Meat Free Mondays!
Red lentil bake with Butternut Squash, dried apricots, ginger & almond flakes ~ a sensational super food supper any day of the week! This recipe is an old favourite of mine, and so I now consider it one of my ‘signature’ dishes. It’s so versatile and can accommodate whatever starchy veg is seasonal ~ winter squashes, sweet potatoes or indeed, ordinary potatoes. I’ve been using mostly sweet potatoes recently, but now that we’ve harvested our daunting supply of butternuts, what better time to roast one of them in the agar, and stir it in to this amazingly healthy super-food dish! The red lentils are the star of the show, along with the dried apricots, fresh ginger and almond flakes. You could cook all of these up and serve them on their own, but the result is much more a dhal, not a bake. When I was inventing this dish (usually means making a mistake somewhere along the line, and discovering a new way to do something!) I wanted a main dish I could throw together relatively quickly on the stove, then pop into the oven to set and finish off while I prepped the rest of the meal. The result was so successful that the only main part of the original recipe that changes is which source of ‘good’ carb to add to it. The addition of a starchy carbohydrate bulks out the dish and adds nutritious high fibre which is complex and slow to digest. “Good” carbs are used to describe foods that have more fiber and more complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are carbohydrates that take longer to break down into glucose; such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Butternuts and sweet potatoes are the perfect starch to compliment the other ingredients because the combined effect is to provide a steady flow of energy to the body without spiking blood sugar and insulin levels (which is what the ‘bad’ carbs do). High fibre foods (including all lentils) also help to regulate blood pressure, naturally detoxify the body and are rich sources of vitamins, proteins and minerals. They’re the ones that put the “super” in super food! 250 gms red lentils, cooked; 250 gms butternut squash, cooked; 1 red onion, chopped; 1 inch or so of freshly grated ginger; 1 handful dried apricots, sliced; 2 handfuls flaked almonds; 2 tablespoons of olive oil or 50 gms butter for frying; 150 – 200ml good quality tomato sauce, and/or 1 heaped teaspoon chill sauce for an optional extra kick Rinse and cook the red lentils according to instructions, drain and set aside. Peel, cut into chunks and either roast the butternut or boil it, drain and set aside. Heat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Whilst the lentils and squash are cooking, heat a little olive oil or butter in a large saucepan on a medium heat and when hot, add the onions and ginger. Keep shaking the pan to coat the ingredients and after 5 minutes, add the tomato sauce and/or chilli sauce. Turn off the heat. Mix the lentils and butternut together, then mix in the onion, ginger and apricots and pack into an oven proof dish. Finally sprinkle over the flaked almonds and pop in the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown on top. It’s totally tantalizing with warmed wholemeal bread, roasted veg, green salads and coleslaws! If you use olive oil instead of butter, this is a vegan dish and very very good for you! You can add in chopped sun-dried tomatoes, crushed peanuts, roasted red pepper, spinach, sliced leeks or even chunks of mozzarella if you’re desperate for a dairy hit!