spicy cheesy lentils bake
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One pot dish ready in minutes; it’s vegetarian and it has masses of molten cheese on top; it’s pleasantly spiced up and delicious. What more would you want from a lentil recipe?
Vegetarian, spicy, cheesy, earthy and healthy – that’s this dish. Who knew how well lentils went with cheese? It makes me think of so many new possibilities: lentils with cheese on toast, lentils on pizza – or maybe not.
I’m not sure why the majority of classic lentil dishes are soupy of nature. I disagree on behalf of lentils: they feel much better in a casserole, with a blast of crispiness rather than in a soup. I still have nightmares of my Gran serving me lentil soup: a bowl of what looked like mud and tasted like swamp (sorry, Granny).
I go through spells of constant lentil cooking when I make a casserole of sorts every other day and then I forget and go without them for months, with a half-empty packet sitting in the cupboard.
Lentils, unlike dried beans, don’t need to be soaked; just rinse them or not and boil in plenty – three times as much – water. After twenty minutes’ simmering, they will be tender with only a little bite – which is appropriate in this instance as they will cook further in the pan and oven. The ease of the cooking decided that I should use lentils in the dish, instead of the original black beans. I have also added herbs and Pecorino for extra crispiness.
Would it be all right to add bacon or diced ham? What a silly question: I can’t think of many things that won’t be improved by adding bacon. But it will whack up the calorie content and there is cheese already. So the answer is: yes, but be cautious of how much you want to eat.
The dish cooks in one pan only and can be served in it too so the washing up is minimal. It takes fifteen minutes to put together, plus cooking the lentils beforehand – or opening a tin.
spicy cheesy lentils bakeServings: 2 - 6 (main or side)Time: 50 minutes
- 200g (1 cup) dried puy lentils
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 50g (2 tbsp.) tomato paste
- salt and black pepper
- 2 sprigs of tarragon, leaves stripped and finely chopped
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
- 200g (2 cups) grated cheese: Gruyere, Cheddar, Edam or a mix
- 30g (1 tbsp.) grated Parmesan or Pecorino (optional)
1. Rinse the lentils with cold water and place them in a pan with water three times their volume. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes until tender with a little bite. Drain and put aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 230C/475F/gas 8 with the rack positioned in the top half.
3. In a large cast iron or another, oven-proof skillet heat up the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and cook until it starts to colour. Stir in the spices and cook for a few seconds. Stir in the tomato paste and lower the heat.
4. Add the cooked lentils to the skillet with about 100ml of water and mix well. When it starts bubbling stir in the herbs and turn off the heat. Cover the lentils with the grated cheese and the Parmesan or Pecorino on top, if using. Transfer to the oven for 10-15 minutes.
5. When the lentils are bubbling furiously and the cheese has melted and browned, take the pan out.
6. Serve immediately, with plain rice, baked potatoes, crusty bread or just a green salad. Any leftovers can be reheated in the same skillet on the next day, with extra cheese if needed.