I was going through the recipes I’ve posted on this blog the other day and I realized that I probably should have called it “Better with Butter and Sugar” instead of “Better with Lemon.” Most of the recipes I’ve shared have been for things that are baked and sweet and buttery. It’s true, I do love to bake and I do have a really bad sweet tooth. But I also cook. Pretty much every day actually.
The problem is that most nights I cook without a recipe. I use what’s good right now and put together a quick dinner for us. So there isn’t always a recipe that I can share. Unless you want me to tell you about cooking a chicken breast on a grill pan and coating it with olive oil that was pressed with lemons when it’s done (which reminds me that I have to tell you about this olive oil that was pressed with lemons one of these days).
Anyway, this recipe isn’t sweet or buttery or baked. But it’s absolutely delicious. Lentils are kind of special to me because it was one of the only two legumes that I liked to eat as a kid. Granted, there were only four kinds of legumes available when I was growing up: white beans (liked them), dried fava beans (couldn’t stand them), and black eyed peas (hated them).
Don’t get me wrong. I ate almost everything as a kid but there were four things I couldn’t stand. The first were the two legumes mentioned above. The other two were plain cooked spinach (it still makes me gag, unless it’s smothered in cream and cheese and baked in phyllo dough) and tahini. Yes, tahini. I don’t know why but since I was a little kid, tahini made me want to throw up (I think I actually did a couple of times when I was little). Hating tahini for me was the equivalent of a kid growing up in America and hating ketchup. Or mayo. Tahini was everywhere and everyone loved it.
Anyway, my mom’s lentils have always been a dish I love. This is a variation that is slightly different than how she makes them. The final dish is a combination of earthiness, smoke, and tartness, rounded out by the sweetness of the onions. My mom never adds smoked fish when she makes them, but I discovered a few years ago by accident that it’s an amazing paring. Growing up, we always added vinegar to the lentils but I use lemon instead because it goes better with the smoked fish. However, if you make this dish without the fish, you should also go for the vinegar. Don’t ask why. It’s just better.
Lentils with Onions and Smoked Fish
Note: If you want to make this completely vegetarian you can use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and omit the fish. If you don’t use the fish, substitute the lemon with 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, or more if you like the lentils tart.
1 cup of french lentils (7oz / 200g)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups water
1 medium onion, diced (6-7oz / 180-200g)
1/4 cup olive oil (60ml)
One 3.25oz (92g) tin of smoked kippers, or any smoked fish you prefer, drained and broken into small pieces with a fork
juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
In a saucepan, add lentils, stock, and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Raise the heat to medium low, uncover and continue to cook for another 8-10 minutes until the lentils are fully cooked.
While the lentils are cooking, prepare the onion. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and have started to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
When lentils are cooked, scrape the onions and all the olive oil into the lentils. Add the smoked kippers, the lemon juice, and the salt. Stir and serve immediately.
Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main dish.