I belong to the “Always Eat Lentils On New Year’s Day” religion. Some may call it superstition; I call it religion, because I believe eating lentils – any recipe, any shape, any temperature, any course – will make the following year a lucky one.
There are plenty of other methods for waving in the New Year, and guaranteeing it be a friendly visit – eating some form of pig is supposed to promise good health; eating greens promises wealth. A tall dark man is supposed to be the first person of the year to cross your threshhold. I subscribe to all of the above, but I believe – I believe - in lentils.
Here is this year’s lentil recipe in my house, a Todd English stew that tastes like chili and is cooled with the Indian cucumber and yogurt condiment, raita. Eaten in Folly Cove, MA, they’re Global Lentils. Feel free to make lentil cakes, lentil loaf, or what we’ve often done when we’re unprepared - simply boil them with onion, garlic, thyme, and tomatoes. It’s all lucky.
Happy New Year.
Lentil and grain Chili with Cucumber Raita
from Todd English
serves 8 generous portions
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small jalapeno or Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and minced
2 chipotle peppers, seeded and minced
1 20-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 – 4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1/3 dried oregano
2 cups lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 cup cooked chick peas, rinsed
1/2 cup barley
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
8-10 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Place a large stockpot over medium heat and when it is hot, add the olive oil. Add the ginger, garlic, onion, carrots, and celery, stirring well after each addition, and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the jalapeno pepper, chipotle peppers, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin oregano, lentils, chick peas, barley, bulgur wheat stock, salt, and pepper, stirring well after each addition, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the lentils are soft, about 1 hour.
Top each serving with a dollop of cucumber raita.
2 cups greek yogurt, (I used full fat.)
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves.
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve.