Comfort Food: Red Lentil Creamy Cannelloni.

by Ailbhe on October 22, 2016

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Well, the late autumn shut down has really begun this week hasn’t it? Mornings are noticeably darker, top and tail of the day the heating has been switched on for a few hours and the garden seems to be snuggling down getting ready for the slow months ahead. This year I’ve once again planted and sowed some winter veg but have also invested in a hooped-zippy-net-cloche-thingy to keep cats away from the young plants in their search for toilet facilities. I only wish I had bought it earlier in the year as I may not have lost a lot of my brassicas to white butterflies and their munchy caterpillars (grrrr). Mind you, I think the local foxes used the net cloche as a bouncy castle the first night it was out as the mature kohlrabi plants under the hooped net looked like they’d been jumped on (more grrrrr). And the *@***** squirrels are constantly looking to get in and bury/retrieve something (shakes fist).

But at least the drop in temperature means the start of the comfort food season. Hurray to that I say. We’ve had a good couple of months munching on salads and garden tomatoes and freshly picked broad and runner beans (some I’ve frozen away, squirrel-like) which I really enjoyed but, c’m-aww-on, slow cooked veg and meat, who on earth can say no to that? Not this fat bunny. Speaking of bunnies, I recently made that Sardinian Hare Stew again but used wild rabbit (yes, of course I had wild rabbit in freezer, don’t you?) and it really is a fab stew and would work well with any rabbit or hare… or maybe…  squirrel! Ooo, now there’s an idea.

However, last night I made a not-so-slow-but-not-so-quick meatless comfort dish. A gooey happy cannelloni bake. Not quite vegetarian as I had some homemade chicken stock to use up but substitute veggie stock for that and you could call it vegetarian. Either way, it was well received which is just as well as we’ve got to finish it tonight. I made it all in one go and all-in-all it took an honest 40 mins from start (walking into kitchen) to popping it into the oven and leaving kitchen (plus another 40 mins to cook) but you could actually make the first stage of the filling in advance and the assembly would be even easier as the lentil veg filling would thicken and stiffen on cooling so easier to fill the pasta tubes. I just dunked each cannelloni, using tongs, into the lentil veg filling and filled them that way, super quick and honestly, you wouldn’t know I hadn’t piped it in. It’s not that kind of dish. I served some dressed crunchy Little Gem lettuce cut into small wedges with it, nice contrast.

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Red Lentil Creamy Cannelloni

Is nowhere safe from greedy pesky squirrels?

Is nowhere safe from greedy pesky squirrels?

175-200g of red lentils
1 onion, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
approx 500ml stock/water, varies
2 tablespoons tomato paste
mild chilli flakes (optional)
mixed herbs, fresh or dried – your call! 
tin of tomatoes
olive oil
salt & pepper

12-16 cannelloni tubes

1 tablespoon flour
15g butter
dollop mustard
cheese: I used 2 triangles from a pack spreadable cheese (guilty pleasure) but you can add 3 heaped tablespoons grated cheddar
200 – 250 ml milk
salt & pepper

1 pack of fresh mozzarella (optional)
grated parmesan

method

Sauté the onion, carrots and celery in a couple of tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic, then the red lentils and then add half the stock. Bring to a simmer and keep adding water as the lentils cook so that they are barely covered but are softening and thickening. Takes about 20 mins. Add the tomato paste, herbs and chilli if using, season, cook for another 5 mins then when the lentils are just soft remove from heat.*

Preheat the oven: 180C.

You now need to fill the pasta tubes. As I said I simply dunked my cannelloni tubes into the warm lentil mix with tongs one by one, swished them back and forth to fill, then placed them in a rectangular lasagne dish. Any lentil mix left over, and there was some, I poured over the pasta tube, jiggled the dish until all settled down and went on to the next step.

Pour a tin of chopped tomatoes over the pasta (or squish whole tinned tomatoes through your clean hands Jamie-style).

Make your cheese sauce: melt the butter with the flour and a splash of the milk and as it melts stir stir stir. Keep stirring adding the milk, then the dollop of mustard, drop in whatever cheese you’re using (good way to use up any old cheese lurking in the fridge!).

Pour cheese sauce over the cannelloni, top with slices of the mozzarella and grate parmesan over it all. Sit on a baking tray (in case all bubbles over, saves on cleaning the oven) and pop into the oven for 40 mins or so.

Enjoy.

*You can store the lentils in the fridge at this stage and continue the next day by which time the lentil mix will have stiffened. Then you can easily stuff the pasta tubes with a spoon and carry on with the rest of the steps.

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