Monday, September 7, 2009

comfort gruel

I miss my dog, it's fall, and our cupboards are bare, Old Mother Hubbard style. Except unlike Old Mother Hubbard, I DON'T EVEN HAVE A DOG.

It's pretty bleak around here, and during bleak times, I turn to gruel. Whole pots of it. Comfort food I can cook a big batch of and eat for days. I'm thinking lentils.

I'm thinking lentils because they're the ultimate gruel, and I'm thinking lentils because I recently ordered a new cookbook. I've been cooking from my stepmother's copy for months (see recipes here for balsamic onions, basil oil, and sweet potato and goat cheese frittata), but I finally have my very own copy, all the way from ye olde England, of Skye Gyngell's A Year in My Kitchen.

To celebrate, or wallow, as the case may be, a recipe.

Lentils! Do you think they're legumes? Skye Gyngell calls them pulses. You should call them pulses, too, unless you want to seem like a crass American. Also, colour and organisation and al-you-min-ee-um.

I love lentils, and non-crass, non-American Skye Gyngell suggests keeping them in your "toolbox," which is not a British euphemism for refrigerator; she's suggesting braised lentils should be a staple you keep around your apartment flat.

And, frankly, I agree. Make braised lentils and serve them (to yourself; your husband probably won't eat them) for dinner, for example with roasted vegetables and feta on a bed of arugula, and then eat the leftovers all week—scattered on dressed greens, with some cherry tomatoes and a little goat cheese...

or straight from the Tupperware, in bed, while looking at photos of your dog (this last serving suggestion I just cannot recommend unless you are an intensely maudlin person, in which case, go for it).

Braised Lentils

adapted from A Year in My Kitchen

[This recipe is really just a guide; you certainly don't have to have all of these ingredients—other than the bay leaves and the garlic or onion, you could substitute or leave out most anything. And a balsamic vinaigrette would make a nice dressing, you could add fresh herbs after the lentils were cooked, etc.]

500 g Puy (French) lentils
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3 chunks
2 garlic cloves, peeled
~1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and very roughly chopped
5 thyme and/or parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 T chopped cilantro
2 T sherry vinegar
2 T tamari or soy sauce
2 T sesame or walnut oil

1. Place the lentils in a deep saucepan with everything up to the cilantro.

2. Add enough water to cover the lentils completely and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are cooked but still have a bite (about 20 minutes).

3. Immediately remove from the heat and drain in a colander, removing the chunks of stuff (carrots, garlic, onion, herbs, etc.) then tip the lentils into a bowl. While still warm (so they absorb the flavours better; yes, flavours), dress with the sherry vinegar, tamari, and chosen oil.

4. Crawl into bed and eat.


  1. You're a brilliant--if non-British--wit even when you're in mourning.

  2. My verification word just now was "resth." Is it just me, or have the verification words around here gone from sounding like exotic STDs to things a person with a speech impediment might say?

  3. I love this comment so much that I'm posting just to see what my verification word is!

  4. Hmmm... perangli - that seems a bit more like an STD again.

    And Kate, I'm going to try your lentil gruel because I too like mushy things. I almost ate oatmeal for dinner because I was feeling comfort-y, but MeatMan brought home China Express and I devoured it like it was the only gruel on Alcatraz.

  5. Perangli is actually the name of my new pet unicorn.

  6. I just looked it up in my personal dictionary and apparently, perangli is also an adjective meaning - when something is gross and unappealing, but you just can't help but look. In context: "Crushing the spider under the cup was perangli." OR "American's obsession with reality TV has been taken to a new level with perangli shows like Wipeout. Only the first episode of ANTM has that perangli factor when wanna-be-models interview with the panel."

  7. Lentils - good. Feeling sad - sad. JQuizzle's molasses cookies - awesome!

  8. Somebody save a cookie for EBiddie! (I am assuming the Yachtsman has gotten his share.) I had intended to pack individually-wrapped samples for you two but ran out of room in the box.

  9. Cookies??? Nobody mentioned cookies!! Have I missed something important????

  10. Curated? What kind of security word is "curated"?

  11. The yachtsman has been allowed one cookie. I also gave one to my stepdad and offered to send one home with him to my mom, but he said it would never make it to her, so I kept it. I have eaten approximately eleven in the past twenty-four hours. EBiddie, to curate is to have care and superintendence of something. I am curating J Quizzle's cookies. You may have one.