Who likes garlic? I mean, really likes garlic? I probably shouldn’t scare the garlic-shy from this recipe, because it was really tasty. And didn’t leave me with garlic breath, so it couldn’t have been that potent with 14 cloves of garlic.
Ten of those garlic cloves are roasted, so they don’t really count towards the scary garlic count. Although, I almost had second thoughts as I dumped in 4 cloves of raw garlic at the end of making this stew. I shouldn’t have doubted Anya’s genius, though.
This recipe comes from The New Spanish Table, and I had been eyeing this recipe for months (I first mentioned it on my list of things to make with butternut squash back in November and again in January!). Honestly, I waited too long. This is a lovely, hearty stew that is both savoury but still slightly sweet. Lentils fill the stew as its base, and the butternut squash and red peppers add colour and sweetness. A head of roasted garlic brings a mellow sweetness as well. The peppers are both boiled and pan-fried for a contrast in flavour and texture (but I feel like this step could be skipped if you are pressed for time). And while I stated I don’t want to muck with Anya’s genius, I made a slight modification to her recipe, that I think lent to its prowess. Instead of adding in two fresh tomatoes (nothing with a fresh taste is around during the winter!), I added 1 cup of passata (strained tomatoes) at the end. This is where you get a silky tomato base for the stew that complements the squash, bell pepper and lentils so well.
I love it when I am surprised by a dish; but I shouldn’t have been.
Spanish Lentil and Squash Stew with Roasted Garlic (Potaje De Lentejas y Calabaza)
14 cloves garlic, divided (or 1 head of garlic, plus 4 minced garlic cloves)
8 cups water (or vegetable broth)
2 onions; 1 cut in half; the other minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 cups green lentils, rinsed
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 pound butternut squash, cut into 3/4-inch dice (2 cups)
1 cup passata (aka strained tomatoes; or crushed tomatoes with some tomato paste)
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp minced cilantro or parsley
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 tsp salt (I also added a touch of smoked salt)
1. Preheat the oven to 400F (the toaster oven would be best!)
2. Cut the top off the head of garlic and discard. Brush the cut edge of the garlic with olive oil, place it in a small baking dish, and bake until soft, 25-30 minutes. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, place it in a double layer of cheesecloth along with the onion halves and bay leaf and tie the cheesecloth shut.
3. Place the lentils in a 4-quart pot, add 8 cups water and thyme, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim any foam off the surface, then add the cheesecloth bag, and half of the bell peppers. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the squash and cook until it is almost tender, 20 minutes.
4. While the lentils are cooking, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and remaining bell pepper and cook, stirring, until soft but not browned, 5-7 minutes. Add the paprika and cook until onions are soft, 1-2 minutes. Add the onion mixture to the lentils. Add the passata and mix well. If the lentils seem too thick, add some or all of the remaining water (or broth). Season the lentils with salt and black pepper to taste and simmer until the lentils and pumpkin are very soft, about 10 minutes longer (it’s all right if the squash begins to disintegrate a bit).
5. Remove the cheesecloth bag from the lentils and discard all but the garlic head. Squeeze the flesh from the roasted garlic and chop it finely or coarsely mash with a fork. Place the raw minced garlic, the cilantro/parsley, saffron, and a small pinch of salt in a mortar and, using a pestle, mash them into a paste. Add the roasted garlic and mash until combined. Add 2 tablespoons very hot water to the mortar and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Stir the garlic mixture into the lentils. Add the vinegar. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt, pepper and/or vinegar as necessary. Let the lentils cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve.