For this divine Wintery lentil stew, an earthy, dark lentil is called for. Puy lentils are a common choice, and the dark Beluga is excellent. I also love to make it with either Horse Gram or Matki lentils – brown, earthy and delicious lentils that you can get from your Indian shop. How good these are.
Despite the very familiar ingredients, the result is a bit magic and unexpected. It is an O. M. G. dish. The texture of the lentils with the silkiness of the eggplant. The pop of the tomato flavour, the way the sour cream enhances the dish, the heat of the chilli and the Greekness of the oregano.
Serve as it is, for a light meal, or bulk it up by spooning on top of rice, on slices of grilled or toasted sourdough. You can serve the stew either as a hearty starter or a side, or as a main served with any grain you like. It can be made up to three days ahead and kept in the fridge–just warm through then add the creme fraiche, oil, chilli flakes and oregano before serving. It’s at its best served warm, but is also very good at room temperature.
This is an Ottolenghi recipe – or at least it was until I, naturally, played with it a little. The key change was in the lentil used, but if you like you can check the original recipe. We always feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area, or to massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.
Read more about Horse Gram (aks Kulthi Bean). It is easily purchased in Indian shops.
Lentil and Aubergine Stew
4 Tblspn olive oil, plus a little extra for serving
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely diced
4 tspn picked oregano leaves, roughly chopped or use some dried Greek wild oregano
2 small eggplants (about 420g in total), cut into 5cm x 2cm chunks
200g cherry or small roma tomatoes
180g horse gram, beluga, matki or du puy lentils (I used horse gram today)
500ml vegetable stock
80ml dry white wine
100g creme fraiche
o.5 tspn chilli flakes, or to taste
sea salt and black pepper
Heat half the oil in a large, high-sided saute pan on a medium-high flame. Add the garlic, onion, half the oregano and a little sea salt, and saute for eight minutes, stirring often, until soft and golden. Tip into a small bowl.
Put the eggplant and tomatoes in a separate bowl and season with a little salt and plenty of pepper. On a medium-high flame, heat the two remaining tablespoons of oil in the same pan (don’t bother wiping it clean) and once it’s very hot, fry the eggplant and tomatoes for 10 minutes, turning often, until the eggplant is soft and golden-brown and the tomatoes are beginning to blacken.
Return the garlic and onion mixture to the pan, then add the lentils, stock, wine, half a litre of cold water and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium and leave to simmer gently for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are soft but still retain a bite (after this time, there will still be some liquid at the bottom of the pan, but that’s fine). If you are using horse gram, you might need to cook up to 60 mins. Add a little more water if needed.
Serve the stew warm topped with a spoonful of creme fraiche, a drizzle of oil, a sprinkling of the chilli and the remaining chopped oregano leaves.
recipe notes and alternatives
Sometimes I don’t have cherry tomatoes at hand, so I blacken the tomatoes I have (or roast them on high heat). They can be left whole or halve them.
I drizzle with turmeric oil.
To shorten cooking time, cook the eggplant and tomatoes in a separate pan while the onions and garlic are cooking. Add them to the onions and garlic with the lentils and stock etc. It will save you 10 – 15 mins but give you one extra pan to wash.