French lentil casserole an alternative to meaty dishes

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French lentils, with their motley coloured blue skins, are an excellent choice for cooking. They require no soaking and hold their firmness well.

This peasant style French lentil casserole is one I like to cook because it’s wholesome, hearty, and a great alternative to meaty dishes. I’ve just finished working on a round of winter recipes for the magazine that were rich and decadent and used various cuts of meat that needed long and slow cooking.  Ben Dearnley, one of Sydney’s well known food photographers, shot the pics yesterday, so officially, it’s a wrap! It’s time to satisfy my hunger for some lighter vegetarian fair.

 

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Don’t underestimate the importance of fresh herbs in a casserole. These should be used in the cooking and the finishing of the dish. My dearest winter herbs – lemon thyme and fresh bay leaves – are put to work in this lentil rich dish as the corner stones of flavour and labour alongside a large red chilli, split down the middle, which is then simmered gently in the lentils for a peppery bite to the dish. Diced carrots, celery, onion and garlic are necessary casserole ingredients.

The other herb that i use time and again is parsley. Here, it’s roughly chopped and pounded in the mortar and pestle with red wine vinegar, for acidity, and extra virgin olive oil for a smooth grassy flavour. If I was not to show restraint, parsleys vibrant colour and flavour would possibly end up in every savoury dish i cooked. Yet, with an abundant amount growing in the garden I hardly see reason to hold back. I also encourage finishing this casserole with a wild rocket pesto. Rocket leaves can be blitzed with pine nuts, parmesan, lemon and extra virgin olive oil for excellent results and a dollop added to the finished meal.

 

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Once cooked, this casserole doubles as a soup base and can be extended with a good vegetable stock and some toasted sourdough. It freezes well so portion it up into small amounts and satisfy your vegetarian cravings at a later date, possibly as a remedy to over indulgence.

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French lentil casserole

Ingredients

2tbsp olive oil

1 red onion

2 sticks celery

2 carrots

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tbsp picked and chopped lemon thyme

3 fresh bay leaves, or two dried bay leaves if fresh unavailable.

1 large red chilli, split length ways

1 cup French lentils

1 litre vegetable stock

350g washed kipfler potatoes

2/3 cup roughly chopped parsley

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

 

Dice the onion, celery and carrots into 1cm dice. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed casserole dish and add vegetables, cook gently for several minutes. Add garlic, herbs, and salt and cook a further 2 minutes.

 

Slice washed kipfler potatoes (skin on) into 1cm thick rounds. Add vegetable stock, lentils, kipfler potatoes and whole red chilli to the casserole dish, bring to the boil and cook gently for 15 minutes. Use a ladle to skim any excess scum that cooks out of the lentils. Cover with a lid and simmer a further 15-20 minutes. Check seasoning and set aside.

 

Place the roughly chopped parsley in a mortar and pestle, add red wine vinegar, sea salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil, pound till ingredients are well combined (you could also use a small food processor, or chop parsley by hand and mix together in a small bowl).

 

Add the parsley oil to the lentil casserole and stir to combine. Divide between bowls and eat.

 

 

 

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Lentils are always my remedy for over-indulgence. I don’t entirely know why or how, but they sort me out every time. I love the pounded parsley idea – will definitely try it out soon.

    1. Often reverting back to the simplest of foods is remedy in itself.

  2. Michelle I love lentils, any kind. Your dish looks great and really yummy. I love the addition of bay leaves, it brings an amazing flavour to a lot of dishes.

    1. Thanks. I’m thinking I must make a bay leaf scented custard, possibly baked in a tart…

  3. yvettedelacy says:

    I love making a dish just like this, except without the chilli. Does the chilli make it spicy hot? Just checking as I have a 4 year old who hates chilli.

    1. Hi Yvette, I wouldn’t say the chilli makes it spicy-hot but if cooking for a four year old (I have a five year old), you might just use half a chilli and possibly de seed it too.

      1. yvettedelacy says:

        Cool, I am making it right now, just came online to re-read your recipe. I am substituting cooked chestnut for the potatoes, as we cooked a heap yesterday. Thanks again.

  4. Cooked chestnuts – that sounds delicious, very French. Yum!

  5. lentils are a firm favourite here too…they are like a warm hug really aren’t they.

    1. Never quite thought of it that way, but yes, they are indeed.

      1. comfort food…like custard 🙂

  6. milkandbun says:

    I make usually lentil salads, need to try your recipe! Very comforting!

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