Friday, January 15, 2010

Laganophake: Roman Lentil & Red Wine Stew

If your entire idea of ancient Roman food and eating habits was formed by Caligula, then this healthy, hearty, and downright sensible lentil stew will certainly challenge that assumption.  And if you're thinking, "Laganophake? That sounds Greek. Who is she kidding with this Roman stuff?"  you get a gold star! Although this is a traditional Roman dish, its origins are Greek.

But wherever it comes from, this lentil stew has definitely withstood the test of time. The fragrant spices, wine, and onions come together to lend a subtle sweetness to the earthy flavor of the lentils; somehow it tastes simultaneously of the past and present.

I adapted the recipe from Roman Cookery, but I did change a few things. For one thing, I found that the lentil-water-ratio didn't quite work, and so I added more lentils to make it come out right. You want the stew to be so thick that you could theoretically scoop it up with your fingers - though I used a combination of libum (Roman cheese bread) and a nice, modern fork!

Roman Lentil & Red Wine Stew
adapted from Roman Cookery by Mark Grant
  • 1 cup Masoor lentils (Grant's recipe calls for Puy lentils. Just make sure to use a lentil that will keep it's shape even when soft.)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
  • 1-2 tsp dried dill
  • couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and oregano, chopped fine
  • handful fresh parsley (for garnish)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch of aniseed, smashed
  • sea salt, to taste
Fry the onion until soft. Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the thyme, oregano, and parsley. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. Check and stir occasionally, as you want to monitor the water levels. If it's drying out, add some water; if it seems too liquid after 30 minutes or so, take off the lid to let the moisture evaporate. Add the thyme and oregano before serving, when the stew has thickened and the lentil are soft:
 
Check your salt levels and season accordingly at this pont, and to serve, garnish with the parsley. This went so well with the cheesiness of the libum, and it's such a guilt-free dish it almost made up for the fact that I was breaking my no-carb resolution by eating it with bread!  The stew is even better the next day when the flavors have really had time to come together.  Enjoy your (modest) Roman feast!





24 comments:

  1. Wow, what incredible flacvours! I could never have imagined this as an Italian dish. Yep, more greek, just as the name. Cumin, aniseed as well as all the other herbs! Amazing combination of flavours. Going to have to see if I can gather the ingredients and give this a go!!!

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  2. looks delcious wished I could try it not sure with all those onions what would be good in its place...it sure does look good though!

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  3. It looks delicious. Especially on your roman themed plate!

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  4. Wonderful dish! Even though I cook lentils a lot, I never use wine so this is a good recipe for using up a bottle of wine!

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  5. This looks so good. I always need lots of flavour in my food and this looks like it checks that box! Especially with the cheese bread... Cheese and wine... Mmmm, I'm in heaven!

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  6. What a good-looking lentil stew. I love that it's so thick. Now how do you pronounce it???

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  7. Can you drink the wine while cooking the lentils or MUST it be shared with the rest of t he crowd????!! 8-) Just happen to have all the ingredients on hand and will definitely give it a try within the week. Thank you.

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  8. A perfectly delicious stew! It must be fantastic with the bread too!

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  9. oh wow another Ancient dish love this

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  10. Do you know how many times I've just walked right past those Masoor lentils? Now I have true, tested recipe to try--looks yum!

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  11. Looks very appetizing. But no garum?

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  12. This is amazing! I am always making lentil soups..always..and this combines such great flavors.My definite next on the list!

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  13. Thanks all! @vegetablematter: I would just say it how it looks ; )
    @pegasuslegen: I have a feeling that fennel would work instead. It would be different, but I do think it could work!
    @sharlene & @tasteofbeirut: i never need an excuse to use up a bottle of wine! so i suggest having 2 on hand when you make this!
    @john: Ha! No, this dish didn't call for garum, but I made a butter bean dish the next day with my own homemade fish sauce. stay tuned! (for vegetarians - there's a veggie version of garum that uses pears instead of anchovies!)

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  14. This is a different kind of lentil stew. I'm not fascinated by your love of ancient recipes.

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  15. Tracey, sorry for the typo error. It's supposed to be "I'm now fascinated by your love of ancient recipes".

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  16. Wah...must be a dish rich in flavour and history!

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  17. @Divina: Don't worry about it! I admit, I was a bit confused when I saw that comment and I thought: "Well, maybe I have put too many old things on here." ; ) xo

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  18. I can smell the herbs and red wine simmering away~great weeknight meal, with items you can pull from your pantry.

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  19. So you keep on trying Roman Cooking recipes! ;-)

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  20. Wow, sounds like such a flavorful meal, made from humble, simple, healthy ingredients. My favorite kind of meal!

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  21. Great recipe... I have a present waiting for you at my blog... come on by!

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  22. Lentils and fresh herbs--looks great!

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  23. I love lentils, and I love wine. So I LOVE Lentils + Wine together! This is a must-make!

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