Eggplant and red lentil stew

This is a recipe that I make when in a rush. The combination of eggplant with tomato, sweet potato and lentil barely need attention, just a bit of organized chopping and dicing. The ingredients mix and mingle on the stove into a spicy and satisfying vegetable stew within less than an hour. It’s the solution for one of those days when it seems there is no time left over for dinner and yet there is!

Making a double recipe is well worth it because this dish is excellent cold. The flavors of the vegetables become even richer after a day of rest in the refrigerator. Serve it chilled dressed with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil,  as if it were a bowl of salad. On the hottest days of summer, top the stew with lots of fresh mint, basil and arugula leaves.

Cook early in the morning  when it is still cool and enjoy your meal as if you were in Italy,  in the shade of the afternoon.

Ingredients

  • four small sweet potatoes and sea salt
  • two red onions
  • two cloves of garlic
  • 75 grams of extra virgin olive oil
  • five grams of ground cumin
  • two eggplants, white or purple
  • three fresh beef tomatoes, pear-shaped will work as well
  • 250 grams of red lentils
  • 750 ml of water
  • a handful of leaves of fresh basil, oregano and mint

Put the sweet potatoes in a pan and barely cover them with water. Add a teaspoon of sea salt. Cover the pan with a lid and cook the potatoes in their skins until tender. Drain the sweet potatoes to cool.

Meanwhile, dice the red onions and garlic and sauté them with the ground cumin on low heat until the onions are soft and the perfume of garlic is a noticeable addition to the kitchen. Dice the eggplant and tomatoes and pour them into the onion-garlic mixture with a teaspoon of sea salt. Stir-fry the eggplant five minutes at medium heat and add the red lentils along with the water to the pan. Simmer the ingredients 30 minutes at low heat until the lentils are starting to fall apart. Turn off the heat. Stir the ingredients well to help loosen the lentils. The stew should be thick yet juicy.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into a dice. Add them to the eggplant and lentil stew. Add sea salt, cumin or pepper according to personal taste. Spoon the stew into bowls and top them with a mixture of fresh basil, mint and oregano leaves. Tuck some warmed tortillas, chunks of cornbread or toasted bruschette into the side of the bowl. Drizzle your best olive oil over the top, and enjoy dinner!

♦  Suggested combinations
I often grill thick slices of eggplant on the stove and dice them into the stew with the sweet potatoes. The grilled eggplant gives the dish even more structure. In the winter, substitute fresh herbs for dried mint and oregano with a touch of dried chili.

Use the stew as a filling for tortillas or layer it  between thick slices of beef tomatoes alternated with freshly baked bread as a savory alternative to club sandwiches.  

Spoon the very last bit of this dish as an appetizer with Greek yoghurt and chunks of cucumber stuffed in lettuce or endive leaves.

To make the dish even more colorful, make a salsa of diced tomato, grilled eggplant, fresh garlic and sweet potato. Dress the salsa with your best olive oil, sliced garlic, smoked paprika and fresh oregano. Serve the stew with the chunky salsa poured over the top.

Notes

White eggplants are available on occasion, during the warm summer months. They are particularly good because they have a mild flavor, a beautiful flesh and contain very few seeds. Their skins cook or grill to an interesting glossy beige. Eggplants of any color work well for this recipe. They only need to be fresh, firm with a bright green top to become the main ingredient of this wonderful stew.

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