Rabbit food anyone?

What do you think of when you hear the word: lentil?

Let’s be honest here, lentils don’t have a very good reputation do they?  One that’s not actually very fair.

If you hear the word and immediately think of greeny environmental types with dreadlocks and hemp clothes; who only eat grass, soy and hard-as-old-boots rye bread, then you seriously need to think again. And pronto, rabbit food they ain’t. In fact, these miniature pulses are so super yum it almost beggers belief.

When I was little, my Mam did cook lentils a lot. I remember eating them smothered in butter and lemon juice and really enjoying them. But for some reason as I got older, they fell off my radar, only recently to reappear. And to be honest, I can’t believe I’ve wasted so many lentil-free years. They would have been an absolute god send in my student years:  cheap AND nutritious AND filling AND tasty, how come nobody reminded me about them?

As it has been slightly chillier than normal here in Sydney these past few weeks, I’ve been eating them with lots of yummie winter veggies, making some frugal but filling and oh-so-tasty mid-week suppers.  I put this dish together myself, basically because I thought the flavours would go well together: the sweetness of the roast squash and red onion is perfectly balanced with the saltiness of the feta, the rocket gives a peppery twist and the lentils are nutty, rich and wintery.

If you’re out to change your opinion of these nutty little guys, give this dish a try. It’s best enjoyed on a cold, dark evening with a nice glass of red. Hemp scarves and hats are optional.

Puy lentils with roast squash, caramelised red onion, rocket and feta

Makes enough for four.

Ingredients

1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes approximately 3 cm wide
1 tsp fresh marjoram
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
250 g Puy lentils
600 ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 large red onion, very roughly sliced into half rings
1 clove of garlic, minced
50 g rocket
100 g feta cheese, crumbled

First of all, preheat the oven to 200 °C. While the oven is warming up, prepare the squash for roasting: spread the cubes evenly across a roasting dish along with 2 tbsps of the olive oil, the marjoram and plenty of salt and pepper. Toss this all together will and pop into the oven for about 40 minutes.

Next, rinse the lentils in cold water and transfer them into a pot with the cold stock. You could also use water as the cooking liquid, however I found the stock gave a much richer flavour. Bring the liquid to the boil and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, taste the lentils, if they are nice and tender, they are done and can be drained and seasoned with a little salt. If they need more time you may need to add in some extra water, and cook for a few minutes longer.

Once you’ve put on the lentils, put the red onion and remaining oil in a thick-bottomed pan and heat gently until the onion begins to colour and starts to caramelise, will take about 20 minutes, but it’s totally worth the wait. You’ll need to stir occasionally. Towards the end of the cooking time, reduce the heat and add in the garlic, mix through and leave to cook for a further 3-5 minutes, being careful to not let the garlic burn.

Once everything is cooked, it’s as simple as popping everything on a plate: first the lentils, then the squash and onions, followed by a handful of the rocket and the crumbled feta.

Yumbolicious.

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