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 bring 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.
Dr. Price on Lentil Stew
Those of you who’ve read Nourished Kitchen for some time, know that my family adheres to the dietary guidelines of the Weston A Price Foundation; that is, we eat traditionally prepared whole foods with special emphasis placed on good quality fats and animal foods. In the newest edition of Dr. Price’s book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, the Price Pottenger Nutritional Foundation published a letter written by Dr. Price to his nieces and nephews in which he narrowed down the scope of his work traveling the globe and investigating the traditional diets of healthy peoples into practical, simple tips for contemporary American families on a budget.
In that letter which you can read in the appendix of this book as it is not, to my knowledge, published elsewhere, Price extolls the virtue of lentils and lentil stews:
The protein requirement can be provided each day in one egg or a piece of meat equivalent to the bulk of one egg a day. The meals can be amply modified and varied with vegetables, raw and cooked, the best of the cooked vegetables being lentils used as a soup. – Dr. Price, in a letter to his nieces and nephews.
In his work with underprivileged children, Price also fed lentil soup and whole-grain bread as part of a lunch program intended to help reverse tooth decay and support the children’s optimal growth. Other meals included marrow stew, beef stew and liver – all served with whole-grain bread, whole milk, cod liver oil and a bit of cooked fruit for dessert. And the children’s health excelled, even with only one solid, nutrient-dense meal each day. You can read more about the program in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration as well as in this post by Stanley Fishman of Tender Grassfed Meat.
Lentil Stew Offers Rich Nutrition
Dr. Price favored lentils with good reason: they’re simple, inexpensive and nutrient-dense. Lentils are an excellent source of many B vitamins – particularly folate. One cup of cooked lentils supplies 90% of the body’s need for folate, and 22% of the body’s need for thiamin. Properly prepared through soaking, lentils are also an excellent source of minerals like iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Pairing them with bone broth, another superb source of minerals, provides even more nutritional support.
This lentil stew recipe also makes use of the smoky flavor of bacon fat to season the humble lentils. I know you’ve been told time and time again to avoid bacon – told that it’s bad for your heart. Yet, pasture-fed pork and pastured bacon offer a beautiful alternative to forgoing bacon completely. Indeed, the fat present in bacon is largely monounsaturated – the very same type of fat found in olive oil and avocados. It is a wholesome fat. Moreover, pasture-fed bacon is a good source of fat soluble vitamins – particularly vitamin D which is essential for proper immune function.
Between lentils, broth, bacon fat, olive oil and a beautiful array vegetables – there’s a lot of flavor and a lot of nutrition in a simple pot of lentil stew.
- 1 1/2 cups French green lentils
- 2 tablespoons apple cider viengar
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat
- 1 medium yellow onion (chopped fine)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3/4 pound celeriac (peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch dice)
- 3/4 pound carrots (peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch dice)
- 1/2 pound parsnips (peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch dice)
- 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
- 1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
- 1 dried red chili pepper
- 2 bunches mustard greens (trimmed and sliced very thin)
- unrefined 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.