Lentil Stew with Herby Dumplings

This is a recipe I’ve been making a variation of for years now. There’s just something about soft, spiced lentils and crisp sweet onions that sings comfort food, and when you top the whole thing off with herby dumplings you have a match made in heaven.

It’s not a particularly fast recipe, though it is still possible, with a willing sous-chef, to make on a weeknight, and it actually makes a brilliant packed lunch, too! The majority of the ingredients are very storecupboard-esque, which is great, but don’t skimp on the parsley – it pulls the whole dish up by its socks with a zesty freshness.
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Ingredients (serves 4):
For the dumplings:
– 85g salted butter, cut into small cubes
– 175g self-raising flour
– 1-2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

For the stew:
– 3 onions
– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
– 2 carrots, peeled and cut into half moons
– ½ tsp ground cinnamon
– ½ tsp grated nutmeg
– 1 tsp smoked paprika
– 300g puy lentils
– 500ml vegetable stock
– 1 tsp caster sugar
– 1-2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
– crème fraîche, to serve

1. Begin by making the dumpling mixture. Rub the butter into the flour, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir through the chopped parsley and season, then add 85ml water to bind everything together to a loose dough. Once combined, transfer to the fridge while you make the stew.

2. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pan. Finely chop one of the onions, then add to the pan. After a couple of minutes add the garlic, celery and carrots, and cook gently for about 8 minutes, until softened.

3. Stir in the spices and cook for a further minute, then add the lentils and stock along with an extra 600ml water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, chop the 2 remaining onions into large chunks. Melt a knob of butter in a small saucepan and add the onions and caster sugar. Cook slowly, stirring often, to caramelise – this will take about 25 minutes.

5. Remove the lid from the lentils and stir well; season and add half the parsley. Divide the dumpling mixture into about 12 pieces and place on top of the stew. Put the lid back on the pot and continue to cook for 15 minutes.

6. After the 15 minutes, remove the lid and check the dumplings. They should have darkened slightly, and shouldn’t feel sticky. If they’re not ready, leave the lid off and continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

7. Once the dumplings are ready you can assemble your dish: spoon the lentils and dumplings into bowls, then add a dollop of crème fraîche. Top with the caramelised onions and the remaining parsley.

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Tip: to make it gluten-free, switch out the flour in the dumplings for gluten-free self-raising flour. To make it vegan, swap the butter for soya spread and finish with dairy-free crème fraîche.

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