Tag Archives: goat cheese

Spicy Lentils with Mint and Goat Cheese

I’m still in the post-Christmas health kick phase. There has been lots of walking instead of taking the bus, “body attack” classes at the gym, and I’m still sticking with my attempt to cook lots of healthy dishes based on lentils and beans. So mostly, I’ve been feeling the effects of exercise on a scale that I’m really not use to – ouch!

But on the culinary front – we did beans last week, so today, it’s lentils, and one of my favourite easy dishes.

This dish basically consists of lentils in a spicy tomato sauce that is enlivened with crumbled goat cheese and some shredded fresh mint. You’ve got a filling lunch or supper which is, in turns, warm, spicy, creamy, tangy and minty-fresh. It therefore lends itself very nicely to this time of year, but it’s equally suited to a lazy lunch or dinner on a warm day (remember those? Just a few months to wait…).

This is one of those dishes that is easy-peasy. I know that so many blogs promise recipes that are “really easy” (which begs the question – would anyone really post a recipe that requires three days in the kitchen???), but I promise you, this really, really is. You essentially throw everything into a pot, and then let it simmer slowly until the lentils are tender. Allow to cool slightly, then add the cheese and mint – job done!

For the spices, you can pretty much go with whatever you have to hand, so take this more as a guide rather than any sort of precise list. I like to add turmeric (for a slight yellowish tinge), paprika or piment d’Espelette, a dash of cumin and coriander, dried oregano and thyme, and a few cumin and mustard seeds for busts of flavour. Most likely I have never used the same combination twice – I just go with what I see in the store cupboard.

If you’re after more depth of flavour – and don’t mind some extra steps in the cooking process – you can fry the spices before adding the lentils (either dry fry or cook in a little olive oil), but that is about as complicated as this dish gets. I often fry the spices in oil, but when I’m in a lazy mood, I go for the “all in” approach and it works just fine.

The only thing that I add towards the end of the cooking process is a tiny pinch of salt – I read somewhere that it can make lentils tougher if added too early. I have no idea is this is true or not, but it’s become one of my kitchen rituals, so I guess it’s a habit that I am stuck with.

To make spicy lentils with mint and goat cheese (4 portions):

• 250g brown or green lentils
• spices, according to taste (around 4 teaspoons in total)

• 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
• stock cube or salt

• goat cheese or feta, crumbled
• fresh mint leaves, chopped

Rinse the lentils and put into a large saucepan with the spices.

Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then add the tomatoes and simmer until the lentils are tender (around 30 minutes). Season with the stock cube or salt, then keep cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Serve warm or cold, with crumbled goat cheese or feta and some chopped fresh mint.

Worth making? Definitely worth making – this is quick, easy and very, very tasty. Tweak the spices according to preference, and you get a delicious lunch for the next day too!

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Goat’s Cheese Fritters with Spicy Apple Chutney

Live dangerously.

When I given my bottle of Piment d’Espelette, I checked it out online…and found out that there was a competition being run by the local producers’ association (English version here) to come up with new dishes. So…prepare something original. For a critical audience who don’t know me. In French. Dangerous enough?

To enter, there were obviously a few rules to observe: it had to use Piment d’Espelette (duh!), it should be quick and easy to prepare, it should be original, and it should be something that could be prepared on an average family budget. I sent my applications in on Friday night, so I’ll just have to sit tight and see what happens.

To come up with something, I sat down and did a bit of logical thinking. The producers are in the Basque part of France, so some sort of raw vegetable dish was out of the question. These people are likely to prefer a rich, meaty dish for the main course, so my best chances were in the starter or dessert category. So a starter that showcases the Piment d’Espelette…got me thinking about chutney. I reasoned that the Piment d’Espelette would work well, so that the subtle heat would pervade the sauce and mingle with the apple, without dominating. Plus, the flecks of red would show up in the chutney. Next question: what can I serve with a semi-sweet sauce? I thought about goats cheese. And bingo! My entry is a simple cheese fritter coated with a breadcrumb/Piment d’Espelette mixture, gently cooked until golden and crispy, and served with a simple, fresh apple chutney. That was the theory…

Et alors…the chutney. This was super-easy – chop the apples, throw everything in a pot, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Done! On its own I think it is great. It’s a deep burnished amber colour and the Piment d’Espelette does indeed show up as hoped. It’s got heat, but it never gets too much. I am modestly calling this an unmitigated success. I had a little left over after my test, and I’ve been munching it on strong English cheddar as my 11am snack for the past week. Really delicious.

The fritters? Again very simple. The coating was just flour, breadcrumbs and Piment d’Espelette. The goats cheese is rolled into balls, flattened, dipped in egg and coated, and then shallow-fried. I figured this dish would provide a nice series of contrasts – crisp coating, creamy cheese, soft fruity chutney.

Happy with the theory, I made them and duly noted everything down. I’ve got to say, the result was pretty darn good. You need to be really generous with the chutney, but I think the spiciness and gentle heat worked well with the cheese. It’s a nice combination. Let’s see if the competition judges agree!

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Filed under Recipe, Savoury