It doesn't matter who you are, where you are from or what type of cook you are: we all have what I call a "guilty cupboard" in our kitchens. The guilty cupboard is that one which is eternally jammers with ingredients that were bought out of impulse and never used; these ingredients generally include pastas, grains, flours, flavoured teas, cereals, three types of healthy granola, tins of exotic fruits, sugars, noodles, different types of rice, marinating sauces, jars of exotic pastes, etc. Go on, admit it; you do have one, don't you?
I am now a little over half way through the Market Challenge and the best part is that my "guilty cupboard" has seen the light of day. I have used up a lot of stuff that normally would have found the way into my shopping trolley under false pretense such as 'one day I am really gonna make a great dish with that overly priced wild rice', but that for obvious reasons (mainly that I never got around to make that great dish) ended up in the back of the cupboard only to find the way to the brown bin a year later after a mad kitchen clean up. The last two months have seen my guilty cupboard diminished to I-can-see-what's-in-it levels (which, for my standards, is outstanding).
A couple of days ago, I went to it with gusto when I found a nearly out of date (but not just yet) pack of brown lentils I bought last year. I love lentils: they're good for you, they're tasty and very easy to cook, so for the life of me, I can't understand why I hadn't used that pack in all that time, I bet it was the fact that I didn't even knew it was there! So I took my pressure cooker out, defrosted a pack of frankfurters (not the healthiest of beasts I know, but they my guilty pleasure in chili dogs) and I cooked an old childhood favorite of mine: Sopa de Lentejas Nortenas (Lentil Soup Northern Style) the way my mam used to make it. A word of warning, Northern Mexicans like meat, if you're a vegetarian, keep an eye on the blog for the soon to be blogged vegetarian version of this dish. Enjoy!
Put the lentils in the pressure cooker with the garlic cloves and salt. Pour 3.5 litres of cold water over them. Turn on the heat to medium high, put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook the lentils for 15 minutes after the pressure cooker starts 'whistling'.
While the lentils cook, heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Add the rashers and cook for 5 minutes or until they start releasing their juices; add the onion and chili and gently stir fry them for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ham and Frankfurters and mix well. Cook this for further 5 minutes stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. You will see the frankfurters changing to a deeper pink colour. Incorporate the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook this until the tomatoes are soft and the ingredients have formed a meaty sauce. Take the sauce off the heat and set aside.
When the lentils are ready, open carefully the pressure cooker (always following manufacturer's instructions) and check that the garlic cloves are completely dissolved. If they are not, mash them with a fork into the soup and stir well to avoid any 'surprises'. Pour the meaty sauce into the lentils and mix well. Let the soup simmer for 5 minutes in the pressure cooker uncovered. When this is done, switch the heat off and add the chopped coriander and gently stir it into the soup.
Your lentejas Nortenas are ready to eat! This is a very easy and comforting dish, I find it perfect for Ireland's grey autumn and winter evenings. It's also full of iron and what's best super tasty. It keeps well in the fridge for about a week. I have never freeze it for I don't see why it wouldn't freeze well. In any case, I bet you'll go through it quicker than you think!