Fish & Shellfish
Vegetarian & Vegan
My neighbour Jonty Driver asked me recently to write a post about lentils, and the best kind to use for different sorts of recipes. So as we’ve just had the first frost here in East Sussex, it seems a good time to talk about such a good comfort-food ingredient, and I’m kicking off with dried red lentils. They’re really good value and are brilliant at absorbing the flavours they’re put with. They’re fairly quick to cook too, taking about 25 mins to cook down in a pan on the hob to a lovely, soft consistency. This means that they’re ideal for using in a recipe where you might usually use minced beef but unlike some other kinds of lentils, they’re not really suitable for using as a side dish as they don’t hold their shape - though, having said that, they do make a really good dhal when cooked with Indian spices to serve alongside a curry (that will be a recipe for another day!).
This vegetarian recipe using red lentils is one I’ve been making since I was a student at Warwick University back in the early 1980s, and I reckon it’s stood the test of time… The cottage cheese is used instead of making a cheese sauce, so it’s super-easy to prepare.
If you make the lasagne, please do email me and let me know what you think!
Stir-fry the onion, leek and carrots until just soft, then add the garlic, mushrooms and dried herbs and cook for a minute or so more. Add the lentils and cook for a minute, stirring, then add the mustard. Pour in the hot stock and canned tomatoes, bring to the boil, stir well, then simmer for about 25 minutes until the lentils are tender. At this stage there should be lots of liquid, as in the photo above. If it looks drier than this, add some more stock as the dried lasagne sheets will absorb a lot of liquid in the oven.
Spoon a third of the lentils into an ovenproof dish (the one I used is 25cm x 20cm), then top with some of the lasagne sheets without overlapping them (you may need to break up one of the sheets so that it fits). Add another layer of lentils, then the cottage cheese, then more lasagne, then top with the rest of the lentils and scatter over the cheddar. Cook at 180C (fan oven) for 50 minutes. Leave to stand for 10 mins before serving (the flavour and consistency will be better if you don't serve it straight from the oven).
I've tried making this with fresh lasagne sheets rather than dried, but for some reason it doesn't taste as good. If you do decide to use them, though, you'll only need about 700ml of stock.