Rosemary Red Lentils

When visiting my mum recently I was happily making tea* for the seven of us (my brother and his wife were coming over with some of their kids). I’d prepared the rice and vegetables, but forgotten to buy tofu. Whoops! I needed a quick fix, and fast. Scanning the cupboards revealed a bag of red lentils. Hmm. Red lentils can cook in under twenty minutes, so how about making them with just herbs and garlic? Wow. The flavour was fabulously addictive.

Later, back at the Zen River kitchen we gave it a whirl for sesshin and this time with a few veggies. It worked. Everything was eaten up. Definitely a keeper. So here is a rendition of the recipe. Make it with or without veggies, both ways work. Just don’t skip on the garlic and herbs.

Goes great with baked sweet potatoes. After cleaning them, cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise into wedges, toss in olive oil, place on an oiled baking sheet and bake in a hot oven 200 °C/400 °F for about 35-40 minutes, or until a knife slides easily through the centre. Will post the recipe for that one soon.


1 medium onion
2-3 medium carrots
2-3 cloves garlic
300 g (1½ cups) red lentils
825 ml (3½ cups) water
3 bay leaves

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1¼ teaspoons dried rosemary
1¼ teaspoons dried thyme
Salt to taste
75 g (2½ ounces) baby leaf spinach


  • Peel and medium-dice the onion.
  • Peel and medium-dice the carrots.
  • Peel and mince, or press the garlic.

  • Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium flame. Add the onions and carrots, and fry until the onions are caramelised, about eight minutes. Put into a soup pot with the water and bay leaves, and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Set over a medium-high flame and bring to boil.
  • Stir in the red lentils, return to a boil, then turn the flame low and cover with a lid. Simmer for about twenty minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Stir the bottom now and then to prevent sticking.
  • In the same frying pan over a medium flame, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the garlic. When the garlic turns golden, put in the rosemary and thyme and fry for thirty-forty seconds. Remove from the heat.
  • When the lentil are tender, remove from the flame.
  • Add the fried garlic, rosemary and thyme.
  • Season to taste with salt.
  • Just before serving stir in the baby leaf spinach.
  • Serve with Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

*Tea (in reference to food, rather than the drink) has long been used as an umbrella term for several different meals. Isabella Beeton, whose books on Home economics were widely read in the 19th century, describes afternoon teas of various kinds, and provides menus for the old-fashioned tea, the at-home tea, the family tea and the high tea.[1] Teatime is the time at which the tea meal is usually eaten, which is late afternoon to early evening; being the equivalent of merienda.[2] Tea as a meal is associated with Britain, Ireland, and some Commonwealth countries. (Taken from Wikipedia.)

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