When it’s this cold I immediately turn to lentils, they’re comforting, easy to cook and stupidly cheap. This Christmas I made braised puy lentils and it despite being the cheapest and easiest dish, it was also one of our favourites. The mix of red wine, bones and herbs give it a rich and satisfying flavour, with very little effort beyond chucking it all in the oven. For this I use puy lentils, the queen of lentils, it’s a small, dark green flecked pulse with a meaty flavour.
I like to make a huge dish of this and eat it throughout the week, or freeze up a few portions for lazy evenings. You can mix up some of the ingredients, adding more vegetables or substituting the bacon for sausage -or even throw in a whole lamb shank- but the crucial part is the bones. They’re crucial for meaty richness and give the dish depth, you can get lamb bones for a deeper flavour, or veal bones work well. It tastes great served with greens, like a fancy cavolo nero or some broccoli, you can also spoon on some yoghurt at the end.
Red wine braised puy lentils
Chunks of bacon back
1/2 bottle of red wine
1/2 tin of tomatoes
1-2 packs of puy lentils
Bay leaf, thyme, cumin
Salt & pepper
Preheat your oven to 180C. Fry off the shallots until soft and scoop into a big ovenproof dish. In the same pan, fry the bacon chunks until cooked and place into the dish along with the lentils, bones and herbs. Smash up a few chunks of garlic using a tin or jar, peel and add to the dish. Season and add the red wine, tomatoes and a couple of pints or so of water. The lentils should be comfortably covered in liquid, but not totally drowned. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven for about two and a half hours. Check halfway to see if more liquid needs adding.
Isabelle O'Carroll: I’m a writer, content designer and consultant with 11+ years’ experience across fashion, food and drink and the arts.