As you know, I have had my head inside the two Ottolenghi recipe books quite a bit recently (you're probably fed up with hearing about them!) and had noted a recipe for Spiced Red Lentils. So somewhere in my subconscious, the idea of doing a spice rub on the chicken and marrying that with the spiced lentils was born. Having swum to the surface, the idea took shape and with the addition of a vegetable rice, became our Sunday meal.
The spice rub for the chicken was a fairly simple thing which left the bird looking very dramatic. I simply added together in a small bowl 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, half a tsp ground cinnamon and half a tsp of allspice with salt & pepper and enough olive oil to make it mobile. This got rubbed all over the chicken before putting it into the oven to roast for an hour and a half. I always give my roast chickens around a half hour to rest, which gave me two hours to prepare the vegetables. Even for me, that was achievable.
The vegetable rice took the form of one chopped onion, four slices of courgette (left over from the curry on Friday) which I'd diced finely, a mushroom (left over from the Stuffed Peppers) also diced finely and some chopped fresh coriander. I fried off the first three things, added some washed rice and enough water to cover, brought it to the boil and put a lid on it and let it rest for some 7-9 minutes. Once the rice was cooked and all the water had been soaked up, I added the coriander, seasoned and fluffed the whole thing up with a fork.
The Spiced Red Lentils, however, were a rather different matter and I felt a teeny bit how Chefs must feel when they're under pressure to turn out a dish for a particular time, doing it. Here's the recipe - taken from Ottolenghi's book "Plenty" - and you'll probably see why!
SPICED RED LENTILS with CUCUMBER YOGHURT (feeds 5-6)
200g split red lentils
50g bunch of coriander, plus extra leaves to garnish
1 small onion, peeled
40g peeled root ginger
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 mild green chilli
1½ black mustard seeds
4 tbsp sunflower oil
1½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp sweet paprika
10 curry leaves
300g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp caster sugar
70g unsalted butter
1½ tbps lime juice
150g Greek yoghurt
75g cucumber, finely diced
1½ tbsp olive oil
Wash the lentils under plenty of cold running water, then soak in the 350ml of water for 30 minutes.
Cut the coriander bunch somewhere around its centre to get a leafy top half and a stalk and root half. Chop up the leaves roughly and side aside. Place the stalk ends in a food processor and add the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli, all roughly broken. Pulse a few times to chop everything up, without turning them into a paste.
Put the mustard seeds in a heavy-based pot and set on a medium heat. When they begin to pop add the chopped onion mix and the sunflower oil. Cook and stir on a low heat for about 10mins.
Add the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika and curry leaves and continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes.
Next add the lentils and their soaking water, the tomatoes, sugar and some salt. Cover and simmer for around 30 minutes, or until the lentils are fully cooked.
Meanwhile, whisk together the yoghurt, cucumber, olive oil and some salt.
Stir the butter, lime juice and chopped coriander into the lentils, taste and season generously with salt.
Serve with the yoghurt on top and garnished with coriander leaves.
The end result is a highly flavoured Dahl-type dish, which - for my taste - I would leave the lime juice out of, the next time I try it. We all felt that the lime tipped the balance between sweet -v- acidic a little too much in favour of the acidic. The dish had been tasting so gorgeous without the lime juice, it was a shame to spoil the velvety thing it had going on. It didn't detract from our enjoyment of the dish, in fact son liked it so much he was quite prepared to take some to school for his breaktime snack until he realised there wasn't any way of a) keeping it warm or b) warming it up. (Note to self : get a small vacuum flask with a wide neck!). Ultimately, a percentage of the lentils got used in the Pierozhki dish we made the following day and the remainder formed part of a lovely lunch for me on Tuesday. Nothing ever goes to waste around here! Even the yoghurt, which I made and completely forgot about, I ate instead of dessert. Jolly nice it was too.