Every once in a while, I post a recipe on this site and for one fleeting moment I imagine I have managed to find a genuinely vegetarian recipe that Barrett and his wife can enjoy...and then come falling back to earth with the realization that somewhere in the dish there lurks a vestige of meat. Same with this one, and I'm afraid that - committed omnivore that I am - I'm convinced it's an integral part of the dish. The secret ingredient here is leftover gravy.
I think I first fell in love with Nigel Slater's recipes because of his trick for finding uses for the stuff at the back of the fridge that you saved because it seemed a waste to toss it but don't know what to do with it now. For example, gravy. This man has a hundred good ideas on how to use up old gravy and I think that's wonderful because much as I love gravy when it's freshly made I am not so fond of it reheated on leftover meat. I like my leftover meat cold with mayo or simply dipped in a bit of salt, eaten with my fingers.
So what to do with the luscious gravy that really shouldn't be thrown away? Here is one suggestion....
Lentils and Spinach with a Gravy Base
2/3 cup brown lentils (I like the nice big "blonde" ones you get here)
1/3 cup leftover gravy, preferably from a pork roast
a handful of fresh spinach
salt and pepper to taste as well as whatever herbs you may have used in the gravy
optional: a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice, a couple of juicy mushrooms
The ingredients are pure Nigel above, but I have actually merged together two recipes (lentils & spinach, lentils & mushrooms) and adapted the preparation to my own convenience. Nigel calls for cooking the lentils in plain water, heating the gravy to a bubbly point and then stirring it into the drained lentils. I prefer to minimize the number of dirty pots. My way: put the gravy in the bottom of a small saucepan and heat until it is bubbly. (This is to make sure that there are no nasty microbes left there because it was in the fridge a bit too long...) If you have an electric kettle like me, set it to boil while this is happening. Fill the pan, mostly, with boiling water (or cold if you don't have a kettle) and add the lentils. Go watch some TV or read a book for about 20-25 minutes, coming back to stir from time to time. If you are adding mushrooms, put them in after ten or fifteen minutes, chopped in bite-sized pieces. When the lentils are soft and the water has all but disappeared, taste for seasoning. Roughly chop the spinach and add it to the pot. Give it all a good stir for a moment or two and turn off the heat. Taste again and add Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice if you like. Eat immediately or save for lunch the next day.
It really is a lovely meal. The gravy adds a depth to the lentils and the spinach becomes silky. If you don't cook it too long after adding the spinach, it retains much more of its flavour and the beautiful deep green colour. It's very satisfying Healthy Comfort Food. (For those who don't mind a little meat extract sneaking into their food...)