Lentils, pressure cooked.

I guess now is not a very good time to convince people that pressure cookers are perfectly safe, convenient little gizmos that don't explode. They really don't, you know, unless you make them. 
But I can see that the image problem is not likely to go away, so I suggest we call them express pots, like we do in Spanish. Olla Express, now, isn't that a gadget you'd be glad to use? Dear manufacturers and marketers, you are welcome to the idea. I am a pressure cooker evangelist and will be glad to have more converts to the cause.

So, anyway. The recipe. Lentils, cooked until just al dente, well dressed with a punchy dressing and a few crunchy things. It may be one of the perfect side dishes, and is one of my favourite things for lunch. You'll probably only find Puy or so called Puy lentils, but of course I would recommend Spanish pedrosillanas for this.

Here's what you do. You take your express pot (see what I just did there?) and put in a cup of lentils, a bay leaf or a good pinch of dried oregano, some salt, and perhaps a garlic clove or a shallot. Salt is controversial so you can do without and use it later, if you prefer.
Add water to cover by three centimetres/an inch. Lock the lid, bring up to pressure. When it's up, give it two minutes and turn off the hob. Now let it come down naturally for ten. Don't leave it longer or it will turn into lentil stew, which is fine but a different thing.

When you open it, drain the lentils but reserve the liquid, plus a couple of spoonfuls of lentils. 

Put these lentils in a pretty bowl or plate, and while they're warm, dress them. Olive oil and lemon for starters, and then any or all of these, well chopped: capers, shallots, dill pickles, parsley, almonds. You may want a touch of mustard, perhaps some sherry vinegar, probably some black pepper. See how you like it, and try it once again before you serve because they soak up the dressing a lot and you may want more oil or lemon or salt.

I love this with another salad of beets, or grated carrots. And boiled eggs and brown bread, or smoked mackerel, or these sausages. Anything, really.

Next day, a soup. I know you´ll think that that muddy looking liquid is ugly and useless, but trust me.

All you do is chop some celery, onion and carrot into little dice. If it makes you feel better by all means call it mirepoix. Sweat this in a little oil or butter or both, inside your express pot (ahem) and add the lentils and liquid, plus a cup or good stock, if you have it. If not, water with a bit of good stock powder will be fine, or just water, but the real chicken stock brings it up a few notches.
Bring up to pressure, give it three minutes. This is an understated soup, but very good. It has more heft than just vegetables, but is way gentler than all lentils. Put some lemon juice and some Sherry there, too, and perhaps a few fresh herbs to brighten the colour. It is just the thing for these spring days that are always colder than you hoped.

Let's give pressure cookers a good name, go on.


Back to blogging

Hello dears.
I've been away for a month and during all that time I would think "oh, I have to do a post about this" but then I'd forget, or I'd have to meet a deadline, or I'd rush off to the other end of the Mediterranean, or I'd go to a wedding, or a carrousel, or have to choose the colour of a wall. It was pretty exhausting, let me tell you.

When we got back, I thought it would be good to do a post about the food you eat when you come home after a month. And another about the foods I was glad to have again. And another about what I brought back in my suitcase. But then I got sidetracked by packing, and then, bla bla bla. You know. The usual.

Which is to say, I will be back, I will write, I will post, and there will be recipes. There is a certain olive oil cake that brings tears of joy. A salty yogurt drink. A nifty way with run-of-the-mill mozzarella. Etc. But first, I need to do some work.

In the meantime, I leave you with this sketchbook page. It has drawings of all the faces in last month's Observer Food Monthly. Geeks may recognize my clumsy attempts at Nigel Slater, Rene Redzepi and Danny Bowien there somewhere.