As you all know, I am a bit of a Belinda Jeffery fan. I find I actually use her cookbooks as compared to reading them. Don’t get me wrong. I love to read cookbooks but how much better is it when you make something from one book time and time again?
Well, this one is definitely a tried and true recipe. For those who don’t know, that was a play on words – Belinda’s second book is called Tried and True Recipes. This recipe, however, comes from her first book, 100 Favourite Recipes.
Anyway, enough of the Belinda glorification and back to the recipe. Here is an excerpt from the preamble to this recipe:
“If someone asked me which recipe in this book they should make first, I’d have to say these lentils. They are so very good. About the only trouble with them is that they nearly always disappear much too quickly, so I often double the recipe to make sure there’s plenty left over. They keep well for at least 10 days in the fridge – that’s if you can stop everybody raiding them.”
Now, with a rap like that, one’s curiosity must be aroused.
A few years ago, when I was still working, Maus rang me one day and asked the perennial question, “What shall we have for dinner?” I suggested this recipe. It is extremely easy to make and, at the time, Maus was going through one of her “we should eat more legumes” stages so it was perfect. That was the start of our love affair with this dish.
I tell you, this recipe is very, very, good. I know it just looks like a bowl of lentils but it is much more than the sum of its parts.
- 600g dried red lentils (I just bought McKenzies from IGA)
- 140g currants
- ⅓ cup capers
- 250 ml olive oil (you may wish to reduce this a little)
- 70mls red wine vinegar
- 2 tbs (40 mls) white sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1½ tsp curry powder
- ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- onion, slithers
- parsley leaves
- Put all the dressing ingredients in a big bowl and whisk them together until they are thoroughly combined.
- Wash the lentils.
- Bring some water to the boil in a large saucepan.
- Put the lentils into the boiling water.
Now this is the tricky bit!!
Stir them well and cook them, for a couple of minutes, until they are just tender with a hint of firmness.
Belinda advises that “You have to watch them like a hawk because they can go from being whole and perfect to mush in the space of 30 seconds or so.”
She is right. What I do is put the timer on for 2 minutes and then test them every few seconds until they are nearly done but not quite. I then turn them off. By the time I have drained them, they are done.
It is no big deal if you over cook them. They just won’t look very pretty.
- When they are ready, pour them into a sieve to drain, then tip them into the dressing and mix well.
- Add the currants and the capers then leave to cool to room temperature, stirring regularly.
- When you are ready to serve, pile it onto a plate and sprinkle some onion slithers and parsley leaves over the top.