The United Kingdom has a diverse culinary landscape. Case in point: the curried lentil stew at the British-inspired gastropub Againn, which alludes to curry and vegetarian dishes that Indian and Pakistani immigrants brought to the English isles. One Washingtonian reader, a vegetarian for more than 17 years, asked us for the recipe: “The lentils themselves were cooked just perfectly—not mushy at all, slightly hard. Try as I might, I can never get my lentils to taste this amazing.” Hopefully, this recipe will change that.
Againn’s Curried Lentil Stew With Eggs and Spinach
1 cup French green lentils
3 bay leaves
5 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon very small diced carrot
1 tablespoon very small diced leek, plus 2 of the outer leek leaves, green part only
1 teaspoon grated garlic
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 ounce butter
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped chives, for garnish
Prepare the lentils:
Place the lentils in a pot large enough for them to expand five times over. Add enough water until it reaches 1½ inches above the lentils. Place over high heat until they begin to simmer. Skim the bubbles from the top and turn the heat down to medium-low.
Fill the leek leaves with the thyme and bay leaves, and tie with string to make a small package. Place it into the pot of lentils, and let cook until the lentils are slightly al dente, about 1 to 1½ hours. Drain the excess liquid, remove the herbs, and cool the lentils in the refrigerator.
Place the carrots, diced leeks, and garlic in a small sauce pot with enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, and sweat over medium-low heat until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add to the pot 1 cup of the cooked lentils, enough water to cover them, the curry powder, cider vinegar, and butter. Continue to cook the mixture until the liquid is reduced by 2⁄3. Add the yogurt and remaining lentils and season to taste with salt and pepper. Taste and add more vinegar if needed. Finish with parsley and chives.
Make the soft eggs:
Set up a large bowl of ice water and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a hard boil. Make sure the pot is large enough that it doesn’t stop boiling when the eggs are dropped in. Place the whole, unbroken eggs into the pot of water and cook for 5 minutes and 45 seconds. The second the eggs are done, place them into an ice-water bath and leave to cool for at least 10 minutes. Once cooled, very carefully peel the eggs and let sit in a warm water bath until ready to use.
Prepare the spinach:
1 cup spinach
Olive oil, as needed
Salt to taste
Bring a sauté pan to a light smoke over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, add the spinach and immediately begin to toss. Add salt to taste, one pinch at a time. Continue cooking and tossing until the leaves release their water and it reduces until dry. Remove the spinach from the pan and pat dry with paper towels.
Assemble the dish:
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
Chopped chives, for garnish
Spoon about 4 ounces—or a ¼-inch-high pile—of lentils into two bowls. Place half the spinach on top, then an egg. Drizzle each bowl with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Top off with chopped chives. The restaurant serves the dish with flatbread.
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