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?
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?
Lentils with Chard (and a couple of other things)
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 4 big hungry portions or thereabouts