The last couple of months have been frugal for the pair of us. Since excitedly sitting down to write and shoot our book, as well as plan madcap adventures for the latter stages of the year, our money matters have been sorely neglected. Eking out meals from leftovers and packets of dried pasta has become a reliable and money-saving technique but one which, when faced with an empty fridge, has left us culinarily and imaginatively undernourished. The need to create tasty and filling food on a busy work schedule has been met by using reliable cupboard staples: pulses that can be cooked quickly and combined with spices, shredded vegetables and roughly chopped herbs. January and February’s meals have been characterised – and fuelled – by lentil stews, barley salads and rice pilafs, and all of them have been ultra cheap and delicious.
Last night I opened the fridge to a tub of lebneh and wanted to think around it as just a condiment. I decide on a Syrian fuul – a tomato-y lentil stew with mashed fava beans, aubergine, cumin, lemon juice and parsley, crowned with a thick dollop of yogurty lebneh and scooped up with olive oil and pitta breads. It’s elusively unlike the memorable fuul I ate out there last year and yet it doesn’t disappoint with its hot and tangy flavours.
Serves 4 as a March supper with pitta breads
1 small aubergine, diced
2 handfuls red lentils
Olive oil, for softening and drizzling
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium white onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 tin fava or butter beans, drained (tinned chick peas as well, or instead of, will also do nicely)
1 tin plum tomatoes
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
3 dried whole chillies
1 heaped tsp cumin powder
1 cinnamon stick
4 tbsp lebneh or thick Greek yogurt
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Place the aubergine in a colander, salt well and allow to drain over a sink. Turn occasionally. Add the lentils to a saucepan of boiling water and cook until tender. Drain and reserve. Heat a little olive oil in a casserole pan and soften 2 cloves of the garlic along with the onion. Stir until just pale gold, then add the beans and tinned tomatoes, crushing most of them under a fork. Stir to combine and add the lentils along with the juice of half of the lemon. Rinse and wring the aubergine and add to the pot as well. Add both types of chilli and the cumin and cinnamon, bring to the boil and then return the pot to a simmer with a lid on, until thickened, for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and season if necessary. To serve, ladle into shallow bowls and top with yogurt. Finish with a little lemon zest, the remaining crushed garlic and lemon juice, parsley and your best olive oil. Stir everything together with toasted pitta breads.
Having said all this, I’m hoping this will be our last post on pot-cooked foods for a while as I know we’re ready to close the cupboard on winter and buy up spring’s greens and shoots for an altogether lighter, brighter kind of kitchen. Until then,