Lentejas – Spanish Lentils – is a very traditional Spanish dish, and a fiber-packed, healthy one at that! I know that we are always trying to figure out how to fit more legumes into our diet, well, this recipe is a tasty way to soak up all the nutrients that lentils have to offer. There are many different varieties of lentils ranging from green, brown, red, yellow, and even specialty types. Find out all you could ever want to know about lentils here. In this recipe, I used the Spanish pardina lentils, which are reddish-brown in color, a bit smaller in size than your average lentils, and are said to hold their shape better throughout the cooking process. Although these Spanish pardina lentils were first grown in the Pyrenees of northern Spain, I’ve heard that they’re now cultivating them in the States too, so you may be in luck!
This recipe for lentejas – Spanish lentils – will serve 5 people easily for a first course dish. Note: It is also a very filling dish, so be sure to plan a light second course.
1 1/2 cups dry Spanish pardina lentils (Note: Lentils must be soaked the night before, making a shorter process on the day of cooking) **It’s very important to clean the lentils before soaking them. Cleaning lentils? What does that entail? Well, it’s not a job I enjoy, but you must sort through all the lentils looking for little tiny stones, that are practically the same color as the lentils themselves. Careful, you don’t want one of those guys ending up in your soup!
5-6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion (finely diced)
4-5 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 leek (finely diced)
2 medium carrots (cleaned & peeled while still keeping them whole)
1 green Anaheim pepper (diced) **In Spain they are called Italian peppers but we always substituted Anaheims in the States, so whichever you use is fine!
5 – 1 inch slices of Spanish chorizo (there is a huge difference between Spanish chorizo and Mexican chorizo – take a look here!) **If you can’t find Spanish chorizo, feel free to use a cured Italian salami/sausage – spicy if they have it!
1 medium garden tomato (peeled and cut into 1 inch squares)
1 teaspoon paprika (Check out all the different kinds of paprika and where they come from.) **When making Lentejas – Spanish lentils, – most people here in Spain choose to use sweet paprika, I on the other hand, like the spicy or smoked paprika because it gives the dish a little bit of deeper flavor. It’s up to you and the flavor that you want!
1 bay leaf
guindillas (an optional side – but a must in our house!)
The night before:
First, measure out the lentils that you are going to use and dump the lentils on to a flat, large plate to inspect them. You’re looking for little tiny rocks or stones that find their way into the bag. Get your glasses, because this can be a bit tough on the eyes, but don’t worry, it’s a quick job. After that, soak the lentils overnight covering the lentils with more than enough water to soak up. The next morning they should look a little something like this…
The day of:
To begin, we’ll start with the veggies. Here’s what you’ll need…
In a large pot, combine diced onions, 2-3 cloves of minced garlic, and 3-4 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil and cook on medium heat. While this is cooking, start cleaning/peeling/cutting the rest of the vegetables one at a time and adding them to the mix. (Be sure to stir what’s in the pot every few minutes.)
After the onions and garlic, the next veggie you’ll want to add is the leek, as it takes a little extra time to cook. I’m not sure how famliar you are with cleaning and cutting leeks, I had no idea when I started this venture, so I though I’d add a picture or two of how it’s done.
Dice the remaining part of the leek more or less measuring the same size that you cut the onions and add to the pot. Then, after cutting up the green pepper, add it as well. After the carrots are peeled & cleaned, use the peeler to peel thin strips of the carrot straight into the pot. Take a look at the photo below to get a better idea of what I mean. (Be sure to stop peeling the carrot when you get to the hard part in the center and start on the second one.) Don’t forget to keep stirring the pot as you add ingredients, every couple of minutes.
Next, add the chorizo, tomato, bay leaf, a dash or two of salt to taste, and stir continuously for 1-2 minutes on medium-high heat. I use spicy chorizo, but if you’re not a big fan of picante, you can use a more mild chorizo or cured Italian salami/sausage. It all depends on your own taste and what you can find in your local market or grocer.
While that mixture is cooking all together, drain the water from the lentils and add them to the pot. Add enough water to cover at least 1/2 an inch over the top of the mixture.
Let water come to a boil on high heat and then let simmer on medium-low heat for 45 minutes or until lentils are soft.
While the lentils are simmering, in an smaller pan, warm the remaining 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with the remaining 2-3 cloves of minced garlic. After the garlic begins to slightly bubble (carful not to burn it), add 1 teaspoon of the paprika of your choice (sweet, spicy, or smoked). I use spicy or smoked, because I like the deeper flavor that it gives to the mix. Cook this on low heat for one or two minutes, stirring constantly, and add directly to the lentils 5 minutes before you think they’ll be done. This will allow all of the flavors to blend together beautifully.
Turn off the burner and let the entire mixture rest for about 5 minutes. Stir one last time, serve, and enjoy! :) This dish is designed to warm your insides. If you’ve got a cold day coming, plan ahead, and stir up a pot of these delicious Spanish lentejas! You won’t regret it!
This dish, just like my recipe for Patatas con Chorizo – Potatoes with Spanish Chorizo, – calls for an accompaniment of juicy Guindillas – a small mildly spicy pepper usually pickled in vinegar – to accent the flavor of the lentils and give them a little extra bite!
If you’re looking for more tasty ways to get your legume fix, check out my recipe for Spanish Chickpea Stew.