Sunday, 15 May 2011

Chorizo, Aubergine and Lentil Stew

I'm afraid that today's recipe, as you can see from these photos, is not one of life's natural beauties. The word "slop" springs to mind, doesn't it? But it did taste good and made a surprisingly filling dinner for two confirmed carnivores. 

This was a Dine at Mine improvisation based on the contents of the fridge - à la MasterChef Invention Test - and it was surprisingly successful. Some venerable chorizo which needed using up, an aubergine starting to wrinkle, plus a few tins and store cupboard bits and bobs made a delicious, smoky and spicy stew. And I know the word "stew" sounds intrinsically unappealing but unless you've got any better ideas, I couldn't think of a more accurate descriptor.

Another advantage of this meal was that it was mostly meat-free. Have you heard of the food author Michael Pollan's golden rule for healthy eating: "Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants"? Well, I sometimes worry that we eat too much meat - bad for the environment, the wallet and maybe for us - so it was nice having an almost veggie meal which still left us full. And yes, I know that chorizo is meat, but the meal is still mostly vegetal and in my mind, anything with lentils is automatically healthy.

This stew was perfect with some leafy green veg on the side and reheated really well for a fabulous lunchbox meal the next day. Another bonus? It left us enough "healthiness brownie points" (need I remind you of the lentils and vegetables?) to feel no guilt whatsoever about having a proper cheese course later. Mmm, artisan smoked Welsh cheddar and super-squidgy French brie, oh yes.

Of course, this isn't likely to last - the fridge is full of sausages, steak and pork fillet and we are already looking forward to the very rare Beef Wellington at our wedding dinner. But for now, we are Eating Food and Mostly Plants. If only we could manage the Not Too Much part.

Chorizo, Aubergine and Lentil Stew
Serves 3 greedy people, or 4 normal

- about 10cm of chorizo sausage, chopped into medium-sized chunks
- 1 large aubergine, cut into chunks
- 1 onion, ditto
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 tin of lentils, drained
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- pinch of smoked paprika
- salt, pepper
- half a teaspoon of cumin
- good splash of balsamic vinegar
- a few sprigs of thyme

Add the chorizo to a hot, dry pan and sizzle for around 5 minutes, while it exudes bright red oil. Add the garlic, onion and aubergine to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, over a medium-high heat for around 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and a few of the edges are caramelised. 

Pour in the tomatoes, lentils, herbs, vinegar and thyme, stir well and taste, adding anything else that seems like a good idea (other herbs or spices? a few cherry tomatoes?). Leave to simmer for another 5-10 minutes, or until everything has slopped down to the right consistency for you. 

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