This recipe is delicious on a cold autumn night. Lentils are hearty and satisfying, and the addition of the turnips and sweet potatoes round out the flavors, textures, and nutrition in this dish. You can serve it straight up, or dress it up for company with a piece of fish or tofu.
The base of it all
The lentils are the star of this dish. French lentils, especially “Puy,” are greenish brown in color, have a lovely nutty flavor, and keep their shape in cooking. Don’t substitute other lentils or they may turn to mush!
I used Hakurei turnips, the sweet little white roots with tender leaves, but you can substitute any favorite turnip or rutabaga. If they come without their greens, toss in some spinach or other favorite green at the end.
A hundred years ago, I was talking about this
The sweet potatoes were deliberately used, and actually got me thinking about this dish. I was chatting with Sheryl at A Hundred Years Ago about a really sweet, sweet-potato recipe, and we noted how strange that we almost always see a sweet or sugary addition to an already sweet vegetable! It stuck in my mind, and when I decided to make lentils this week, I thought I would give it a try. Well, there’s no sugar of any sort added to this recipe, and I included some heat as well as vinegar at the end to cut some of the sweet in those potatoes!
This makes 10 cups, and freezes well. You can also halve the recipe if you like, but making a big batch means meals in weeks to come! As someone who doesn’t really care for the sweetness of sweet potatoes, I think this was quite successful, and I’ll certainly make it again.
French Lentils with Hakurei Turnips and Sweet Potatoes
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- ¼ tsp. cayenne
- ½ tsp. hot paprika
- ½ tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
- 4 or 5 sage leaves, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lb. Hakurei turnips, diced
- ¾ lb. sweet potatoes, diced
- 2 cups French Puy lentils
- 2 quarts water
- The greens from the turnips
- ½ cup diced fresh flat-leafed parsley
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Prep vegetables and reserve the turnip greens for the end of the recipe. Cut the onion, turnips, and sweet potatoes roughly the same size, recognizing you’ll have some smaller pieces on the edges of these round vegetables.
Heat a stock pot over medium high and add the olive oil and onions. Sauté for a few minutes, until the onions have softened but not browned. Add the garlic and tomato paste and continue cooking for another minute, until you smell the garlic and paste has darkened. Stir in the spices, mix it all up for a few seconds to let the flavors bloom, then toss in the turnips, potatoes, lentils, and water, scraping any glaze from the bottom of the pan.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about a half hour. Check the lentils at 20 minutes to see how they are doing.
Once everything is tender, taste for seasoning. Toss in the turnip greens and parsley.
Cook just until the greens are wilted, turned a bright green, and remove from heat. Drizzle with the vinegar, and serve. If you like, add a bit of butter or vegan butter, and a sprinkle more salt.
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