I have always been intrigued by the similarities found in Spanish and Asian cooking. “Lentils” will always be “daal” to me (The word “daal” may be used to refer to the dish or different kinds of lentils). One of my memories of growing up in Malaysia was going to a little Indian restaurant (I am stretching the definition of “restaurant” here) every Sunday with my family. The tosai was spectacular; the daal comforting. It’s wintry here in London and freezing over in the States, so I thought I’d start this recipe column with a warm, substantial, flavorful dish.

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is my take on lentejas (Spanish for lentils). Extras: One of the reasons I love this dish is the many ways I can change it up. Add some cured meat towards the end of cooking*, or maybe chicken to up the protein content, add a poached/sunny-side up egg…go on, play! The cured meat does not need to be fancy. I personally love getting assorted “knob ends” from my local charcutier and changing herbs and spices to go with the meat.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Spanish
Serves: 6
  • 2 Spanish Onions
  • ½ head garlic
  • 500g lentils (I use a mix for texture. The lentils in the photo are beluga, brown, and speckled green)
  • 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp black cumin (for a cleaner flavor)
  • 3 Carrots
  • 4 Potatoes (I use waxy potatoes because they hold their shape and do not make the dish too starchy)
  • Olive oil
  • Stock or water (For this recipe I use jamon bones. Make sure the stock is not salted*)
  • A few sprigs of sage (Complements pork so well)
  • Salt and pepper to taste *
The night before:
  1. Make the stock.
  2. Cover bones with water, slowly bring to boil, then simmer, skimming fat and scum as necessary. Jamon bones need to be boiled overnight, but for chicken carcasses and other uncured bones, 3 hours is sufficient.
On the day:
  1. Soak garlic in hot water. This will make peeling cloves infinitely easier.
  2. Dry fry cumin and paprika in a heavy-bottomed stock pot.
  3. Remove, and add olive oil to pot.
  4. Wedge onions and add to pot.
  5. Peel and smash garlic cloves. Add to pot.
  6. Cover and cook until onions are translucent.
  7. Rinse lentils under running water.
  8. Add spices and carrots, cut into large chunks.
  9. Drain lentils and add to pan.
  10. Cover with stock/water and bring to boil.
  11. Add potatoes, lower heat to simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
  12. Skim the dish as necessary.
  13. When lentils are soft, add meat and extras (if you are so inclined). The meats in the photo are fennel-cured pork loin from Kent and black pudding from Cumbria.
*Adding salt to lentils while cooking retards the process considerably.
Is it healthy?

Yes: High in complex carbohydrates and fibre. Provides complete essential amino acids when combined with rice.
No: Legumes and grains contain lectins, which are concentrated in the skin/husk (therefore whole-grain has more lectins than white rice). These glycoproteins bind to micronutrients and prevent their uptake in the gut. However, lectins can be destroyed by wet heat (e.g. boiling).

Your choice!

Jackie Hall-Tan
When not blogging for Harbinger, Jackie runs a supper-club with 3 other chefs in London and is working towards her dream of opening a British bacon joint with her husband and partner in crime. Jackie believes the beauty of cooking is that it’s a language that transcends borders, age, religion and culture. A self-described feminist, activist and dreamer, her favorite words are; why, how and butter.
Jackie Hall-Tan

Latest posts by Jackie Hall-Tan (see all)