Lentils with Pumpkin, Onion, and Zhoug

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Serves 4

6 points / 1 ½ Points per serving 

I absolutely love sautéed onions, and it was a great moment in my downsizing life when I realised that they could still be delicious without pouring a watering can of olive oil into the frying pan.  And in these days of outdoor socialising… in January… something warm and comforting to eat while your toes regain some feeling is particularly welcome. I also love recipes that have very few ingredients – they are so much easier to make, and it allows the inherent flavour of each ingredient to shine through. 

The zhoug recipe is inspired by one of my food heroes, Ottolenghi.  On its own, it verges on being quite unpleasant, but its astringent burst of heat and spice gives an extraordinary counterpoint to the sweetness and comfort of the pumpkin and onion.

200g small lentils   

A pinch of whole coriander, cardamom seeds, and black peppercorns

500g pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes

1 large red onion, sliced thinly with the grain 

Vegetable stock

4 teaspoons olive oil

Zhoug – optional

Skyr – optional

Salt and pepper

 The Onions:

Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a sauté pan on a medium heat. 

Put the onions in a largish bowl and add two teaspoons of oil with a good pinch of salt.  

Mix really well with your hands to make sure that the onion is completely coated with oil.  It is this thorough mixing that makes it possible to use so little oil and still get deliciously caramelised onions.

Add them to the pan, wait till they start to sizzle, and then turn down the heat. When the onions start to soften and release their juices –about 10 minutes – turn the heat up slightly for another 10 minutes or so. Stir them from time to time. 

The Lentils:

Put the lentils in a saucepan, add the whole spices, and cover with plenty of water. Bring them to the boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes until soft but still firm. Drain and add a pinch of salt.  You can do this in advance and keep them in the fridge.

The Pumpkin

Put the diced pumpkin in a bowl, add a good few grindings of salt and pepper and the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Mix really well to coat the cubes, and add to the onion when it starts to colour. Cook for about five minutes, allowing the onion to continue caramelising, and then add just enough stock to cover. Simmer till the pumpkin is cooked, and then add the lentils.  

Heat through for a couple of minutes, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.

Serve with a teaspoon of zhoug and a dollop of skyr.

Zhoug

1 point per teaspoon

A large handful of parsley and /or coriander

2 hot green chillies

A pinch of ground cumin

A smaller pinch of ground cloves and cardamom

A pinch of salt 

One crushed clove of garlic 

2 tablespoons / 30g olive oil

2 tablespoons water

Blitz them all together in a food processor

Diva Note:

 Preparing the pumpkin:

It takes serious muscle to peel and chop a pumpkin.   Think of it as lockdown gym, and use a very sharp knife.

Zhoug

Do not attempt to make this by hand – the spices need to be extremely well melded together with the parsley and coriander orthey sit gratingly on the surface.

You can make it in advance  – it keeps very well in the fridge.