Lentil stew – wholesome, nourishing, and filling – makes for an inexpensive and satisfying meal. I serve it in late autumn and winter, using up all the sturdy root vegetables we keep in cold storage. I bake a loaf of no-knead sourdough, open up a jar of homemade sauerkraut and ladle lentil stew into my family’s waiting bowls. I drizzle a bit of olive oil over my stew and toss in a splash of balsamic vinegar, which brings a bit of their brightness to the stew’s humble earthiness.
Lentil stew is peasant food – simple, satisfying and inexpensive. When times are tight and our grocery budget shrinks as a result, I rely on lentils to satisfy hungry bellies and to stretch inexpensive cuts of beef a bit further. It’s something we rely on, and something I love. In making this stew, I favor the French Green Lentil which is a pretty forest green color, and which keeps its shape even during prolonged cooking. It’s a bit on the expensive side, as far as lentils are concerned, so I often substitute the brown lentil which costs a bit less, but offers a muddier flavor and texture.
- 1 ½ cups French green lentils
- 2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat
- 1 yellow onion (chopped fine)
- 2 bay leaves
- ¾ pound celeriac (peeled and chopped into ¼-inch dice)
- ¾ pound carrots (peeled and chopped into ¼-inch dice)
- ½ pound parsnips (peeled and chopped into ¼-inch dice)
- 1 teaspoon finely ground real salt
- 6 cups chicken bone broth
- 1 dried red chili pepper
- 2 bunches mustard greens (trimmed and sliced very thin)
- extra virgin olive oil (to serve)
- balsamic vinegar (to serve)
- Pour the lentils into a large mixing bowl, cover with warm water by 2 inches and stir in vinegar. Cover the bowl loosely with a kitchen towel, and leave it in a warm spot in your kitchen for 8 to 12 hours. Drain the lentils and rinse them well.
- Melt the bacon fat in a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat. Toss the onions into the bacon fat, and cook them until fragrant and translucent. Stir in celeriac, carrots and parsnips. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt, cover the pot, and sweat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in lentils, chicken stock, chili pepper and bay leaves. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes until lentils are tender. Pluck out the chili pepper and bay leaves.
- Turn off the heat, and stir in mustard greens. Cover and allow the greens to wilt in the residual heat of the lentils for about 5 minutes. Serve with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.