Portuguese Beef and Lentil Casserole - Back to Basics 29
I am calling this a back to basics as it is a really good one pot casserole, which is a style of cooking I would like to have in every Cookie House person’s arsenal. Now, let me head you off at the pass, this meal is DELICIOUS! So before you say to me, Michelle, I don’t like lentils, let me assure you, Mr T, who is the anti lentil, and Jon, who is the anti vegetable, both love this, so give it a try, okay?
Portuguese cuisine is one of my most favourite cuisines to go adventuring in. It was the original fusion food, absorbing flavours from the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. It is big flavours and surprising twists and I hope you will love it as I do. Anyway, this is our last winter warmer for the year, so let’s dig out the pots and away we go.
1/2 onion, diced
one carrot, quartered lengthways and then sliced
1 small red capsicum, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika, ground garlic (you can use fresh if you want, but double the quantity), ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon pepper
300g diced beef (go have a look in the how to cut meat post if you are not sure how to do this)
1/2 cup green (brown) lentils, presoaked for a few hours
One litre water
2 small potatoes, diced, skin on
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon baby capers, or grown up capers that have been chopped
8 green olives, sliced
1 loosely packed cup of shredded greens (I used parsley, chives, sorrel, lemon balm, shallot tops and baby thistle tops)
1 tablespoon shredded fresh mint
extra grind of pepper
Whew! That’s a lot of ingredients, but it will be worth it, I promise, one of the things I love about Portuguese cooking it that it layers flavours so that every bite is a little different, be bold!
So we begin, as we so often do, with our mirepoix, our flavour base, you will notice that this one is a little different from usual as we have substituted capsicum for our celery, this is because we are looking for a different flavour, something a little more exotic. So in a medium sized pot we sauté the onion, carrot and capsicum in one teaspoon of olive oil (actually, while I have you, go have a look at the post, which oil? It explains why I am choosing the oils that I am) until cooked through and a little golden, scrape into a bowl and set aside, turn up the heat a bit, add the other teaspoon of oil and toss in your meat, we want some solid browning, but not cooking through, so let it sizzle on one side for a minute, flip it all over, it should look like this -
Good! Now toss in all of your spices and really stir it all around to coat your beef, as soon as the spices are fragrant, add your water, potato, green olives, drained lentils and mirepoix back to the pot, turn down the heat and simmer for about an hour, if it starts to look too dry splash in a little more water. When the lentils are very tender and it is all looking quite thick and delicious, like this -
it is time for us to stir in our other ingredients. So stir in your shredded greens, your coconut milk and capers, then into two big bowls and top with your pistachios, mint and an extra grind of pepper.
Now, let’s just take one of our step back looks at this dish. This is a perfect round meal. It has plenty of protein in the lentils, nuts and beef, it has some good resistant starch in our potato and heaps of fibre in the potato skins, vegetables and lentils. It is rich in good fats in the olive oil and the pistachios, it has ample fat soluble and water soluble vitamins in both our slow cooked and stir in at the end veg, it has wonderful iron in our beef, calcium in our greens and mint, and a boatload of antioxidants. It has no added salt, no added sugar, and is good enough that you will want to lick the plate. Yes, I think this one can go into our round meal hall of fame.