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Chef Michael Smith’s Golden, French Lentil Stew
This golden-hued stew is remarkably rich and creamy, thanks to the addition of a dairy-free cream base that can be either nut or seed based. Turmeric gives this stew its joyful, rich color, not to mention anti- inflammatory benefits; curcumin, one of the compounds in turmeric, has been shown to help reduce swelling and inflammation.
When I was developing this recipe, I tested the stew with both cashew and sunflower seed cream, and both versions work beautifully. It’s a friendly recipe for those with tree nut allergies (provided you can still eat sunflower seeds). The stew is spiced with dried thyme and cumin, and it packs a hefty portion of greens (Swiss chard or kale—your choice!) and other hearty vegetables like carrot and celery. The French green lentils hold their shape well and add a lovely, chewy element, but feel free to use green or brown lentils if that’s all you can find. The stew will just be thicker, since green and brown lentils break down a bit more.
1/2 cup (125 mL) raw cashews, or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (90 mL) raw sunflower seeds
2 cups (500 mL) water
2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow or sweet onion, diced, or 2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced (about 2 cups/500 mL)
4 large cloves garlic, minced (2 table- spoons/30 mL minced)
1 to 11/2 teaspoons (5 to 7 mL) fine sea salt, to taste, plus a couple pinches
2 medium carrots, diced (1 heaping cup/275 mL)
2 stalks celery, diced (3/4 cup/175 mL)
2 teaspoons (10 mL) ground cumin
11/2 teaspoons (7 mL) dried thyme
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground turmeric
1 (14-ounce/398 mL) can of diced tomatoes, with juices
3/4 cup (175 mL) uncooked French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups (1 L) low-sodium vegetable broth
3 cups (750 mL) stemmed and chopped Swiss chard or kale leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons (5 to 10 mL) white wine vinegar, to taste
1. Put the cashews in a bowl and cover with a couple of inches of water. Soak for 1 to 2 hours or overnight. (For a quick-soak method, cover with boiling water and soak for 30 to 60 minutes.) Drain and rinse. Transfer the cashews to a high-speed blender along with 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the water. Blend on high until super smooth and creamy in texture. Set the cashew cream aside.
2. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion, garlic, and a couple pinches of salt, and sauté until the onion is softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
3. Stir in the carrots and celery, and cook for another few minutes or so. Stir in the cumin, thyme, and turmeric until combined.
4. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, lentils, broth, and remaining water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
5. Stir in the cashew cream and chard. Add salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste. (The vinegar’s role is to lend brightness to the soup; add a little bit at a time and keep tasting, as it can quickly overwhelm.) Cook for a couple of minutes over low-medium heat, until the chard is wilted, and then serve. This stew will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or you can freeze it for 1 to 2 months (always let it cool completely before storing). The stew will thicken after sitting in the fridge; you can thin it out with a bit of broth when you reheat it, if desired, or simply serve it thick with some crusty bread.
When the cashew (or sunflower seed) cream is mixed into the soup, the broth can take on a speckled appearance due to it reacting with the vinegar. This is totally normal and does not affect the delicious flavor of the soup!
Excerpted from “Real Food, Real Good” by Michael Smith. Copyright © 2016 Michael Smith. Published by Penguin Canada.