Cato's Lentil Stew proves that the ancient people knew how to prepare and enjoy their food! Although it is simple, it is nonetheless quite delicious. I know this is one dish that I will make again and again. It is adapted from The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger.
I tweaked the recipe just a little - left out the rue as it is a plant that causes mild to severe contact dermatitis and didn't want to find out what it would do to my insides when ingested ... since my other motto (besides "waste not") is ... When in doubt, leave it out .... Although rue was a common pot herb in antiquity, it lost favor and faded out of the realm of culinary art. "Garum" or fish sauce also got axed - no creature extracts in my food please :D! And, although I like sweets just as much as the next person, I am not a fan of sweetened stews and veggies; so the honey and concentrated grape juice called "defrutum" were also left out. If you like your stews on the sweet side, you are of course welcome to add them (about a couple of teaspoons each).
Fresh mint and cilantro combine beautifully to cook up a mild but lusciously flavored stew. If you add more water to this dish, it can be served as a wonderful soup. Serve this superb stew/soup with simply prepared whole grains, a veggie dish and/or a salad for a filling and nutritious meal. This dish works well with Indian meals too: with chapatis, rice, etc.
1 cup brown/green Lentils
1 small Leek or white Onion, finely chopped
1 pinch Asafetida
1 Pinch Turmeric
1 Tsp Coriander Seeds
1/2 Tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
Sea Salt to taste
2 sprigs fresh Mint, chopped
1 handful fresh Coriander (Cilantro), chopped
2 Tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tsp White Wine Vinegar or fresh lime juice
Wash the lentils well and drain.
Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil; stir in the lentils, leek, turmeric and cook until lentils are soft.
While the lentils are simmering, toast the coriander seeds and the peppercorns lightly, cool, and grind into a powder with a couple of pinches of salt using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. For best results, use an electric spice grinder as coriander seeds are a bit tough to grind.
Add the asafetida, coriander-pepper mixture, mint and half the cilantro and gently simmer for about 10 more minutes. Mash the lentils with the back of the spoon until creamy.
Stir in more salt and freshly ground black pepper if needed.
Remove from heat and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
Stir in the rest of the cilantro along with the vinegar or lime juice.
Spoon the lentils into a warmed serving dish and drizzle the olive oil on top. Serve hot. Enjoy!!