I had some friends round for a meal a couple of nights ago. Hes a chef so he knows his stuff so the meal had to impress but shes a new vegan. One who, in one fell swoop, knocked all sorts of foods out of her diet to claim this vegan status. While shes somewhat holier than thou shes also, contrary to what she expected, lacking energy and feeling very washed out. I always say, and maintain, you HAVE to understand what youre doing before you delete 80% of your normal foods from your diet.

I settled on this dish for two reasons. One, lentils are so versatile and so forgiving. Cook and then basically have the freedom to reheat, reshape and generally muck about with ruining the flavour and content on the dish.

Secondly, lentils have the highest level of protein by weight of any plant-based food. They also contain iron, manganese, folate, copper, B1, potassium, phosphorous, molybdenum and tryptophan. As my vegan friend seemed to be fading away I decided to use the meal as an opportunity not only to feed her up but to give her some good nutrition.

To prepare this dish I cooked my lentils in salted boiling water then put them to one side. To cook the sauce I sauted the onion and some fresh garlic in olive oil over a very gentle heat until they were completely soft. I then added the peeled, de-seeded and chopped tomatoes and two large carrots finely diced. I cooked these until the carrots were so soft they disintegrated when touched. To flavour this I added a good pinch of ground cinnamon, salt and pepper.

To cook the bringal (eggplant), parsnip and courgette I brushed them with olive oil then laid them in a blisteringly hot pan until they browned nicely then dropped the heat low and cooked a little longer until they were cooked through.

To serve I spread the hot sauce on the plate first, then added a good spoonful of lentils, then added the vegetable in layers and topped with a couple of sprigs of watercress.


500g red lentils
2 bringal or eggplant
3 courgette
2 parsnips

For the sauce
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
4 large plum tomatoes
1 large carrot
ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste