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RECIPE:  RUSTIC LENTILS UMBRIA

 

This recipe was inspired by an Italian lady I had the pleasure of staying with in the Umbria region of Italy.  She had cooked a big a pot of lentils that sounds simple enough, but the taste was really complex and divine.  She filled me in on her secret: cook the lentils in white wine instead of water...oh, and fresh veggies.  Sold!

Onions, carrot and celery give it a sweet taste, reminiscent of a slow-cooked Bolognese.

 

A full bowl of this is definitely a meal, and leftovers are a bonus as it’s so versatile you can serve it along side of fish,

chicken, pork or beef.

PREP TIME:  10 min

WONDERBAG COOK TIME:  30 min on the stove,  2-8 hours in the Wonderbag

CONVENTIONAL COOK TIME:  2 hours on the stove

SERVES:  6 as a main, 12-15 as a side (makes roughly 8 cups/2 kg in total).

INGREDIENTS
TO COOK
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) dried green or brown lentils

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil

  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped

  • 2 carrots, finely diced

  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced

  • 1 sachet TASTE OF TUSCANY spice blend

  • 1 full bottle (750 ml) chardonnay wine

  • One 15-ounce (400 g) can of diced tomatoes in juices *OR* 1 lb (500 g) of fresh cherry tomatoes, puréed
  • 1 tsp salt

 

TO SERVE
  • Further salt & pepper to taste

  • 1 cup (40 g) fresh basil, finely chopped

  • Parmesan cheese to taste

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THE NIGHT BEFORE...

 

SOAK the lentils overnight in a generous amount of water.  This is IMPORTANT.  See Cook’s Notes.  

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
WONDERBAG METHOD

 

1)  Drain the pre-soaked lentils, rinse well and discard water.

 

2)  Heat a 3 quart (3.5 litre) pot on medium. Add olive oil and onions and cook until soft (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently.

 

3)  Add the celery, carrot, and TASTE OF TUSCANY spice blend and cook until soft (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently.

 

4)  Add the lentils and wine, and cook until the wine has evaporated (about 8 minutes), stirring frequently.

 

5)  Add puréed (or canned/tinned) tomatoes and salt, and bring to a boil.

 

6)  Reduce heat to med-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

 

7)  Seal your lidded pot in the Wonderbag and leave to cook for a minimum of 2 hours to finish cooking (the flavors intensify if you leave it 8 hours).

CONVENTIONAL METHOD

 

1)  Drain the pre-soaked lentils, rinse well and discard water.

 

2)  Heat a 3 quart (3.5 litre) pot on medium. Add olive oil and onions and cook until soft (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently.

 

3)  Add the celery, carrot, and TASTE OF TUSCANY spice blend and cook until soft (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently.

 

4)  Add the lentils and wine, and cook until the wine has evaporated (about 8 minutes), stirring frequently.

 

5)  Add puréed (or canned/tinned) tomatoes and salt, and bring to a boil.

 

6)  Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting and simmer, covered, for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until lentils are soft. 

 

7) Stir occasionally.

SERVE

 

Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir in the chopped basil and spoon into individual serving bowls.

 

Top with parmesan cheese as desired.

Recipe & Photo Credit:  Cathy Menees

COOKS NOTES

LENTILS 101

 

Usually when cooking dried lentils there is no need to soak dried lentils overnight, as they soften and cook more quickly than dried beans.  The exception is when you’re going to be cooking them in acidic liquid (wine) or with acidic vegetables (tomatoes), both of which I do in the recipe.  The presence of acidic food will keep the lentils from properly soften, unless soaked overnight. 

 

Don’t try this recipe with dried beans.  I’ve tried it.  The dried beans still don’t soften in the tomatoes and wine, even when soaked in water the night before.  If you really want to use beans with this recipes, cook them in water ahead of time, or used canned/tinned beans (which are pre-cooked of course).

KITCHEN BUDDIES

 

The Wonderbag is your best friend here as you can leave the lentils to slow-cook the whole day, and the flavours just get better and better.

 

If you are cooking this fully on the stovetop, just be sure to keep it on the lowest heat setting possible, and remove it from the heat when the lentils are soft, as they can turn mushy if cooked too long on a direct heat source.

 

PORTIONS

 

This recipe intentionally makes a lot as it’s a great habit to have lentils on hand for a meal, snack or side dish ready to go!  So make it once and enjoy the health benefits all week long.

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