Did you know people ate lentils as early as 13000 BC? At least that’s what archeologists say. No matter how accurate their findings are, the lentil has been part of the human diet for quite some time. And rightly so.
The lentil is low on fat and rich in protein. In fact, lentils have the second highest content of protein among legumes, following soybeans. Although it was considered the food of the poor in the past, the lentil is becoming a popular staple in many modern households.
In my country’s folklore lentils have always been associated with prosperity because of their coin-like shape. That explains why a lentil soup is often served on New Year’s Day in Slovakia.
I remember having lentils on my plate since I was aware what I was eating. Like most Slovak children these days, I was fed Šošovicový prívarok s volským okom or Lentil Stew with Fried Egg quite regularly at kindergarten.
Here is a recipe for the Slovak lentil stew, which makes a filling, nutritious dinner, and takes about an hour to prepare.
Lentil Stew with Fried Egg
- 150 g lentils
- 1 l water
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 allspice corns
- 4 medium-size potatoes
- salt, black pepper to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ l milk
- 2 heaped tablespoons fine flour
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons oil
- basil to taste
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Rinse the lentils on a sieve under running water and transfer them into a cooking pot. Add the water, the bay leaves and the allspice corns encased in a tea strainer. Bring to the boil, then adjust the heat to let the lentils simmer for about 40 minutes or until they are almost done.
- Meanwhile, peel, wash and dice the potatoes. Peel and crush the garlic. Take the milk out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature.
- Add the potatoes and the garlic to the lentils, season to taste with salt and black pepper and stir well. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and break the eggs into it. Fry them over a medium heat, either all at once or in batches (this will depend on the size of your pan) Turn off the heat, sprinkle with salt and basil and cover to keep warm until you finish the lentils.
- When the lentils and the potatoes are cooked through, remove the allspice and the bay leaves. In a hand mixer or a blender, combine the milk with the flour until smooth. Pour the milk mixture in the lentils and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Set aside and add the vinegar.
- Divide into bowls and serve with a fried egg in the middle.
A few decades ago Slovakia was not only self-sufficient in lentil produce, but with its 500 hectares of lentil fields it was also seen as a European lentil power. Unfortunately, this is no longer true, so if we want to cook our traditional lentil dishes today, we often have to resort to imported lentils.