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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Red lentil ragu with basil and ajvar

When I'm in the mood for a saucy and simple main, the easiest choice is to go for a ragu. Originally intended to be served over Italian pasta (the famous bolognese sauce is a typical ragu example), it can also be accompanied by anything else carbs-based - from baked potatoes to cous-cous or rice. Here, we chose to have with fresh, warm, crusty Irish soda bread with seeds :D. 
The other detail I wanted to tell you about before finally moving on to the recipe is the delicious Ajvar. I'm addicted to this Serbian goodie ever since I discovered a little East-European supermarket where I can find stuff to bring us closer to home in a spoonful. It's the closest we could find to our lovely Romanian zacusca which we took for granted so often back home :). Anyway - if you have a chance to try either Ajvar or zacusca (though we would naturally recommend the latter), do not hesitate. Just spread it over fresh bread and don't be surprised if you finish two jarfuls in one meal.
Returning to this ragu with red lentils, it's ready in about one hour, but without too much fuss - it's mainly because red lentils have a long boiling time. And the special Ajvar can be replaced with red pesto for its flavoring purposes, so don't walk away from the recipe if you can't get any. Enjoy. 

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 and a half medium carrots
  • 1 parsley root
  • 2 teaspoons Ajvar (or red pesto if you can't find any)
  • 250 g red lentils
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 400 g chopped tomatoes from the can
  • a handful of fresh basil
  • 500 ml vegetable soup
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • other dried herbs to taste
  • some dried Parmesan for serving (optional)
  • pasta or rice to serve it on (optional; we served ours with warm pieces of Irish soda bread)

First, gather the fresh veggies and start cleaning and chopping them. Put a small-medium pot over heat and pour the olive oil in it. 

As you chop them, toss them in the pot:

After you fry them slowly (on low heat) for 15 minutes until there're softened, add the garlic, chopped tomatoes and the soup. Stir and add the red lentils:

Mix and let the lentils boil for as long as needed (about 40 minutes, but you can taste to tell when they're done). You can add a bit more water if the whole thing gets too dry. Next, season with salt, pepper, herbs and ajvar :D

Mix well, remove from heat and stir in the fresh basil. Reserve a bit for decorating. Sprinkle the individual portions with grated Parmesan if you'd like. It's ready, dig in! :)


  1. looks great, I love making lentils. Have I told you I went to Romania back in 2006? What part are you from?

  2. I didn't know you visited :)

    We're originally from the historical region of Moldova, but moved to the capital city, Bucharest right after high-school to do our studies. And now to Germany since starting the Phd's.

    What part did you visit?


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