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Hearty Smokey Lentil Stew

I was about to go in for bunion surgery and wanted to meal prep a few comforting meals that would freeze well and be easy to heat up once I was in recovery and not very mobile. I also wanted meals that would provide lots nutrition to assist my body in the healing process. This meal does all those things and it's delicious! My husband enjoyed it so much he ate 1/3 of the pot that first night. Thankfully this makes a ton of stew, so we had plenty left for meal prepping.


Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups dried lentils, rinsed and sorted

  • 2 leeks, chopped, soaked, drained

  • 2 cups potatoes (red or Yukon gold are great), diced

  • 1 large carrot, diced

  • 1 large celery rib, diced

  • 16 oz sausage (optional & can be plant-based)

  • 1 can diced tomatoes

  • 12 - 15 strands of saffron

  • 1/4 cup cold water

  • 6 cups of beef broth (or chicken or veggie)

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika

  • 1/2 each tsp salt and pepper (optional. Omit salt if your beef broth has sodium and/or your watching your salt intake)

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 sprig each thyme and rosemary

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


Preparation

Pour 1/4 cup cold water into a small bowl or measuring cup and add the saffron. Set aside. Chop all your vegetables. Rinse and drain the lentils.


saffron water over pot
soak saffron in cold water to release flavor

Heat a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot to medium heat. Add the sausage links (if using) and brown on all sides. Remove from pot and let cool enough to slice into bite-sized chunks.


Add olive oil to the pot (keep on medium heat). Add the carrots and celery and allow to soften for a minute or two. Next stir in the leeks. Cook another two or three minutes.


Add the garlic, paprika, tomato paste, salt (if using), pepper, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves. Stir in gently and let the garlic soften. Turn down the heat if garlic starts to burn.


Add the can of diced tomatoes, broth, lentils, potatoes, sausage, and saffron soaked water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered, until the veggies and lentils are soft and tender. About 20 minutes. (Tasted & season as needed at 10 minutes)

Add the can of diced tomatoes, broth, lentils, potatoes, sausage, and saffron soaked water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered, until the veggies and lentils are soft and tender. About 20 minutes. (Tasted & season as needed at 10 minutes)


The lentils will start to thicken the broth (especially if you use green or brown lentils). If you want to thicken more, take a cup of the stew and blend then add back to pot, or use a hand blender in the pot to break down some of the contents.


Serve with some fresh parsley or chives, a sprinkle of your favorite cheese, or a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream.


This recipe is perfect for meal prep and freezes beautifully! Keep covered in the fridge for a week or the freezer for up to 6 months. Thin with a little water when reheating as necessary.


Notes & Variations

  1. Lentils - Some lentils get mushier when cooked. Others hold their form. I used green/brown lentils for this and it created a nice thick stew with most lentils still defines. Le Puy or black lentils will keep their form but the stew will be a little more soupy.

  2. Leeks - grown in sandy soil, these are often covered in dirt that is hidden between each little layer. I trim off the root tip, slice in 1/2 lengthwise, then rotate 90 degrees and slice into little half-moon shapes. Then add to a bowl of water and swish around to remove dirt from the leeks. Strain, rinse, and drain.

  3. Keep it plant-based or vegan. Swap the broth out for veggie broth and either omit the sausage or choose a plant-based version.

  4. If you don't have fresh herbs, dried ones will do just fine. Dried herbs are more concentrated, so use 1 teaspoon of the rosemary and thyme for this recipe.

  5. Other veggies that would be great in this dish include: mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, spinach or kale. If adding leafy greens, wait until the end to add them. The exception is collard greens. They are hearty enough to be added when you add the liquid.

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