Lentils are cheap, nourishing, and—if properly prepared—delicious. This recipe provides a hearty meal for a family of 4 with plenty of leftovers, or for a busy person throughout the week (can be frozen and reheated). It is also an extremely flexible recipe that can be omni or vegan, and of course, very budget-friendly.
- ½ lb / 227 g lean meat (ideally organic and pastured) or mushrooms
- 1 Tbsp. / 14 ml olive oil for sautéing
- ½ lb / 227 g lentils, any color (green work best)
- 1 large onion (total 5 oz / 150 g)
- 2 large carrots (total 5 oz / 150 g)
- 1 large potato (total 13 oz / 370 g)
- ≈3 cloves fresh garlic (optional, to taste)
- 1 tsp. / 2 g all-natural vegetarian ‘bacon salt’ blend or smoked paprika
- 3 cups / 720 ml natural chicken or vegetable broth/stock or water (more if desired)
- Herbs: parsley, thyme, and/or bay leaves (optional, to taste or garnish)
Seasoning: good olive oil, red or black pepper, curry powder, red wine or apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice all contribute their own flavors and benefits. There is enough salt in this stew from the stock and bacon salt that there really is no need to add more.
- Sort through the lentils to remove any stones or other debris. Put the lentils in a pot and cover with water to rinse. Swirl them around, then drain off the water.
- Set aside a little (about 1 cup) of your stock. Pour all your remaining stock or cooking water over the lentils and set the pot on high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer.
- If you are adding dried herbs, do so now (fresh herbs should be added about five minutes before serving).
- Chop the meat or quarter the mushrooms.
- In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the meat or mushrooms with the bacon salt or paprika, then transfer the meat or mushrooms to the lentil pot with a slotted spoon. Do not drain the rendered fat from the frying pan.
- While the lentils and meat or mushrooms are simmering, peel the carrots, onions, and garlic. Chop the carrots and onions coarsely, and the garlic finely.
- Brown in the reserved seasoned fat or oil, taking care not to scorch the garlic, and add to the lentil pot.
- While the vegetables are browning, scrub and chop, but do not peel, your potatoes.
- Brown the potatoes in what remains of the sautéing fat/oil. If you need to, you may add a little extra oil to keep them from sticking.
- Add the potatoes to the lentil pot, and pour off any excess oil from your pan.
- While the frying pan is still hot, add the reserved stock or cooking water to it and scrape up the browned bits with your spatula. When the pan is deglazed, add all that liquid to the lentil pot.
- Turn up the heat under the lentil pot and keep at a high simmer until all the vegetables are tender. If you need to add more water or stock for a desired thickness, do so.
- Turn off the heat and let the stew stand for about five minutes: now is the time to add fresh herbs, if you are using them.
- If desired, a drizzle of olive oil, spritz of vinegar or lemon juice, or sprinkle of pepper and/or curry can be added to individual bowls after serving. That way, leftovers can be seasoned differently.
You can exchange the potatoes for brown rice. You can add turnips or rutabagas or celery or all at once, more potatoes, carrots, onions, and more meat if you have them. It’s easy to get carried away and make a very large pot of food for very little money. If you do that, make sure you divide the leftovers and freeze them so they don’t go bad.
You may wish to accompany this stew with a slice of whole grain bread (1-oz/ 28-g slice = 1 carb exchange) and butter (1 tsp. / 5 g = 1 fat exchange) or a green salad (1 cup / 80 g = 1 vegetable exchange). A piece of fruit makes an excellent dessert (1 piece = 1 fruit exchange). A glass of red wine (4 fluid oz / 120 ml = 1 fat+1 carb exchange) makes it very special—in that case, deglaze your saucepan with a little wine instead of stock, to match the flavors.
Serving size: 1 cup / 240 ml
Exchanges per Serving: 2 Carb, 2 Protein, 0 Fat