Yellow Lemon Lentils (try saying that five times fast!) is one of those recipes invented by necessity. As I've recently resigned from my job and moved overseas to pursue other options, I'm needing to live on very little money while I get established in my new home. However, unlike in my university days when living on toasted sandwiches, instant noodles, minced beef, and beer seemed feasible for years on end (with scurvy averted by trips back to the nest on a semi-regular basis), I now have a greater appreciation of nutrition. So bearing in mind the need to eat well, eat cheaply, and eat with pleasure, I recently devised this recipe. It's great as a quick and healthful lunch or as a side dish at dinner (particularly with chicken), and keeps well in the fridge (so can be prepared in advance in a large batch - just double the recipe). It also has a lovely yellow colour - although be careful not to stain the kitchen with turmeric! - and adding the lemon zest at the end gives it a bright flavour which is great for summer. And yes, I've had rugby players come back for seconds. So without further ado...
- One regular-sized brown onion.
- One cup of lentils (I prefer brown for texture).
- The finely-grated zest of half a lemon.
- Strong chicken stock (about 1.5 cups, and then add further boiled water during cooking as necessary).
- Flavourless oil.
- Garlic (about 2-3 cloves, crushed/chopped).
- Ginger (about a third of a thumb, grated).
- Chili flakes (to taste).
- Ground turmeric (I'm very imprecise with measuring, but it's probably about 2 tablespoons).
- Lemon pepper (if desired).
- Ground black pepper.
- (You could also add salt if you want, but since it's in the stock, I don't bother. Also, as Evil Catullus notes, when reducing liquids there is always a chance of the recipe accidentally becoming over-salted, so add salt at the end if you're using it!)
A word about pre-preparation:
There are several schools of lentil cooking: the prepare-overnighters, the prepare-a-couple-of-hours-in-advance, and the throw-it-in-the-pot-already! schools. I belong to the latter, and when I'm feeling super motivated, the one prior. You will generally be advised to sort through lentils on a clean tea towel to check for stones (I've never done this in my life), so I will add this usual warning here. In terms of soaking, lentils don't really need it, in my experience. However, if you'd like to do so, once you've completed your stone-checking process, throw the lentils into a pot and cover with boiled water. Leave for a couple of hours, then drain and use. Alternatively, just throw them straight into the cooking pot and cook for a bit longer. You choose!*
Dice the onion and saute it in a lightly-oiled pan on a medium heat until translucent.
Add the crushed garlic, saute quickly, then add the ginger, chili, turmeric, pepper/lemon pepper, stock, and additional water if necessary.
Add the lentils, and cook on a medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes until tender, adding additional water as necessary (but not so much that you're left with a stew - this should end up just slightly saucy).
Remove from the heat, and stir through the lemon zest.
Taste to check seasoning levels, and adjust pepper/salt/chili as desired.
*Addendum: krenseby helpfully adds "that soaking overnight and perhaps even for 24 hours may be advised for some people. Lentils have powerful anti-nutritional factors, namely phytic acid and lectins. For some people, simply cooking lentils will do the trick. Others may benefit from longer soaking so that a higher percentage of the anti-nutrients is removed."