recipe: lentejas

recipe, Spain, lentejas

A big bowl of lentil stew makes any winter day warm & cozy… delicious even while temps in Sevilla reach 23ºC in mid-February! Every Spaniard grows up with their family’s version of this classic dish, & Rafa finally let me have a go at making this crowdpleaser. Lots of spices along with onions, carrots & potatoes give fantastic flavor to a basic kitchen staple: the lentil. One taste & this may become your favorite stew regardless of the season.

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 chorizo, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 T paprika (pimentón dulce)
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t thyme
  • 1.5 c lentils pardina, rinsed (300 g)
  • 1/2 c tomato purée (or 1 large tomato, chopped)
  • 4 c beef stock or water (1 L) + more as needed
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled & chascadas
  • olive oil, as needed

Step 1: Give everything a head start. Sauté garlic & bay leaves in abundant olive oil on medium heat for one minute. Add onions & cook until just transparent, about 4-5 minutes. Next add carrot & sauté for 2 more minutes. Chorizo comes last & just before completely cooked through, add all remaining spices & sauté for 1 additional minute. This part comes together quickly, so be sure to have all ingredients prepped & ready to add.

recipe, Spain, lentejas

Step 2: Let’s talk lentils. Spain has three main varieties grown & used locally: castellana, verdina & pardina. While the choice of lentil is up to you —as long as it’s not a quick-cooking variety like yellow or red— pardina (brown) works best because this variety needs no soaking overnight & keeps its skin when cooked. The castellana variety is larger, takes longer to cook & requires soaking in water for a few hours; verdinas have a mottled, greenish hue & also require a brief soak. If you can’t find pardina, total time for this recipe is 45-55 minutes… find a lentil variety with a similar cook time & you’re good to go.

recipe, Spain, lentejas
Top pic shows the pardina variety, next is castellana & last is verdina. The first two varieties are easy to tell apart when compared side by side.

Add lentils & cook for 2 minutes. Next add fresh tomatoes (or purée) & mix well. Cook only for a short time; don’t let the mixture get too dry. Most folks make a simple version of this recipe with adding just water next, but I love the richness of beef broth. Either is perfectly fine, but be sure to add salt at this step if using only water. Add broth or water, stir, cover & bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a high simmer —some bubbles are good but not too many— and cook for 30 minutes while stirring occasionally.

recipe, Spain, lentejas

Step 3: Thicken things up. Peel your potatoes & get ready to chascar. Often used to describe the sound of a twig or branch snapping in two, a chasquido is also that sound of breaking —not slicing— a potato. *Crack!* Key for this recipe, insert your knife partially into the potato, use it as a lever & break off a chunk. Takes a bit of practice to get all pieces roughly the same size, but the advantage of “chascar-ing” is the release of all that potato starch. Your knife will be covered in it, & your stew will thicken nicely thanks to this technique:

recipe, Spain, lentejas, chascar
Bet they never taught the verb chascar in your Spanish class! Anyone know of a recipe from another country that uses this technique?

After Step 2 is complete, add those starchy potatoes to the pot & cook for an additional 25 minutes at a low simmer.

recipe, Spain, lentejas

Step 4: Adjust. Taste for salt… if your beef broth had salt, you probably won’t need to add any extra. Never hurts to check though. Are the lentils still slightly undercooked? Add a touch more water & continue to cook at low heat. Check every 5-7 minutes for doneness. The final result should look something like this yummy pot of goodness:

recipe, Spain, lentejas

Variations on a theme: Lentils may be served with a touch of vinegar for a hit of acid, or even with a guindilla… similar to a mini banana pepper cured in vinegar. Some folks add rib tips for a meatier version. Like garlic? Go crazy. Like it spicy? Add some cayenne, or even better with Tabasco! The amount of liquid can also vary, from thick to a more soupy consistency. You do you. The best part of lentil stew is how varied it can be & how you can make it your own. Lentils also freeze well, so make a double batch for a rainy day & enjoy a bit of home cooking from Spain. ¡Que aproveche!

recipe, Spain, lentejas

2 thoughts on “recipe: lentejas”

  1. We used vegetable broth because our daughter-in-law is a vegetarian. It was delicious.
    We left out the chorizo, but added some cooked slices on the side for those who wanted to add it to their lentils. It worked well. A good, hearty, amazingly delicious dish. Very high In protein and a healthy alternative to chicken soup!

    1. Thanks for letting me know how the vegetarian version turned out… seems like a perfect way satisfy everyone! Lentils are so easy, so rich & so filling that we always have some on hand. I’ll be adding more Spanish recipes in the near future that you might enjoy. Un saludo!

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