With autumn in full swing and the temperature dropping (except for this past week), it’s the perfect time to make what I consider a staple for a chilly fall day – a hearty bowl of stew.
One of my favorites is lentil soup/stew, not only for its flavor and nutritious value, but its affordability (especially for students). For example, Budget Bytes, one of my favorite websites for affordable meals, breaks down their lentil soup to $0.78 per serving and $7.83 in total. There are many different recipes online but this is a great place to start. Below are the ingredients with added instructions/adjustments from me:
- 1 lb. Italian sausage – I used hot sausage patties
- 1 medium onion – diced
- 3 med. (1/2 lb.) carrots – diced
- 2-3 med carrots – cut on the bias/chunked
- 3 stalks (1/2 bunch) celery – diced
- 2 cloves garlic – being the garlic fiend that I am, I did 4-6 smashed cloves
- 2 cups brown lentils – I used one bag of brown lentils, red works fine as well
- 2 Tbsp (or 6 cubes) chicken base (bouillon) – I used two packets of chicken base
- If you have chicken stock (fresh or canned/boxed), feel free to use that instead of the bouillon and water
- 4 cups water
- ½ to 1 tsp cayenne – I used crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp paprika – omitted
- 1 tsp cumin – omitted
- 1 tsp oregano
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 10 oz. frozen spinach – I used a bunch of kale, enough to fill a medium mixing bowl
- The first thing you want to do is rinse the lentils and remove debris. You should then soak them for at least an hour, preferably overnight so that the lentils will cook quickly. If you’re soaking for an hour, toward the end of the hour you can preheat the oven to 415-420 degrees F.
- Next dice the onion, carrots, and celery in equal proportions to make a mirepoix, the base of any good soup. While you’re doing this, you can also cut the other carrots in chunks or on the bias.
- Rinse the greens and set aside. If you’re using a bunch of kale, an easy way to take the leaves off the hard stems is to grab the stem and pull down. For the smaller stems, it’s up to you to rip them off or leave them on.
- In a pot (I used a heavy bottom pot/dutch oven), heat up the olive oil on medium-high. At this time you can also smash the garlic cloves and set aside.
- When the oil is shimmering, add the sausage patties and let them brown. At this point, add the red pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt.
- Once the sausage has browned, break them up into small chunks. At this point, add the mirepoix and bay leaves. Cook those until softened, around 5 minutes.
- After the vegetables have softened, add the crushed garlic and stir. Cook until softened, around 5 minutes.
- Drain the lentils and add to the pot and stir. Then add the water and bouillon mixture so the ingredients are just covered.
- Let the pot come to a low boil, place the lid on, and place the heat to low. Let the stew simmer for ~30 minutes.
- At this point, you can take the carrot chunks and spread them onto a baking sheet. Cover the carrots with 2-3 tbsp of olive oil, salt, and pepper and mix with your hands. Afterward, place the tray in the preheated oven and cook for 30-35 minutes, flipping the carrots after 20-25 minutes in the oven.
- In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the drained greens into the pot and stir. The pot should have enough residual heat to wilt the kale, so I take it off the burner at this point. If you find that the kale does not soften enough, keep the pot on the burner for another 5 minutes.
- Ladle the stew into a bowl, served with the carrots in a side dish along with a chunk of crusty bread to sop up the stew!
Let me know how the recipe goes, either in the comments or on Instagram!