Tuesday, November 11, 2008

World Vegan Day / Lazy Saturday Part 2: Lentils with onions and fennel seed

Back when I was an omni I was a huge fan of the cooking shows on the Lifestyle Network, particularly (*gasp*) 30 Minute Meals. For the record, I liked Rachel Ray back when she was a plain Jane with her short hair and mommy clothes and she had her homey kitchen (I'm still in love with her Smeg refrigerator and Chambers stove), not when fame got into her head and she launched her own magazine and started endorsing Nabisco and Burger King (sell out...).

But this post isn't about her, it's about my love for really quick suppers, especially when there's a occasion to celebrate. For my World Vegan Day dinner I decided that a quick lentil stew, or lentejas, would be both satisfyingly good and easy to prepare. Actually, this lentil stew is the epitome of lazy cooking, seriously. You just dump stuff into the pot, let it sit for 20-30 minutes, then you've got a lovely meal.

I am really loving fennel seed right now. I bought it because I wanted to try Susan's Veggeroni and fennel seed really gave the pepperoni that zing. It is an amazing spice! According to this site it is part of the parsley family and has an anise-like flavor that is not pungent. Fun trivia: fennel seed got its name for the Greek word for "marathon", because the famous battle at Marathon against the Persians in 490 BC was fought on a field of Fennel.

And, just like our friend, black salt, fennel seed has therapeutic properties. It can stimulate one's appetite, ease digestion, reduce intestinal spasms, and treat urinary infections. Nursing mothers can eat this spice to stimulate the flow of breast milk, and it can regulate menstruation and relieve PMS. With its antiseptic volatile oils, it is a good remedy for arthritis and gout. Did I mention that it can cure asthma, bronchitis, colic, crohn's disease, food poisoning and motion sickness?!

Anyway, enough with the medical lesson and on with the food.

Lentils with onions and fennel seed
Pour a glug of oil into a pot on medium heat. Toss in the fennel seeds (I used about 2-3 tsp) and dried chili flakes and let pop for a few seconds. Add in some sliced onion (I don't fuss around with chopping these, just slice them into half-rings; I love onion so use as many heads as you like) and fry until transparent and brown-ish. Add in some smashed garlic and toss around for a minte.

Add in your dried lentils (these should have been picked over and slightly rinsed; I used 1 cup) and cook until they look toasty. Throw in some sliced tomatoes (no need to remove the seeds and pulp; just rough chop them. I used 4 egg tomatoes) and water (2 1/2 cups). When the mixture starts to look bubbly, lower the heat to low and slightly cover.

Simmer for 20-30 minutes, depending on how you like your lentils -- with a bite or slightly mushy. Halfway through, open the lid and check it out -- if it looks a bit dry, add another 1/2 cup of water. You don't want soup though, the water should absorb all the fennel goodness but not end up more in quantity than the lentils. Add salt only at the end, and feel free to add more chili.

This stew is fantastic on rice and vegetables. The fennel really gives it a smoky savory flavor. Onions are there for the caramelization and sweetness.

So, in summary: oil + fennel + chili + onions + garlic + lentils + tomatoes + water + salt.

Happy World Vegan Day everyone!

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