The Daily Spud’s Dilemma

I was confused earlier today.

As to what I should eat for dinner, I mean.

Of course, it’s not an uncommon dilemma. Much has been written about the complex web of issues that can underlie the seemingly simple question of what to eat. In this case, however, it was merely a case of indecision brought on by the weather. I mean, if the weather can’t make up its mind as to what it is doing, then how, dear reader, can I?

See, first it was warm, unseasonably warm and gloriously sunny for days. Then it started cooling off, before the temperature then decided to take an outright nosedive, accompanied by whipping winds and a biblical downpour that pummeled everything that remained out of doors. Eventually, the deluge abated but it was still cool enough outside that I wasn’t up for ditching my trusty fleece layer. And today, there was sun again and, despite the earlier chill breeze, a bit of warmth in the afternoon.

All of this has played havoc with my internal menu signaling system. I can’t tell – is it time for a summery salad or a wintery stew?

rhubarb chard

In the end, rhubarb chard held the solution to this particular omnivore's dilemma

As I contemplated this matter, I could see my somewhat battered-looking rhubarb chard from the kitchen window. The chard had itself been put through the mill by the recent weather. Encouraged to bolt at a fierce pace by our little blast of summer, then all but flattened by the downpour of the following week. The chard needed to be had for dinner and that was that.

And because I didn’t feel like putting any further thought into the matter, I used the chard to make my go-to leafy greens recipe with lentils.

And because I always enjoy this with rice and yoghurt, I saw no reason to do differently this time.

And because, as Mark Bittman has been known to point out, crispy fried onions go so well with this kind of lentil thing, I made those too.

The only thing now is, whatever shall I have for dessert?

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Lentils with Chard (and a couple of other things)

Lentils with Chard

This is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe for lentils with spinach from my well-thumbed copy of her Eastern Vegetarian book. The recipe calls for green lentils, which is what I usually put in, but this time around, I used the smaller, tastier, puy lentils, substituted chard for spinach and threw in some yoghurt and fried onions for good measure.

You’ll need:
  • 400g swiss or rhubarb chard, or spinach
  • 200g puy lentils (or use green or brown lentils)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced into half-rings
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp salt or to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • olive oil for frying
To top it off (optional, but nice):
  • a few dollops of natural yoghurt
  • another onion, sliced and fried ’til brown and crispy
The Steps:
  • Wash your chard well and pat dry. Separate the leaves from any thick-ish stalks and slice both the leaves and the stalks into pieces roughly 2cm wide.
  • Rinse the lentils in a few changes of water.
  • Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add a glug of olive oil.
  • When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and stir and fry for about 2 minutes.
  • Add the lentils and approx. 750ml water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer until the lentils start to get tender. For puy lentils this should take 20-25 minutes, for green or brown lentils maybe 35-40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, if you want to have some crispy fried onions as a garnish, place a frying pan over a medium-high heat and add some more oil. Slice another onion and add to the pan with a little salt. Stir and fry until the onions start to go brown and even blacken in spots and then remove from the heat. Should take around 15-20 minutes.
  • Once the lentils have started to get tender, add in the chard stalks and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Now add the cumin, salt and start adding the chard leaves in stages – as one batch of leaves wilts, it’ll make room for more.
  • Allow the mixture to come back to a simmer and let it bubble gently for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chard is tender and well incorporated.
  • Add a few grinds of black pepper and stir to mix.
  • Serve with rice or Indian breads and with some yoghurt and fried onions on top.
The Variations:
  • You can use kale here instead of chard or spinach, but it needs more cooking time, so add it to the lentils about 10 to 15 minutes earlier in the cooking process.
The Results:
  • 4 big hungry portions or thereabouts
Comments
  • mmmmmmm. i love chard. i just had some the other night with venison and sweet potato. SO GOOD. i hear ya on the screwy weather. i’m in the midst of sunshine and thunderstorms, throwing me in between bbq and corn chowder. hmmm.

