Make this oriental lentil casserole with bacon, carrots, beets and raisins, and sprinkle it with cinnamon for an unusual but extraordinary flavour combination.
In many cultures lentils (and peas) symbolize abundance and fortune, therefore one must eat it at the beginning of the New Year to ensure their own and their family’s prosperity in the year to come.
Due to this tradition my family’s obligatory lunch on January 1st always had lentil soup. Which as a kid I hated. My sisters and I tried to boycott my mom’s lentil soup, but the responsibility of the whole family’s fortune resting on our eating a bowl of lentil soup was too much, so we grumbled but ate it. Thankfully my mom heard our complaints and experimented with other dishes containing lentil and that’s how this oriental lentil casserole entered our lives. It was instant success the first time she made it: not just us kids, but my dad as well asked for seconds. To this day it’s a favourite in our house, and my mom never has to listen to me or my sisters grumble about having to eat lentil anymore.
My mom’s original recipe only had carrots and parsnips, but no beets. I added those because I had some at home and was feeling like adding some bright pink to it, because seriously, if a dish can have bursts of vibrant pinks, then why not?
This oriental lentil casserole starts with sautéing some onions, beet, carrot and parsnip bits on the bacon grease, then you add the lentils, raisins and spices, cover the pot and let it cook until the lentils become tender, about half an hour and that’s it!
- 8 oz. (220 gr) bacon
- 1 big onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 carrots
- 2 parsnips
- 1-2 beets
- 2 cups green lentils
- 2 tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp cinnamon
- 2-3 bay leaves
- ½ cup raisins
- Put the lentils in a bowl, cover with warm water and let them soak for at least 1 hour, or even overnight.
- Dice the bacon and roast them in a big pot or Dutch oven until the bacon is almost crunchy and has released its grease.
- Add the chopped onions and garlic and sauté them on the bacon grease.
- Add the diced beet and sliced carrot and parsnip bits to the onion and cook them for a few minutes.
- Rinse the lentils and add them to the vegetables, covering them with enough water so that the lentils are underwater.
- Season with salt, cinnamon and the bay leaves, add the raisins and cover the pot. Let it cook on low for about 30-50 minutes, until the lentils become soft.
- Add more salt/cinnamon if needed. Enjoy while it's warm.