My Irishman is brilliant when it comes to impromptu gifts. Sometimes they don’t have a reason. Sometimes they do.
Like a few weeks ago when we were in Sydney, he allowed himself to be kidnapped by the Irish mafia (aka ‘The Lads’). Somehow a copy of ‘Hugh’s 3 Good Things on a Plate’ by Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall followed him home.
We’re both big fans of Hugh and his River Cottage TV series, so it was a pretty safe bet that I’d like the book.
But not only did I like it, I LOVED it. So much that last week I actually cooked meals inspired by the book for dinner 4 nights in a row. Yes, 4 nights.
Now this is completely unheard of in my kitchen. These days I use cookbooks as inspiration but I usually prefer to ‘do my own thing’ when it comes time to actually cook. This is partly because I hate following instructions (and rules) but also because as my style has evolved to be super simple with the focus on 5 ingredients, there aren’t many recipes that fit the bill.
So what’s the biggest lesson from Hugh’s latest book?
You’ve probably already guessed it from the title, but in Hugh’s words…
“How often have you wished there was a magic formula to simplify cooking? Well, there is. Put three good things together on a plate and, somehow, the whole is always greater and more delicious than the sum of its parts.”
Is there a downside to this ‘Three Good Things’ approach?
From the success I’ve had with the recipes from Hugh’s recipes — definitely not.
Although I did notice one thing. I didn’t get very excited about the recipes until I read the description to get a sense of what the dish entailed.
For example ‘Lentils, Spinach, Potato’ doesn’t really sound that great. Right?
So when I made the dish I changed the name to ‘Lentil & Veggie Curry’ and it got rave reviews.
It’s not really a downside, but I encourage you to avoid Hugh’s trap of keeping your naming to just a list of 3 ingredients. We eaters like names to give us a sense of what a dish will be like to eat, so we can imagine it and get excited.
Like to try Hugh’s 3 Good Things?
Takes about 20 minutes.
While this lentil dish would easily fit in with the recipes in Hugh’s book, it was actually inspired by dinner I had at a fabulous little wine bar/restaurant called Au Passage in Paris. And so I’ve called it the more exotic sounding ‘Parisian Lentils,’ rather than the utilitarian ‘Lentils, ricotta & parsley’ that it would be named if in Hugh’s book.
enough for 2:
200g (7oz) french style green lentils (aka puy lentils)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
8 tablespoons full fat ricotta
2 large handfuls flat leaf parsley leaves
1. Place lentils in a medium saucepan and cover generously with water. Cover and bring to the boil.
2. Remove lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
3. Drain lentils and return to the pan. Season with vinegar, soy and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Taste and add salt as needed.
4. Divide lentils between 2 bowls. Top with ricotta, parsley and lashings of ground black pepper.
short on time? – replace lentils with drained canned lentils. You’ll need about 1.5 regular cans – just warm the lentils from the can in a pan and then dress and serve as per the recipe.
soy-free – season with salt instead of the soy sauce.
dairy-free – serve with a poached or fried egg or two instead of the ricotta.
vegan – replace ricotta with chunks of avocado or a big dollop of hummus.
no ricotta? – other soft cheese such as goats cheese, cottage cheese or even a creamy blue will work. Or try natural yoghurt instead.
different greens – In Paris they used fresh watercress leaves. You just want something that will give freshness and greenness. Salad leaves, rocket (arugula), baby spinach, mint or basil would all be great.
different legumes – red or brown lentils could be used instead. Just watch the cooking time so they don’t turn to mush. Other legumes such as canned chickpeas or white beans could be used but consider reducing the soy and vinegar and increasing the olive oil to make a milder dressing.
no sherry vinegar? – use red or white wine vinegar or rice vinegar.
carnivore – toss in some crispy bacon with the cooked lentils, or some finely sliced prosciutto.
Video version of the recipe.