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WanderSups: Think you don't like lentils? Eat this

“In my humble opinion, anyone who declares love of a lentil is not to be trusted. However, I solemnly swear this will convert everyone into a lentil lover. . .” Hannah Gregory shares her recipe for herb-crusted fish with pancetta lentils

Hannah Gregory pledges to convert everyone into lentil lovers with her September 2021 Velvet recipe (49838451)
Hannah Gregory pledges to convert everyone into lentil lovers with her September 2021 Velvet recipe (49838451)

Lentils - in my circle of trust they don’t have the best rep. I am yet to find someone that squeals with delight “Oh my goodness I LOVE lentils”. We’re not talking Dishoom dhal here - they have a certain place in heaven - but run of the mill lentils, back-of-the-cupboard jobs that you bought once upon a time in a bid to be healthy and make better food choices.

I tend to surround myself with people who lose their mind over a hunk of red meat or whimper in joy at the click of the deep fat fryer turning on - don’t get me wrong, I love a vegetable and the odd pulse but in my humble opinion, anyone who declares love of a lentil is not to be trusted. However, I solemnly swear this will convert everyone into a lentil lover - myself included.

The trick: tossing those puppies in the rendered fat from the pancetta. All makes sense now right? Find a healthy, slightly muddy tasting ingredient, toss in bacon fat, suddenly delicious. I’ve done something similar with cabbage before. Same principle, wonderful results.

This is one of those great interseasonal meals - the fish keeps things light but the hearty lentils give just the right amount of clout to make it a substantial meal and gives a nod to cooler times ahead.

Simple enough to whip up for a weekday sups, delicious enough to serve at a dinner party. Glorious served with vats of red wine to compliment the meatiness of the fish and balance out those healthy lentils.

Roast Herby White Fish with Crispy Lentils and Pancetta

Hannah Gregory's herb-crusted fish with pancetta lentils (49838453)
Hannah Gregory's herb-crusted fish with pancetta lentils (49838453)

Serves 2

Spotify Playlist - Sups

Tipple of choice - Pinot Noir works wonderfully here.

What you need:

● 2 fillets (approx 150g each) white fish (fresh or frozen and defrosted. I used cod but you could use haddock, pollock or any other meaty white fish - and hold onto your hats, if you can’t find fish, this recipe works perfectly with chicken)

● 1 lemon

● Large sprig rosemary

● Black pepper

● 200g green or puy lentils

● 100g lardons

● 1 stick celery

● 1 carrot

● 1 shallot

● 1 sprig thyme

● 1 bay leaf (dried is fine)

● 50g butter

● 500ml chicken stock

● 8 rashers pancetta or streaky bacon

How you do it:

1. Preheat oven to 180.

2. Rinse your lentils thoroughly.

3. Peel your carrot and shallot.

4. Finely dice your carrot, shallot and celery as small as possible. We’re talking Polly Pocket size here - the idea is to get them as close to the size of your lentils as possible to make for a pleasing mouth experience - this is an actual term, I haven’t just made it up.

5. Melt your butter in a frying pan (ideally oven-proof but if you don’t have one, no drama, you just need to transfer your goods to an ovenproof dish post frying).

6. Throw in your teeny tiny diced veg, thyme and bay and sweat (the veg, not you). You need to get these puppies softened and smelling glorious but no colour on them.

7. Stir in your lentils, then pour in your chicken stock and bring to the boil. Make a cartouche out of greaseproof paper (this is a circle of paper that sits on top of the lentils to prevent evaporation - top tip, scrunch the greaseproof into a ball first and it will become super malleable and a lot easier to fit the pan snugly) and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

8. After the time is up, pop your lentils in the oven for 30 minutes. Keep checking and stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. You want them to have a crunch and texture to them so keep tasting and trying as you go here.

9. Fish time. Chop your rosemary super fine - the aim of the game here is to make almost a rosemary crumb to coat your fish with. Once you have your fine herbs, transfer to a plate along with the zest of a lemon and a really good grinding of black pepper. Place your fish on the layer of delicious dust, turn over and repeat on the other side so your lovely fillets are completely coated in the crumb.

10. On a board lay out your rashers of pancetta - you need to overlap each piece so you have a complete sheet ready to wrap your fish. Place the fish on the pancetta and carefully wrap your fillets up so they are all tidy and beautifully packaged.

11. Heat a frying pan with a splash of oil and sit the fish parcel (ugly side down) for a couple of minutes. Then transfer to the oven for 10 minutes.

12. Next up - fry your lardons until golden brown. Get your lentils out of the oven and transfer into the lardon pan and stir well - you want to get everything coated in the glorious lardon fat that will have rendered out during cooking.

13. Spoon your lentils onto the plate and sit your fish on top. DELICIOUS.

Hannah reached the quarter finals of BBC MasterChef last year. She hosts WanderSups supper clubs serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf. Her ethos is simple - have fun, enjoy it, make it an occasion. To find out more follow @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com

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