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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Brown lentils with spinach and pomegranate molasses

Adapted from, itself based on a recipe from the fantastic book ‘Olive Trees and Honey’ by Gil Marks.

I first had a version of this made by the wonderful Alli. It tastes so rich and complex, and when I asked for the recipe I was amazed about how simple it actually was to make. It turns out that it is a traditional Egyptian dish, which I suppose makes sense – you wouldn’t make a dish this tasty and just forget about it.  This makes an excellent vegan main course as part of a Middle-Eastern themed dinner, freezes and reheats very nicely too. Serve with a dish of tahini sauce for vegans, or thick labneh mixed with za’atar and olive oil for dairy consumers.

Pomegranate molasses is one of my favourite ingredients to work with at the moment. I normally use it with tahini, with aubergines, or roasted fish, but this is the first time I have cooked with it in this way. It is easier to find than you might think, and not very expensive.

These quantities about 8 big servings. When I made this dish it was served with a Persian-style baked rice made by Becky, with fried onions and potatoes, and a crunchy top.


500g brown lentils, rinse and drain the lentils well.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, diced not too fine
4 cloves of roughly crushed and chopped garlic (this is significantly less garlic than in the original recipe – crushing is important as apparently it releases all the heart healthy benefits of garlic more than just chopping)
1 heaped tsp of ground cumin (toast and grind cumin seeds if you have time)
1 tsp ground coriander (toast and grind coriander seeds if you have time)
1.25 litres of water – will probably need a bit more later on in the cooking process
2 bay leaves
Big bag of spinach – 350g in Asda - big bags in Sainsburys are 260g
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses – you may want to add a little more
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Salt and pepper – it will need more salt than you think

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, and fry the onion slowly on a medium heat for 5-8 minutes until soft. Add in the garlic, cumin and coriander, turn the heat down a bit and cook for a few more minutes, stir every now and again to make sure that the garlic doesn’t burn.

Next add the water, lentils and bay. Cover and bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Stir the pot every ten minutes or so to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, and add a little bit more water if it looks to dry.

When the lentils are done, stir in the spinach and let it sit in low heat until it wilts. Finally add the pomegranate molasses and lemon juice and continue to cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Tastes and season with a big pinch of salt (at least) and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

I’m sure it would be delicious served with flatbread, bulghur wheat or plain rice too. 

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