I have many recipes for various lentil dishes, along with onions, garlic and ginger, many of the older ones contain a mixture of vegetables such as aubergine, squash, courgette etc – these are the sort of thing that may be in the garden all year round in warmer climes. I have always advocated substituting ingredients for the things you have at the time, my winter standbys are carrot and celery. In this case, being autumn, we do have a glut of beetroot (it just seems to go on growing!) so this would fit quite well. The earthy taste of the lentils partner well with the sweeter beetroot, which is balanced by the lemon juice and mustard seeds. This does make about 6 portions but it has many uses— it can be served as it is as an accompaniment or used as a sauce for eggs or other vegetables. Try it Borani style dotted with a curd cheese or feta and served with pickled radish and flatbreads. If there is any still left over, the addition of coconut milk would make a delicious, creamy soup.
Beetroot and Lentils
60g red lentils
45g green lentils
45g homedod split fava beans
½ teaspoon salt
300g onion, sliced
½ cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom, bashed
3 pips star anise
2 bay (or curry) leaves
2 level Tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin seed
6 Tablespoons butter or coconut oil or 90 ml oil
2 green chillies
1 Tablespoon black mustard seeds
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon chopped coriander
First put the lentils and split beans in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for at least an hour then rinse in cold water until it runs clear.
Peel the garlic and ginger and pound with the salt in a pestle and mortar.
Put 2 tablespoon of fat in a saucepan with the onions and fry until they turn translucent. Add the ginger garlic mix, the cinnamon stick, the cardamoms, the star anise and the cloves. Continue to stir and fry for 5 minutes, until the onions turn golden. Add the curry powder, bay leaves and the drained lentils. Mix well and turn in the fat. Add 750ml water, cover with a lid and simmer until the lentils are cooked through, about 45 minutes.
Whilst the lentils are cooking, wash, peel and cut the beetroot, first into half, then into crescent shape slices. (I would normally advocate roasting the beetroot but in Sept 22 I cannot justify the cost of switching on the oven for one beetroot!) Put a heavy based frying pan on to heat. Crush the cumin seeds and place in the pan with the beetroot and a tablespoon of your chosen fat. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes until the aroma rises from the cumin seeds. Pour enough water in to just cover the beetroot then place a tight fitting lid on top and turn the heat to low. Stir every ten minutes or so, keeping the beetroot covered with water, until it is very soft. Remove the lid, turn the heat up slightly and drive off any remaining water, until the beetroot just starts to caramelize. Leave to cool slightly.
When the lentils are all cooked and soft put about half of them in a blender with the beetroot and cumin. Take care to leave the leaves and the rest of the whole spices in the pan! Blend till smooth – this may have to be done in 2 batches -then stir back into the remaining lentils. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. You may wish to blend more or less of the lentils – the final texture is up to your preference. You may wish to reserve a few spoonfuls to place on top in a serving dish.
Put the remaining fat in a small frying pan and heat till hot. Add the chilli and the mustard seeds and fry until they start to pop. Pour over the lentils, followed by the lemon juice and coriander.