This lentil and chestnut stew is a traditional dish in Italy and the epitome of the Mediterranean diet in Winter. The main ingredients here are lentils and many different vegetables, with porcini mushrooms for a depth and chestnuts for a hint caramel sweetness. I use pretty lenticche umbre (you can see their gorgeous colours in the photograph) but any lentil that holds its shape will do such as green or puy lentils.
The finished dish keeps well in the fridge or freezer and is wonderfully versatile; I cook up a really big batch of this ready to serve in a variety of ways.
- Serve with a simple bruschetta; sliced bread rubbed with garlic, lightly toasted and topped with a drizzle of olive oil.
- For additional luxury, top your bruschetta with cheese and grill until melting (the strong flavour of stilton works well).
- Mix a helping of the stew with additional hot water, vegetable stock and / or canned tomatoes to make a rustic soup. Stir in a swirl of balsamic vinegar before eating.
- Cook a batch of pasta in boiling water (chestnut flour pasta is lovely if you can find it). While the pasta cooks, scoop out a little of the cooking water with a mug. Drain the pasta and return it to the hot pan, tossing it with a little olive oil, a small handful of grated parmesan and a slosh of the retained cooking water. Top a serving of the glossy, coated pasta with a ladle of the stew and a sprinkling of parsley.
- Scoop a ladleful of stew over a fluffy baked potato.
- Eat it on its own with a grating of cheese on top.
I must admit that I’ve struggled a bit to get to grips with slow cooking, mainly adjusting to the much lower amount of liquid needed in the slow cooker. This stew has been by far the most successful slow cooker recipe I have cooked so far, working perfectly first time. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t make this on the hob in a lidded pan. If you want to try this I suggest using the rule of thumb that slow cooking only requires half the liquid of conventional cooking. Start off by adding an additional 400ml of fluid (low sodium vegetable stock) and add more if required. Simmer gently for an hour to an hour and a half.
Recipe for Italian lentil and chestnut stew
See article for notes on cooking on the hob. I use vacuum packed cooked chestnuts.
Makes a big batch, ready to use in numerous ways
1 large carrot, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Lenticchie umbre or other lentils, 350g (about 2 cups)
250ml red wine (about a cup)
150g cooked chestnuts (1 cup), roughly chopped
A small handful dried porcini mushrooms
A sprig rosemary, leaves pulled from stem
1 tbsp cranberry sauce (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cover the porcini mushrooms with 250ml freshly boiled water. Leave to soak for at least half an hour.
Warm the olive oil in a large pan on the hob. Saute the garlic, onions, leek, carrot and celery for ten minutes on a low heat to lightly soften.
Remove the porcini mushrooms from the water and finely chop them, retaining the soaking water.
Put the sauteed vegetables into the slow cooker. Add the rest of the listed ingredients plus the retained soaking liquid from the mushrooms and an additional 250ml of water.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Slow cook for 7 hours.