I love to make various Bakes at this time of year, I like the warmth and comfort of them very much and prefer them to stews or casseroles. The thing that bakes have over casseroles is melted cheese :: for me, the sight and smell of golden, bubbling, melted cheese provides one big huge dollop of comfort.
And I love lentils too, in particular red/orange lentils. I think they are such an underated ingredient :: they are extremely nutritious, versatile, tasty and economical, which are four supremely good foody adjectives if you ask me. I am always on the lookout for lentilly recipes, and this one is an absolute star. It's a combination of several different recipes I've accumulated, a sort of hybrid-recipe, and I've been making variations of this for a great many years - since my early twenties when I left home and first began to cook for myself. When the Little People were Little Babies, I weaned them on a pureed version of this (minus the peanuts), much to the delight of my Health Visitor who was more used to new Mums using jars of baby food.
Some of the ingredients are interchangeable, some essential.
Make sure you have the following essentials ::
175g red lentils
1 onion, 2 carrots, 2 sticks celery (all chopped)
2 large or 6 new potatoes (cooked and thickly sliced)
100g salted peanuts (roughly chopped/blitzed)
2tbs olive oil, 600ml good stock,1 tsp mixed herbs, 2 tbs tomato puree, 50g cheddar cheese
Optional/interchangeable items are the veg :: courgette, mushrooms, peppers (chopped)
Heat oil in a large pan and fry the onions for 5 minutes or so until soft.
Add the celery and carrots and cook for a few minutes more until softened.
Stir in the lentils, herbs, tomato puree and stock and bring to the boil.
It smells wholesome, looks wholesome, a bit like soup at this stage.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every so often.
Add in the other vegetables (chopped courgette, mushrooms, peppers), give a good stir and continue to simmer for a further 10 minutes or so.
By now it should be thickening nicely :: keep an eye on it in these last stages, stirring a bit so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. You need to be aiming for a thick, soft consistency, it can't be too runny or it'll end up like slop, yet it shouldn't go too dry and overcooked either.
When you think it's almost there, add in the peanuts (roughly blitzed/chopped) and stir a few mins more. Taste at this point and add seasoning, but go steady on the salt cos the peanuts are quite salty. Incidentally, you can make this recipe without the peanuts, but they do add a delicious texture to the bake that I find irresistible.
While all this is happening, you should boil your potatoes, skins on, and thickly slice. And here's something to consider :: trying to slice hot boiled potatoes is foolhardy and painful. Ouch. Make sure they have cooled somewhat before attempting to slice, or you might end up having a tizz. I have been here many, many times.
Pour the lentil mixture into a shallow oven proof dish, and arrange your potato slices over the top. Sprinkle with grated cheese and pop under a hot grill until the cheese has melted and the potatoes are golden brown.
This is real Autumn comfort food, wholesome and hearty. In our house this week it scored about 8/10 with the Little People (there was some griping about the "green bits" aka courgettes). So not bad for an ultra healthy offering of homecooking.
But wait up folks, theres more to tell. This recipe is so very versatile you see.
Another variation you can try is to alter the liquid content. So instead of 600ml of stock, try halving it to 300ml and adding a tin of chopped plum tomatoes. Cook in the same way, but for not quite as long (and perhaps without the peanuts?) and you end up with a gorgeous lentil bolognese mixture, perfect as a pasta sauce, or dolloped onto crispy jacket potatoes.
And there is even more :: if there happens to be any leftovers, throw them into a blender with a little water and blitz it to make a really delicious soup.
Little Lady and I had this soup for lunch yesterday and it was fabulous. Really fabulous.
Hope you give this one a try, I do get enormous pleasure sharing the Attic24 recipes with you and hearing about how it turned out in your household.
Ps I'm back in MY Attic yayyyyyy!!