  • The wearthers been on the dreary side where I am, so my food choices have been slim pickin’. Good choice on the lentils and chards.

  • Your dinner dilemma turned into a culinary walk in the woods! I love how each step led to another until you found yourself with a delicious meal. And rice – my all-weather staple!
    The chard leaf looks gorgeous; between this and your spud blossom photo from the last post, your garden must rival Bloom!
    Now, the most important question: what did you decide for dessert?

  • Delicious! I haven’t had chard in awhile and love it. Chard/lentils can be difficult to photograph in an appetizing way, but you’ve succeeded :-) Looks wonderful!

  • Such a coincidence! I just made almost this exact same dish for my dinner tonight. The only difference was that I used white beans and didn’t add cumin. Great minds think alike! ;)
    Yours looks a lot prettier than mine did, though.

  • Heather: bbq vs. corn chowder – decisions, decisions :)

    jenn: it was a good choice in the end – I reckon I’m always happy to eat this, no matter what the weather

    Tangled Noodle: well, let’s just say that my garden has a bit more of a lived-in look than Bloom – which translates as having a lot more in the way of weeds than anything Bloom-worthy :) As for dessert, I do believe I went foraging for chocolate in the cupboards afterwards…

    Allen: thanks! Much as I love lentils and greens, it ain’t a naturally pretty dish, so I was more than pleased that I was able to make it look inviting too.

    Susan: I bet it tasted just as good though!

  • What a way to resolve a culinary dilemma – about anything by Madhur Jaffrey is alright with me.

    Is this dish the product of all that hard slogged kit you brought back from the bloggers conference. Are you putting it to good use? I bet those lovely Japanese blades would come in real handy here.

    I love the picture of the dish with the fresh shard leaves in the background a “before” and “after” shot so to speak.

    Hope your further foraging led you to some worthy bits of chocolate to top off the meal.

  • How fresh and lovely with chard straight from the garden. The crispy onions are like the icing on the cake. Looks delicious!

  • I’m with you, the weathere here has been quite spastic but, because this is Canada, we’ve just had different degrees of wet and frozen. Rain one day, snow the other… the sun has shyly peek out its face, only to get slapped down by the evil cloud. What a disfuntional little relationship those two have!
    This stew looks perfeclty staisfying and I like the addition of the onions, I think those go well one anything!

  • looks fresh and delicious!

  • Even in NYC we’re having the wacky weather this spring. Its crazy and I know just what you mean about internal menu signaling system! LOL

    Meanwhile, well done on the chard, it looks fantastic! I love, love swiss chard, especially the bright magenta chard – and this looks like a wonderful way to enjoy it. Yum!

  • Weird weather in California too. Well it’s our usual ‘June gloom’, which means hot and sunny is just around the corner. If you know anything about Cali folks, they just go crazy when the sun’s gone for more than 2 days in a row! Love the swiss chard in this. We just messed around with it for the first time last week, so finding other recipes is great.

  • Never thought of putting lentils in with my greens. That sounds really good, and a great way to add some protein. I’ll have to try this with mustard greens, since we’ve gotten to the point where we like mustard greens so much we can bring ourselves to eat any others.

  • In our area, these temperature jumps are so very typical. Your dish with chard and lentils sounds excellent! Great resolution to the dilemma!

  • gorgeous choice in any clime! GREG

  • looks great! thanks for the recipe

  • What a lovely dish, indeed!!
    I love lentils & i love Swiss chard!!
    What a beatiful presentation too!!
    MMMMMMMMMMM…

  • Sorry you’ve been dealing with schizophrenic weather. It has more or less decided to be hot here now, but lentils and chard and crispy onions?–oh, my! Will have to try that combination in the fall.

  • I love Madhur Jaffrey recipes and this looks like another winner! So delicious and it looks so beautiful. I could eat this all year round!

  • I love the caramelized onion topping on this! Lentils, chard, caramelized onions: delicious!

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