Thursday, August 19, 2010

$21 Challenge: Lentil Stew

One of the meals I had in mind this week as a part of the $21 Challenge was lentil soup. Lentils are a very nutritious food: high in fiber, high in protein, and low in fat. They're also easy to digest, meaning they can be enjoyed by people of all ages. French lentils hold their shape when cooked so they're often used to added to salads. I didn't know it though, until I looked it up, that French lentils take longer to cook than any other variety of lentil. I was wondering why my soup was taking forever to cook! They're so small I thought they'd be done in a half hour, max, but it was closer to an hour. All well. Now I know!

In a 1/4 cup of dry lentils (which is about 1/2 to 3/4 cup cooked), you get 11 grams of protein, no fat, no cholesterol, almost 30% of your daily fiber, and 15% of your daily iron. Not bad considering a pound of green lentils only costs about $1. Saying veganism is expensive is ridiculous!

Lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking (I never soak them. I just roll with it). And like beans, salt or acidic ingredients (tomatoes, citrus juices) may prolong cooking. I add these ingredients at the end. Always rinse your lentils a couple of times and pick through them, you never know when you might find a pebble or two. In general, you should add 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of lentils, though this depends on the contents of your soup. I always add a lot of vegetables to mine so I have to account for them. Lentils usually take about 30-45 minutes to cook, but the red ones take less time and the French ones take more time.

Red (or pink or orange) lentils fall apart when you cook them, making a sort of hearty stew or pottage. Many of the people who don't like the texture of green lentils like the red. I think they also tend to have a milder flavor. If you haven't ate lentils before and you're just not sure about them you should try the red ones (or Progresso lentil soup in a can, it's vegan). 

Anywho. This recipe makes a very hearty stew. It uses all of the things I bought this week as a part of the $21 challenge. I'm not gonna lie though, I did have some vegetable broth on hand (it's so cheap to make homemade... practically free... it's made of scraps!) and some raw buckwheat groats were tossed in (I mentioned these in my raw granola post. I bought 4 lbs of bulk groats for like, $15 and I'm on my last pound). I also threw in a potato, but it was free since it was grown in a backyard. Lol. This recipe makes a lot of stew so you'll be munching on it for a few days. I like leftovers though, they're quick and easy.

Actually, coming clean here, this makes a shit ton of stew so feel free to halve this. I don't know how I feel about eating lentils for lunch and dinner for the next week... Also, this recipe does call for tomato paste which is like the annoying, awkward neighbor kid of ingredients, but I will be using it all up in my next recipe. So feel free to open that can! Oh, and if all else fails you can freeze it. It freezes good.
Quick! Hide!! He wants to borrow your bike again!

Hearty Lentil and Vegetable Stew:
1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
4-6 mushrooms, chopped fine 
1 tsp. of minced garlic
1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked through
1 potato, diced small
1 Tb. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
Celery leaves, chopped fine (I just pick off all the good ones)
3/4 c. raw buckwheat groats, rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes, drained (you don't have to drain them)
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water or more, if needed
1 bag of spinach (10 oz.)

1. In a stew pot, saute onion, celery, mushrooms, garlic, celery leaves, and potato for about 5 minutes or until soft and fragrant. You use 1-2 Tb. oil if you have it, or you can use nonstick, or you can just use broth or water if you're doing the challenge.
2. Add the lentils, broth, tomato paste, sugar, and water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add the diced tomatoes and buckwheat groats and return to a simmer. Let cook for 15 more minutes or until the groats, lentils, and potatoes are tender.
4. Add the bag of spinach and let it wilt, just a couple of minutes.
5. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Sounds tastey. I made some letil soup the other day too and it turned out soooo good. I love lentils! They are so cheap and easy to use.

Jess of Midwest Vegan said...

I agree. I think the red ones are my favorite, but I pretty much like them all!