I request on from one of my Simple Meal Plans members for healthy ‘comfort’ food. For me it doesn’t get more comforting than a good risotto. Which gave me an idea to experiment with non-rice based risotto-style dishes.
I couldn’t be happier with how this red lentil ‘risotto’ turned out. All the oozy goodness with lots more protein and fibre than your boring old rice risotto.
Red Lentil ‘Risotto’
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 onion diced
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 200 g red lentils 7oz
- 2 handfuls grated parmesan cheese + extra to serve
Heat half the butter butter in a medium saucepan and add onion. Cover and cook on a medium low heat, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until onion is soft.
Meanwhile place stock in another pan and bring to a simmer.
When the onion is soft, add the unwashed lentils and increase the heat to medium high. Stir for a minute.
Add 2 ladles of stock. Stir well then simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the stock is absorbed.
Repeat until the lentils are tender and oozy. If you run out of stock, use water.
Add remaining butter and cheese and stir until combined. Taste and season. Serve with extra parmesan shaved over.
carnivore – crumble some pork sausages or chicken and brown in the pan with the onions. A splash of red wine might be nice.
dairy-free / vegan – to be honest I can’t imagine risotto without the butter and cheese. But if you’re willing to give it a go use olive oil to fry the onion and finish with a tablespoon of tomato paste and more olive oil.
paleo (grain, legume & dairy-free) / ultra low carb – macadamia Satay instead.
budget – the stock really makes this dish. If you must use a cheap bullion cube, follow the tips for ‘bland’ in the troubleshooting guide to boost the flavour.
use your imagination – pretty much any rice risotto can be adapted to the lentils. Just remember the lentils don’t need quite as much liquid as arborio rice.
more substantial (low carb) – poach chicken in the stock.
more substantial (carb lovers) – extra lentils or steamed rice.
Like rice risotto this is best when freshly made. You could par cook the risotto, adding about half the stock then refrigerate until you’re ready. Reheat and keep adding stock, you’ll probably need more than you think.
Will keep for a week or so in the fridge but the texture is best when fresh. You could use it to make ‘risotto cakes’
Waste Avoidance Strategy
butter – keeps in the fridge for months. Can be frozen.
onion – keeps in the pantry for months. Can be frozen (chop first for easier defrosting).
stock – pantry if in a sealed commercial packet or freeze.
red lentils – pantry.
parmesan – keep wrapped in baking paper inside an airtight container in the fridge for months. Can be frozen.
Problem Solving Guide
watery – you’ve gone too far! Next time stop adding stock and cooking when the lentils are no longer crunchy but still have a bit of texute – like al dente pasta.
too salty – with all the stock, cheese and butter it can be easy to have a salt overdose. I’ve used salt-reduced stock and butter and then added salt at the end to taste.
bland – if you’re using supermarket stock, jazz things up a bit by adding an onion and some roughly chopped carrots and celery to the stock and let it simmer away for a few minutes – or 1/2 hour if you have the time.
short on time – skip the onion and add a little more cheese to make up for it.
Serve however you’d normally serve risotto. I think a green salad or something light is essential to balance all that heavy richness. And go for small portions.