time to turn up the oven and crisp up a tray of baked veggies - they can be started for an hour in the slow oven.

We have lots of leftovers from this meal, and I only made enough mint sauce for one go. I'll have to do more sauce for the re-heat.

Jamie's recipe uses parsley instead of rosemary, and duck fat instead of olive oil; and veggie stock instead of beef. For meat, he has confit duck added right at the end, instead of the lamb cooked in the lentils, and he adds a swirl of creme fraiche at the end. No mint sauce, of course - Jamie uses balsamic vinegar. His lentils only take 45 minutes, with no baking, so his is the quicker option unless you confit your own duck. But they won't be as richly meaty as mine!


The InTolerant Chef ™ said...

Lentils seem to divide the eating public for some reason, I think they still have a bad reputation from hippy-alternative type recipes where they were pushed on carnivores as a substitute for meat. When the carnivores can see them as a delicious side dish such as this one, presented alongside their beloved meat, they should be converted at the first bite!
I'm going to try this on my own husband!

Cath said...

Yes, they do. I once scared a new flatmate by making lentil burgers.

I am quite partial to lentils with meat - a curry dhansak style, or a side with another curry. Lentil and bacon soup, lentils and sausages - there's plenty of traditional options.

Vee said...

Yum- this looks great, I always seem to make lentils watery and horrible, so I'm keen to give this a go!
I'm also on the hunt for an awesome lentil burger recipe... I'd like to be able to replicate the fantastic lentil burgers at My Rainbow Dreams in Dickson.

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