Spicy courgette and red lentil stew
This is my own take on a stew which is usually made with lamb or chicken. I wanted to have a meat-free dish for my family but one that still had Persian flavours. This stew felt like one that would respond well to being meat-free and my experiment turned out to be a total treat.
Khoresh Kadoo (courgette stew in Farsi) is a dish that tends to be reserved for family meals as opposed to our parties (mehmoonis). The reason, I suspect, is that Khoresh Bademjan (aubergine stew) is very similar but is considered to be the superior dish and worthy of guests – the poor humble courgette!
Well no longer sidelined, this recipe allows this stew to be centre stage as it cannot be compared to the regal aubergine stew. The main differences are, I have added chillies and substituted the meat for red lentils. The resulting dish still has the comforting savoury flavours of the traditional dish but with a glow of plant-based goodness and a burst of spice from the chillies.
In order to really enhance the flavours of this dish, I recommend frying the courgette before adding them to the stew (this can be done the day before to save time). For the health conscious, you can roast the courgette with a drizzle of oil in the oven on 180°C (fan) / 200°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 6 for about 20 minutes. Either way, the courgette can be prepared up to a few days in advance and refrigerated until you are ready to cook the stew.
- 6 tbsp vegetable oil (sounds punchy but most of it is used to fry the courgettes - see notes above re: oven roasting courgettes as an alternative)
- 3 courgettes
- 1 large onion (finely diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 500 ml passata
- 150 g red lentils
- 500 ml water
- 1/8 tsp saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
- Juice from half a lemon
- 10 cherry tomatoes (halved)
- Salt and pepper (to season)
- Chopped fresh mint (to garnish)
- Take a large frying pan and pour 4 tbsps of oil into the pan. Place on a medium to high heat.
- Halve the courgettes and then slice them about 2cm thick.
- Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the slices and fry the courgettes on each side until golden, and soft.
- Remove the courgettes and put on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil.
- Take a large casserole dish or saucepan with a lid (about 3.5 litres capacity) and place on a medium to high heat. Add 2 tbsp of oil, add the onion and fry until golden, stirring now and again.
- Add the garlic, turmeric and chilli and stir. Add the tomato purée and stir in. Once it glistens add the red lentils and stir until evenly distributed.
- Add the passata, 250 ml of the water, the bloomed saffron and fresh lemon juice. Stir and season to taste.
- Once the the stew starts to boil add the remaining 250 ml of water and stir, lower the heat to allow the stew to slowly simmer. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add more water if the stew looks too thick.
- Add your courgettes and gently submerge in the stew.
- Scatter your halved tomatoes evenly across the stew, place the lid on the pan and simmer for no less than 45 mins. Once cooking time has finished and you are ready to serve, turn off the heat and garnish with chopped fresh mint and coriander.
- Serve with rice and / or flatbreads.