I hesitate to mention my favorite lentil bake recipe simply because lentils tend to have a pretty bad reputation. Perhaps it is because they are healthy or cheap that many of us simply ignore these beautiful pulses unless dieting. This is such a waste. Yes they’re good for you, and yes they make a really cheap frugal supper, but they are also very very tasty, and this, a variation on my grandmother’s recipe is rather excellent. Since this was one of the first family suppers I was taught to cook it holds a special place in my heart too!
And to make it seem a little less healthy we usually have it with a side order of garlic roasties, but some simple buttered steamed new potatoes is excellent too.
Lentil & Cauliflower Bake Recipe
This recipe serves 4 with some leftovers that are equally good cold or reheated for the following day’s lunch. Of course you can vary things quite a bit. But this is how it is most often made in My Shiny Kitchen:
- a little olive oil
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 1 stick of celery thinly sliced
- 1 cup of mushrooms roughly chopped
- 4 large carrots roughly sliced
- 1 cauliflower broken into florets and the stems and core chopped up the same size as the carrots
- 1 large tin of tomatoes
- a few bay leaves
- 1.5 cups of red lentils
- 1tbsp tomato puree
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons of marmite (or a tablespoon of soya sauce)
- 150g of tasty cheese, such as a mature Cheddar grated
This is simple cooking. No fancy ingredients and no difficult procedures. You won’t even need any shiny kitchen scales! Comfort cooking that produces tasty comfort food that also happens to be quite good for you. If you want it to feel a little glamorous, and very speedy though try using a Santoku knife. It will certainly put a bit more excitement into your vegetable prep!
- Saute the onion and celery in a heavy pan or casserole (one that is ovenproof will reduce the washing up time, so I use a stainless steel pan).
- Once the onions are translucent and starting to caramelise a little throw in the mushrooms and turn the heat up a little to color them. You don’t want to burn the onions but you do want the mushrooms to give up all their juice.
- Add the carrots and stir those around for a minute or two.
- Add the tinned tomatoes with their juice, a good grinding of black pepper, the bay leaves and red lentils. Bring to a slow simmer, pop the lid on. After 10 minutes add the cauliflower. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so till the lentils are done but the veg still has some bite to it. If your tomatoes weren’t very juicy you might want to add a little more water. This should be dense and chunky but not dry.
- Take the pan off the heat and stir in the marmite, tomato puree and half the cheese.
- Turn the whole lot into an ovenproof dish if necessary and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.
- Pop into the oven and bake for around 20 – 30 minutes till the top is bubbling and golden.
The Garlic Roast Potatoes
We usually have this with garlicky roast potatoes, primarily because the oven has to be used anyway, and it all seems to work timing wise. Just pre-heat the oven to 220 and pop a baking tray with a few tablespoons of olive oil in there to heat up. Wash, dry and halve your potatoes if neccessary (leave the skins on) and squash but don’t peel around 10 garlic cloves. I tend to use smallish new potatoes with thin skins for this, so they cook quickly. But if using large potatoes either cut them up smaller or cook them for longer.
Gently pop the potatoes, garlic and a bay leaf or two into the now hot oil. Sprinkle on some flaky sea salt and black pepper and put the whole lot back in the oven.
If you do this first, you should hopefully be able to put the cauliflower and lentil bake into the oven once the potatoes have had around 30 to 40 minutes. Then everything should be ready at the same time. If your potatoes are ready before the top of the bake is as crispy as you want just pop the bake under the grill for a few minutes since everything is actually already cooked anyway.
To make this a real vegetarian feast some sauted finely sliced cabbage and onion cooked in butter, or some simple boiled peas makes a great side dish alongside by grandmother’s lentil and cauliflower bake recipe.