This eclectic mix of street foods can’t be pinned down to one country really, but it is full of the flavours and colours of the Middle East, with influences from Lebanon to Turkey and Iran. It’s a little bit unusual but very tasty, and came about as I stumbled on photographs of Beirut which reminded me of the lentil dish that is served up and down the peninsula whilst absent-mindedly stared into the middle distance where it just so happened a home-grown squash was sitting.
MIDDLE EASTERN LENTILS
– Lentils (well washed!)
– Olive oil
– Rocket / peashoots
The wonderful thing about this dish is that you can come and go from it, so it’s not very labour intensive and means that drifting between kitchen and elsewhere is not only allowed, it’s encouraged! First things first, get the lentils mostly softened in boiling water and then spread out on kitchen roll or teatowels to dry out. Now you have a little time, a couple of hours perhaps, to take yourself off and find something else to do. If you like, now is the perfect time to peel and dice the squash but no hurry, it can wait ’til later… we’re doing things Middle-Eastern-esque now, long chai breaks and taking things easy all the way from pot to plate!
When you do eventually find yourself back in the kitchen, toss the diced squash in olive oil and baharat and leave them to absorb all those beautiful tastes for about ten minutes. Then pop them in the oven. No guesses needed about what to do now; about another half an hour whilst they mostly roast before you’re required back in the kitchen.
Now it’s time to embrace your inner streetfood hawker. So, out comes the saucepan, the olive oil, and lots of exuberant gestures, the ultimate aim of which is to shallow fry the lentils until they’re nicely popped, starting to darken, and crunchy if you test one out. This usually takes about twenty minutes or so. If you feel like the lentils are starting to go but aren’t quite there, add some more oil and leave it a little longer. It’s worth the wait for the crunch at the end! Add in the paprika, salt, and cumin when you’re almost ready to go and toss it all through so it’s well seasoned.
Once your squash is roasted, your lentils are sufficiently popped, and tummys are gurgling, throw everything together along with a handful of greens of your choice (we used peashoots here, but rocket is also great!), a pinch of salt, and a sprinkle of seeds, and dish up!