Saturday, 16 April 2011
I thought we could make a proper Swabian dish today.
Like the kind that gives you enough energy to run a marathon or plough a field the next morning (or whatever else you can think of).
Linsen (lentils) were traditionally grown in the region my family is from until the 1950s when people decided that the effort that had to go into growing and cleaning them was slightly outweighed by the small amounts of lentils that you actually got to harvest.
The nice thing about lentils is that they contain loads of easily digestible protein that, when combined with wheat protein, give you all essential amino acids (lentils themselves are missing two) so you can go back to ploughing that field the next day :)
Anyhow, the picture above is of a pack of lentils my mum gave me the last time I was home.
I think the idea behind these lentils is simply super cool.
In the 80s a group of Bioland farmers in the Schwäbische Alb region decided that they wanted to cultivate lentils again but since nobody had properly grown lentils in like 30 years and you couldn't get the old seeds anymore they started looking for types of lentils that would thrive in the climate of the area.
It turns out that puy lentils really like the ground there so that is what they've been growing.
In 2006 (this is the bit where I got really excited about these lentils:) some guy discovered some old seeds that were the type that used to grow in the region in a collection in St Petersburg so now they have started planting these. In a couple of years time they will be able to start selling the same lentils that people were growing in the region at the beginning of the last century.
Anyhow, I'm gonna stop boring you with stories about food and we can get to the cooking bit :)
You could add some vegetables to this (like carrots or potatoes) but I felt this would distract from the delicate flavour of the puy lentils.
Also, my dad is of the opinion that it's not proper lentils if you don't add some bacon (I don't share that opinion but if you like bacon, add some).
250-300g Lentils (there were 4 of us)
Salt & Pepper
If you want to go authentic you'll need some flour as well.
If you are using puy or beluga lentils then you can just start, if you are using larger green lentils then I would soak them for a couple of hours before starting.
Finely dice the onion and sauté it in the butter in a heavy-bottomed dish.
Once the onion is starting to look all lovely and glassy, add the lentils and give it a quick stir. Cover with vegetable stock and cook on a medium heat until the lentils are tender. With puy lentils this will take around 15-20 minutes, if you are using a different type of lentils this may differ.
When the lentils are nearly done, melt some butter in a heavy bottomed pan, then add some flour and make a roux. You are aiming for quite a brown end result so keep the temperature fairly low and give it some time. Set the roux aside until the lentils are cooked.
I prefer my lentils slightly overcooked if I have them with Spätzle (see picture below) because then they stick to the pasta waaay better. Anyhow, there shouldn't be crazy amounts of liquid left in the pot now.
Mix in the roux (if things get too thick too quickly add some more stock, but keep in mind that you don't want lentil soup).
Add some vinegar (trust me, this will transform them from good to amazing) and season with some salt and pepper.
Serve the lentils with some Spätzle or if you aren't going for a traditional thing, they are also really nice with some humous and penne (I think my grandma is gonna disown me now....but it's actually really nice).
Anyhow, I hope you have a lovely rest of your weekend!