15 June 2012

Middle Eastern Lentils and Peppers with a Side of Rice

My sweetheart has been gone for two weeks ... he's a long-distance bike riding maniac. My brother, Rich is his cronie and partner in insanity. They took a big loop of a trip from New Hampshire to Boston to Cape Cod to the Rhode Island and Connecticut coasts to Long Island to New York City to the Hudson Valley to western Massachusetts and back to New Hampshire. The weather has been less than stellar for the past couple weeks, so I wanted their welcome home meal to be hot, comforting and simple. I thought they would be wet, hungry, and tired ... and I was correct. Last evening, the guys dragged themselves and all their gear into the house at around 6 PM. They'd been riding since 7 AM. Boy, did they look haggard, but lo and behold ... dinner was just being placed on the platter! It was piping hot and so comforting! When I grinned and chortled, " Just in time for dinner !", they  asked, "Are you clairvoyant? How did you do this?" There was no clairvoyance. It was luck, folks. Pure luck.

This trip made me think about SB and I ... and boy, sometimes I wonder about us. He's so adventurous and I'm such a homebody. He's always got to be working at something and I am just as likely to get lost in a book or playing at a computer game. He's a stoic work-a-holic and I am the emotional 'lackadaisy' ( I think I just invented that word, but you get it, right? ). I flit here and there doing a bit of this and bit of that and he stays the course on one project until it's complete. I have a kazillion pans in the fire ... I am yang and he is yin; I am yin and he is yang. How did we ever form this long alliance? Shrug. Life is a mystery, folks. I'm just glad he's home. I need a hug and the lawn needs mowing!

This dish is so easy ... soft sweet leeks and sugary sweet red peppers meet aromatics ...  red hot chili pepper, cumin, and coriander. The red lentils get added with some tomatoes, tomato paste, and vegetable stock. Let everything simmer together until the lentils are softened. Turn in a huge handful of fresh cilantro and a squirt of lemon juice. Steam some basmati rice with some caraway seed added. Put out a small dish of Greek yogurt to plop atop when serving and have a supper that is true comfort food.

Period. Peace!

If you have not heard of Diana Henry, I am telling you right now that you are missing an incredible resource! This woman is a busy food journalist for a Brit newspaper who just happens to have written at least four cookbooks ... I have three of them and I have been cycling through them for the past month ... her claim to fame is using simple techniques to get incredibly flavourful food. She does not shy away from spices, loves chicken and fish, lots of vegetables and fruits, and makes simple uncomplicated food.

Period. Peace!

Middle Eastern Lentils and Peppers
a Diana Henry recipe from pure simple cooking

Serves 4 for supper


¼ c. olive oil
1 big leek, washed and sliced into coins
1 large sweet red pepper, washed, seeded and sliced
1½ tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 fresh red hot chili pepper, finely chopped
1 c. red lentils (split are easier, as they don’t need soaking)
1¼ c. vegetable stock
1 (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes in their juices
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. tomato paste (be generous)
Kosher salt and black pepper
A large handful  of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Steamed rice as a side
Greek yogurt for a garnish ( a big dollop!)

Making the Dish:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep frypan that has a tight-fitting cover.
  2. Add the leek and sweet red pepper and cook until they begin to soften.
  3. Add the spices and red chili pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the lentils and stir them to coat them with the spices and oil.
  5. Add the tomatoes, stock, sugar and tomato paste and stir to break up the tomato paste.
  6. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the lentils are soft.
  7. Taste for seasoning and toss in the cilantro.
  8. Turn the lentils into a pretty bowl and serve with steamed rice and yogurt on the side.

Note: This dish improves the next day, so leftovers are a good thing here!


  1. This looks like a wonderful meal for greeting the bike riders in your life. Yin and Yang is why it works! Your differences compliment one another :)

  2. So warm and hearty. And perfect for this rubbish 'European Monsoon' we're having. Shame you're a cycling widow at the moment but relish in the silence!!


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