Lentejas is one of those classic Spanish dishes that really has no translation (literally lentils) – it just is. A staple of the good old menu del día, usually to be found steaming onto restaurant tables on Mondays, lentejas should not be confused with ensalada de lentejas, or lentejas con… – no, lentejas is simply lentejas.
At its most basic this dish is just the pulse cooked in a pot with garlic, maybe a bit of bacon, ham and/or chorizo, and a bay leaf or two. No two cooks do it the same and my recipe is an adaptation of the magnificent lentils served up in the Bar Fayon here in my village in Huesca. The señora in the Fayon basically gets the lentils cooking, makes a sofrito and then adds the two together after pushing the sofrito through what in Spain is called a chino (see photo below). This is great because it means that you can use ingredients that your kids probably wouldn’t eat if they could see them.
250g lentils (pardina)
Half a head of garlic (or less or more to taste)
Half a leek
A couple of carrots
Tomatoes (a large tin if you don’t have fresh)
Small green or red pepper
Salt & black pepper
Rinse and check lentils for stones then cover with plenty of water. Throw in the bay leaf and bring almost to the boil. Cover and simmer. Get the sofrito on the go – heat some oil in a heavy bottomed pan and slowly brown the chorizo and sweat the garlic.
Roughly chop the rest of the vegetables into small pieces and add them, the ones with longest cooking times first.
If using chorizo, try to get the juices really flowing, turning the colour of the oil. When the vegetables have softened, turn the heat up add the white wine and let reduce. Then add the tomatoes, reduce heat and simmer.
When the carrots can be mashed with a fork, remove the chorizo and pass the sofrito through the chino strainer, or blend it and add to the lentils which should be cooked. Add the cumin, paprika, parsley, salt and pepper. Simmer for around 10 minutes. In Spain everybody likes lentils in their own way with more or less liquid. If you have too much, turn the heat up and let it evaporate. Serve the lentils in a bowl and top with slices of the chorizo. For a vegetarian/vegan version just leave out the spicy sausage
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