Lentils and chorizo stew; incredibly simple and yet equally delicious. Warming, filling and comforting this is exactly the sort of food I want as the nights draw in ever earlier and the air develops a distinctly chilly nip. My mum was the first person to cook this for me a couple of years ago using the recipe below from Fresh Spanish by Sergio Vasquez; a lovely book, filled with delicious sounding easy to follow recipes for various Spanish dishes, which she has since gifted me a copy of after I repeatedly lost my photocopied pages and had to call once again for amounts and instructions. Reading through my mum’s copy I’d found loads of recipes to be bookmarked for future cooking and I was happy to see how easy the chorizo stew would be to make as well as I suspected fairly cheap too judging by the ingredients, and at the time this was all the more important as I struggled my way though the questionable expense of a post-graduate degree.
Low fuss recipe, cheap, uncomplicated ingredients, easily picked up from the supermarket I’d thought. I was wrong. On my return to Uni I scoured every supermarket looking for brown lentils but they were nowhere to be found. Confused I phoned my mum, where had she bought the mystery missing pulses? Sainsbury’s apparently, she suggested I look again and try the “World Food Section”. Unsure of why lentils would be classed as a “World Food” I looked, and looked, and looked some more, but I simply could not find them. Coventry it seemed, at least as far as the supermarkets were concerned, did not eat brown lentils.
I tryed seeking out smaller shops, independent shops, health food shops, but none could help me. My friend suggested the Weigh and Save in Coventry Market and in hind sight this probably would have solved all my lentil woes, but I was too busy avoiding writing my dissertation for that so the recipe was filed away and forgotten about.
Then a few months later my University life now finished, I found myself in a little bar, down a back-alley in Madrid, confronted with the very same dish. Except this wasn’t the same; it was so much better. There were the familiar soupy lentils surrounded by a thickened broth and dotted liberally with spicy, meaty chunks of chorizo, but there was also what I then guessed to be black pudding but now suspect was more likely morcilla and something more, a whole extra dimension of deliciousness. I wish I knew exactly what had gone into it and how they’d cooked it to make it taste so incredible, I suspect a good stock, better seasoning, a more liberal touch with the olive oil, and possibly a sprinkling of crack, but I couldn’t say exactly. My friend was equally enamoured and we made sure we found the bar again before the trip was over.
Back in England and now newly resident in London, I resumed my hunt for the elusive brown lentils, but once again my quest was frustrated and fruitless. Then finally at the start of this year I found them utterly by chance, just as my mum had suggested in the “World Foods” section of Sainsbury’s Camden Town, hidden away along with other strange other worldly ingredients like tins of chickpeas too different somehow to be stacked along side the other tinned chickpeas in the tin vegetables isle. I grabbed a bag, worried they might shimmer and disappear if I looked again, picked up the rest of the ingredients and headed home. Luckily, since then I’ve discovered my amazing local grocer, where all my pulse based needs are solved and bags of brown lentils sit happily side by side on the same shelf as every other colour and shape of lentil or bean, just as it should be.
This recipe isn’t as good as the bowl of rustic deliciousness I found in Madrid, but it is a good approximation and, once you’ve battled the supermarket shelving system to hunt down the apparently exotic lentils, it is shamefully easy to make, minimal mess and minimal effort, as well as cheap, filling and healthy; perfect Autumn food for a weekday evening.
Lentils and Chorizo Stew
Serves 4 – (but also freezes well in smaller portions)
- 250g brown lentils, washed and drained
- 1 leek, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 250g chorizo sausage, finely chopped or sliced
- 1 tbsp pimentón dulce (mild paprika)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the lentils in a large saucepan and cover with cold water (about 500ml). Add the leek and one of the onions, the carrots, garlic, chorizo and paprika and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add half the oil and bring to a simmer.
Cover and cook over a very low heat for 45-50 minutes or until the lentils are tender. The mixture should be quite thick.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a small frying pan, add the remaining onion and cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Stir into the lentil stew and serve immediately.
As I’ve yet to play with it at all I’ve just copied the recipe out of the book word for word, if you’re interested though you can see other very positive reviews for the book here. I’m thinking “Rabbit with wild mushrooms” is another recipe to try fairly soon while they’re in season.