Love your lentils


TURNING SEASONS ‘Autumnal flavour from the lentils and a light summery taste from the fish’. Pic: The Cabots

The Cabots

We’re in a kind of a hybrid mode between summer and winter food. I’m not yet craving the hearty flavours of winter, but I am moving away from the salads of summer.
Lentils are the perfect half-way food. They are cheap and quick to cook. They are nutritious, containing protein, fibre, B vitamins and iron. Brown, green and Puy lentils are the more robust of these legumes and they hold their shape well in stews and casseroles. Typically, they cook in 20-25 minutes.
Yellow and red split lentils cook faster, 10-15 minutes, and are often used in Asian dals and soups. They will keep in a store cupboard for a year – any longer than that and they lose flavour and texture.

In a bit of a stew
Lentils go well with smokey flavours and are often teamed up with pancetta or chorizo. If you don’t eat meat, you can replicate this umami flavour by using smoked paprika.
I recently made this lentil stew and cod dish, and found it to be a lovely combination of autumnal flavour from the lentils and a light summery taste from the fish. I had very ripe tomatoes from Chris Smith at the Westport Country Market, so I mixed them with parsley for an extra zingy flavour.
I used split red lentils in this dish, so it cooked quickly.
You must keep a careful eye on your pot though, or they will go mushy. And nobody wants that!

Smokey lentil stew topped with cod

What you need
For the fish

  • Four sustainably-sourced cod filets, around 100g each
  • Glug of vegetable oil
  • Knob of butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful lightly chopped ripe tomatoes
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

For the lentil stew

  • 3 tbsp oil (half vegetable, half olive)
  • 1 medium diced onion
  • 1 diced shallot
  • 2 diced large carrots
  • 2 diced sticks of celery
  • 3 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ tbsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 and ¼ cups of lentils
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Cupful of finely chopped parsley
  • Sea salt, black pepper

What you do
Place the cod filets on a plate, skin side down, drizzle a little olive oil over each one and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
Onto the stew. Finely dice your onion and shallot and sauté gently in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan till translucent.
Add the finely diced celery and carrot. Sauté gently for a few minutes until all are covered in the oil. Add the crushed garlic, stir through for 30 seconds over a low heat. Pop a lid on the saucepan and remove from the heat. Allow the vegetables to steam for a few minutes.
Wash the lentils in a fine sieve, then add to the mix, along with the smoked paprika, ground cumin, cayenne pepper and balsamic vinegar. Stir softly to avoid crushing the lentils. Add the stock and three-quarters of your finely chopped parsley and return the saucepan to the heat.
Bring to the boil then simmer over a very low setting. Cook for anything from ten to fifteen minutes. Keep watching the pot to avoid over-cooking the lentils.
Lightly chop the tomatoes – or even tear them apart with your fingers, pop in a bowl with a glug of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Mix in the remaining parsley and leave the flavours to mingle.
Meanwhile, back to the fish. Five to six minutes before the lentils are ready, heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. When hot, press the cod, white side down, onto the pan and allow to cook (without moving) for at least three to four minutes. Press the skin side occasionally to make sure the cod is not over-cooking, it should remain fleshy and raw.
Flip the fish onto its skin and cook for a further one to two minutes. The white flesh should be a golden colour. Pop a small knob of butter on top of each filet. As the fish is finishing off, fill four heated soup bowls with the lentil mix and squeeze lemon juice over each. Pop a filet of cod on the lentils, then top the fish with your tomato and parsley dressing.

— Sandra

The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.