Monday, July 31, 2006

On Lentils, and the deliciousness of said legume

I cook a lot of lentils because I am a vegetarian cliche and I like them. Lentils are awesome. Some people think you need to soak them. You don't. You cook them just like pasta, 'cept for a bit longer, and they're tasty and you can add other tasty things to them, and what do you end up with? That's right, a taste sensation.

Anyhoozle, I had a few gustatorial delights swirling around my head for a while. 'Gee,' I thought to myself, 'I sure do feel like doing something with tahini. And garlic. And lemon! Because those things go together like Joan Collins and bitchslaps, Kevin Federline and pot.' And then I thought. 'Gee, I sure do feel like taking that punnet of mini roma tomatoes, alongside the mini cos and mini red lettuce and all the other mini vegetables I buy out of some misplaced maternal urge, and roasting them but good.' And then I thought 'Hey, due to a curious combination of security pass shenanigans and awkward hours, I can't leave the office when I'm at work, and I sure do get hungry sitting at my desk. Wouldn't it be nice to have something garlicky, tahini-ish, tomatoey and lentilly to nibble at while I'm sitting there, all efficient and good at my job and such?'

So I made myself some food. It goes a little something like this.

I took:
  • About a dozen mini roma tomatoes (if you wanted to replicate this, AND I STRONGY SUGGEST YOU DO, you could use cherry or something else little).
  • Two red capsicums
  • Around a cup of dried brown lentils
  • Two cloves of garlic. Actually, it was one fat clove and two of the skinny little pissy cloves from the middle of the head but, fmeh.
  • A fat lemon.
  • Around three tablespoons of tahini.

To start with I rinsed and picked over the lentils to make sure there weren't any little bits of non-lentil stuff floating around. There weren't, so I chucked them into a pan, covered generously with cold water and added a couple of bay leaves for good measure. I brought that to the boil and simmered for around half an hour until the lentils were cooked but still had a bit of bite to them. Meanwhile, I halved the tomatoes and chucked them onto a baking sheet with the merest drizzle of extra virgin and a good deal of cracked black pepper. I turned all the tomatoes to coat. Also, I made sure they were all cut side down to begin with. These were thrown into an oven preheated to 200 deg c, for how long, I don't know. I just kept checkin' them until they looked roasty, like this -

When they looked like that I turned them all cut side up and gave them even MORE roasting, until they were concentrated little nuggets of deliciousness. In the midst of all that I'd halved and seeded the capsicums and threw them under a hot grill for some roasting. Now, do I really need to explain how to roast and skin a capsicum? It feels rather patronising if I try. I can tell you, the attentive reader, how I do it. I grill those capsicum halves until they are good and blackened. Not just a little blackened, but blackened. I want to see some carbon on those pretty red skins, mostly so they're properly cooked and sweet and delicious. Then I take out the hot, peeling halves and throw them into a plastic bag for a few minutes to loosen the skins. After they've cooled a bit I take the warm, fleshy tongues of capsicum over to the sink and rub the skin off under running water, mostly because, while the warmness and fleshiness and deliciousness of roasted capsicum does make me come over all Nigella, capsicum skin clings like a little bitch.

Somewhere between the peeling of the capsicums, the turning of the tomatoes, and the draining and rinsing of the lentils I made the tahini sauce. To start I crushed and very, very finely chopped the garlic, which I then ground to a paste using salt. To do that I just generously sprinkled the garlic with salt and squashed it with the flat of the blade of a kitchen knife. Actually, it's more a wiping motion. You wipe the garlic out into a sheet of garlicky goodness on the chopping board, slide the blade under the sheet of garlic, fold it back into a pile, lather, rinse, repeat. It's quite hypnotic, really. This was put into a big 'ole bowl with the tahini, and then I grated the rind of half the lemon into it, and squeezed in the lemon juice. Fork briskly and you'll have a nutty, lemony, garlicky, pasty sauce.

At this point I rather vigorously forked in the lentils. At first it'll look like there's not enough sauce, but keep going, they'll all get coated. In go the roasted tomatoes and capsicum sliced into strips. And, let me tell you something, I got some jealous looks in the office with my gustatorial genius.


Jobe said...

You know I never would have thought lentils would go well with roasted tomatoes.

I may have to perform cookery on this dish.

kiki said...

as a new found vegetarian, i endeavour to attempt to recreate this dish

hope that's cool with you

hell said...

yum! me too with the cooking it...

beotchfromhell said...

i was ok until the olive oil was mentioned.