Puy lentil and aubergine stew (SIMPLE, pg 159)

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Serves four as a starter or side, two as a main


3 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra to serve


3 garlic cloves, finely sliced


large red onion, finely chopped (160g)


½ tbsp picked thyme leaves


small aubergines, cut into chunks, about 5 x 2cm (420g)


200g cherry tomatoes


180g Puy lentils


500ml vegetable stock


80ml dry white wine


100g crème fraîche


tsp Urfa chilli flakes (or ½ tsp regular chilli flakes)


2 tsp picked oregano leaves


salt and black pepper


Few things bring me more pleasure in the kitchen than taking a set of familiar ingredients and seeing them in a new light. It’s happened here with this stew and also the Puy lentil and aubergine dish on page 166. The two ingredients lists are very similar – the aubergine, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and oregano. Both dishes – though equally delicious – are completely different from one another. It’s one of the many reasons I love aubergines: they’re so versatile and can be cooked in such different ways to yield such different results.

Serve the stew either as a hearty starter or a side, or else as a main, served with any grain you like. The stew can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept in the fridge – just warm through and add the crème fraîche, oil, chilli flakes and oregano before serving.

Method

1.    Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large, high-sided sauté pan and place on a medium high heat. Add the garlic, onion, thyme and ¼ teaspoon of salt and fry for 8 minutes, stirring often, until soft and golden. Tip into a bowl, leaving the oil behind. Set aside.

2.    Place the aubergines and tomatoes in a bowl and season with ¼ teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Add the remaining oil to the same pan (don’t worry about wiping it clean) and, once very hot, add the aubergines and tomatoes. Fry for 10 minutes, on medium high, turning them often until the aubergine is soft and golden-brown and the tomatoes are beginning to blacken. Return the garlic and onion to the pan, then add the lentils, stock, wine, 450ml of water and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are soft but still retain a bite.

3.    Serve warm, or at room temperature, with a dollop of crème fraîche, a drizzle of oil and chilli flakes and oregano on top.

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