Lentejas

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When I first went to Spain, I really had no idea what Spanish food was like. Sure, I’d read about jamón and tortilla de patata, but I had much more experience with Mexican food. In case you didn’t know (or live in another country), Mexican food (or at least our Americanized version of it) is quite popular here – it seems as though every small town has its own Mexican restaurant. At least one.

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In 2008, while studying in Toledo, I didn’t have that many homemade Spanish dishes. Sure, I ate in our school cafeteria, but the most popular foods there were paella, tortilla, and bread with olive oil. Good stuff to be sure, but I never had what would soon come to be one of my favorite Spanish dishes – lentejas.

Lentejas means “lentils.” But as a dish, it’s more like “lentil stew.” I know, I know, it doesn’t sound super appetizing. But believe me, it is. Especially if made by a certain Spanish lady with a knack for cooking (yes, Mario’s mother). It doesn’t even look that great. But appearances can be deceiving.

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A nice bowl of lentejas (served as a primer plato almost always) is a warm, comforting dish to eat during the winter. (Heck, I’d eat even in the boiling hot Spanish summer.) Like any dish that originated in the kitchens of yesteryear, it varies from home to home. I emailed Mario’s mother, Pepita, to ask her how hers are made. This is her reply:

Lentejas estofadas

Se ponen en remojo unas horas antes (8 horas, aproximadamente). Cuando se pongan a hervir se retira esta agua y se lavan un poco. Se parte zanahoria, puerro o cebolla (pueden ser las dos a la vez).
Las cantidades dependen del tamaño y de la cantidad de lentejas. O sea, según veas.

Se ponen en una  cazuela a hervir todos los ingredientes citados, las lentejas y se le añade una hoja de laurel, un diente de ajo entero, un chorro de aceite, sal y un poquito de pimentón. Es opcional ponerle un trozo de chorizo, o de costillas de cerdo…

Y cuando estén cocidas… se apaga, y ¡a comer!.

Lentil Stew

Soak the lentils for a few hours (approximately 8). When it’s time to cook them, remove the excess water and rinse the lentils. Chop up some carrots and leeks/onions (or both at once, if you like). The amount of carrots and leeks/onions depends on the amount of lentils and the size of the vegetables. That is, however you like them.

Put all the above ingredients into a pot to boil. Add a bay leaf, a whole clove of garlic, a splash of olive oil, and a dash of paprika. You can also add some chorizo or even pork chops.

And when they’re done cooking…it’s time to eat!

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It’s just too bad that, unlike any good Spanish cook, I don’t have a Thermomix (pronounced “ter-moh-miiiix”).

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25 comments

  1. Yum, I love lentils! I actually just figured out how to make them, and it’s SO easy! I like them with a little kick, so I add cumin and it’s amazing. Not very “Spanish”, though.

    1. They’re actually quite easy to make! Mario kind of just threw all the ingredients into the pot. We used a bag of dried lentils, one carrot, three leeks (just the white part), and some sausage (no chorizo, we didn’t have any)!

  2. Kaley, thanks for the post! While I sit here in my hoodie with my toes a little cold some lentejas sound delicious to be sure. But now, you maybe unintentionally sparked a little curiosity about the Thermomix. I just hear about that yesterday and now here it is again. What is it?

    1. The Thermomix is a German product and not sold in stores! Weird, right? Spain has whole magazines devoted to Thermomix recipes. Here’s what I found on a NY Times article: “In fact, the Thermomix is much more than a KitchenAid mixer. It grinds, crushes, blends, kneads, weighs ingredients, sautés, steams and simmers (and stirs while doing so) – a Rube Goldberg contraption with German engineering.” Check this out.

  3. I loved the lentejas my senora used to make – I should really try and make more Spanish food. First on the list would have to be salmorejo, but this would be a close second :)

  4. I just want you to know I’ve had this recipe in the back of my mind ever since you posted it. Yesterday I finally bought the ingredients and in the next hour I’m going to try it out… it seems easy enough, but you’d be surprised how good I am at screwing up the simplest tasks.

  5. Yum yum yum. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I will definitely have a go at it (although I’ll probably wait till autumn rolls around, it’s getting a little too hot down here is Australia for lentejas!) Incidentally, I still love that the translation for “clove of garlic” is “diente”. Makes me laugh every time… I always picture some sort of garlic tooth!

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