Lentils with rutabaga and fig

1 cup lentils (green, or puy)
3 cups veg stock or water (add more if neccessary)
1 bag smoked tea
+- 2 sprigs thyme, 2 cloves garlic, 1 onion, 1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons butter

1/2 rutabaga
2 sprigs sage
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil

10 dried figs (make extra, these are great in salad served with a steak or duck)
1 cup water
1 cup sherry
1 cup sherry vinegar
2 T water
pinch of salt
Salt to taste

I know it feels like spring, but the spring vegetables are not yet here. So…

Lentils are great with meat — be it sausage or bacon. It adds a depth of flavor that take delicious lentils to another level. Here is a way to serve lentils as a main dish (perhaps over rice), or as a stew, a salad, or even on top of bruschetta…

Cook your lentils in stock. You can also create a stock as you cook, I like to throw in half an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, a bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme.  These are all very easy to pick out of your lentils at the end.  If you have cheese cloth or some butchers twine handy, you can tie your boquet up, but throwing in bulky items adds flavor and they are big enough that they won’t get lost.  (Not just becomes of laziness I like adding an entire half an onion to anything that is going to cook for longer than an hour. Typically, you can get most of the flavor out of a vegetable in an hour of cooking. And, whether cut up into big or small pieces, if you are cooking for over an hour, the impact is going to be similar.)

The key to these lentils (and to a lot of vegetarian legume cooking) is to add smoked tea. I use Lapsung or Smoked Russian Caravan. I hate these teas by themselves, but if you use them for a stock flavoring it adds smoke and depth without bacon.  Just add a bag of the smoked tea while you are cooking the lentils.  Cook the lentils, stock, tea, herbs for about an hour and a half, or until tender but not falling apart. At the end add salt and a hunk of butter (if you are serving the dish hot).

While you are cooking your lentils, poach some dried figs in 1 part water, 1 part sherry (or madeira), 1 part sherry vinegar, a pinch of salt and some honey or sugar. You want it to be more savory than sweet, so let the figs simmer for an hour or until soft. Let them cool in the liquid, then slice or quarter.  Keep the cooking liquid for pickling something else, or reduce it to make a fig/sherry gastrique.

Cut a rutabaga into large dice, saute in oil until caramelized. Add butter and sage, and cook until tender (but still maintaining shape).  Rutabaga is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. You can eat rutabaga greens. In fact, you can actually julienne rutabaga and eat it raw, but i prefer it roasted or sauteed until golden brown.

Mix the fig, rutabaga and lentils.  To serve: Add a hunk of butter, and emulsify into the liquid. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon, a dollop of craime fraiche or yoghurt and the chives that could be popping up in your garden any day now.