a journal of tea-inspired foods and recipes
Lately, an almost weekly tradition has been a stop at Whole Foods for their Wednesday sale price on rotisserie chicken. Sure, I roast my own chicken now and then, but when I’m busy it’s easy to make two or three meals during the week off this tasty, pre-cooked bird. Plus, I love any excuse to shop at Whole Foods.
These smoky lentils, adapted from a recipe in the gorgeous Culinary Tea cookbook by Cynthia Gold and Lisë Stern, are the perfect accompaniment to one of my rotisserie chicken meal nights. They’re also great leftover as a cold salad for lunch.
The recipe calls for black lentils, also known as beluga lentils, which are rich and hearty and don’t fall apart when cooked like some other lentil varieties.
The cooking with tea technique is to simmer the lentils in a brewed smoky Lapsang Souchong tea instead of water alone.
Lapsang Souchong is smoky because it’s smoke-dried over a pinewood fire and takes on a flavor characteristic of campfire or smoked meats. It is said to have been Winston Churchill’s daily tea of choice, mixed with a shot of scotch.
In this version of the recipe, I use a mix of Lapsang Souchong and red Rooibos for the brewed tea base. The sweet and nutty flavor of the Rooibos adds another layer of depth to the dish, pairs well with the tomatoes, and cuts the smokiness just a bit.
As suggested in the cookbook, I make this dish with a can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes, which works well with the campfire flavor of the Lapsang Souchong and helps make it a quick meal.
Not a fan of smoky flavors? (Then I’m surprised you’ve read this far.) You can adapt the recipe and use only red Rooibos tea and a can of diced plain tomatoes for a sweet, instead of smoky, version of the dish.
I’ve halved the original cookbook recipe here, since I’m usually just cooking for two. I’ve also added vegetables that are not in the original recipe because I like the color and texture a few more veggies give the dish.
Happy cooking and sipping!
(Adapted from the Smoky Black Lentils recipe in Culinary Tea by Cynthia Gold and Lisë Stern)
Makes 4 servings
1½ teaspoons loose leaf Lapsang Souchong tea
1½ teaspoons loose leaf red Rooibos tea
2 cups boiling water
1 cup black lentils, rinsed
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes (preferably the fire-roasted variety)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup onion, small dice
1 large carrot, small dice
1 large celery stalk, small dice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1. Mix the loose leaf teas together in a medium bowl. Pour the boiling water over the leaves and steep, covered, for 5 minutes.
2. Place the lentils and tomatoes together in a medium saucepan. Strain the steeped tea liquid into the same saucepan. Discard the tea leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are firm, but tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, about 10 minutes.
3. While the lentils are cooking, heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Add the onion, and sauté over medium heat until the onion starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and celery, and sauté until the vegetables are firm, but tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let the mixture rest in the skillet until the lentils are ready.
4. Once the lentils have rested, stir in the sautéed vegetables, cilantro or parsley, a pinch of sea salt, and a few generous grinds of pepper, and serve.