Thursday, January 15, 2009

Potaje de Lentejas de Mi Tata(My Grandmother's Lentil Stew)

I have a couple Lentil Stew recipes in my blog but I hadn't put my grandmother's recipe for lentil stew. My grandmother's Cuban bean based stews are usually very easy straight forward and typical flavors she almost ALWAYS adds orange fleshed winter squash and potatoes and sometimes cabbage (depends what type of legumes she is preparing)

Cuban lentil stews seem to vary a lot among Cubans when it comes to preparation but the common theme I've seen is that there is always garlic, bell pepper, and onions and type of meat the rest varies.

My grandmother's (whom I call "Tata") version of the Lentil stew is either pork or beef stew meat cooked with lentils with a Cuban "sofrito" (garlic, onion, bell pepper) and seasoned with cumin and salt and a couple bay leaves with potatoes and calabaza (orange winter squash in Cuban cooking "Carribean/ Jamaican Squash" is used but if you can't find it you can use Banana Squash or Kabucha or Butternut Squash, you need a meaty starchy squash.

Usually heavy Cuban bean based stews are served as a 1 pot meal with rice and if one wishes a salad on the side or some vegetable side (fried plantains or boiled cassava root with garlic lime sauce, etc. though it is very heavy to serve with boiled cassava root aka Yuca, I did though)

Not before I write the recipe down, this makes a really large pot so maybe you want to cut it in half, in my house we can eat this stuff for like 2-3 days happily or even more the more it sits the stronger the taste and the more we love it. Of course we don't like it spoiled shouldn't last more than 1 week in the fridge.

-1 1/2 lbs. beef or pork stew meat cut into small 1 inch cubes and cleaned (I mean small, you'll regret it if you don't when ur lentils are cooked through and your meat is still tough so please cut it small)

-2 cups uncooked Lentils
-water (enough to cover lentils 2 inches in water)
-1/4- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1 onion finely minced
-1 green bell pepper finely minced
-6 cloves of garlic finely minced preferably mashed to a paste or through a garlic press
-1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce (for color, I forgot to add it but you should)
-salt to taste
-1 tsp. ground cumin
-2 regular sized bay leaves or 4 small ones
-3 small potatoes peeled and cut into 1 -2 inch chunks
-1/2 a calabaza cut into 1-2 inch chunks (banana squash, kabucha/ Japanese, butternut, or Jamaican/ Carribean squash)

(1) Throw lentils in a pot, rinse them and drain, now add water and put it on the stove on high heat covered until it comes to a boil.

(2)While you are waiting for the water and lentils to boil cut meat, clean it and throw it in the pot with the lentils.

(3) While still waiting for the stuff to boil prepare the onion, garlic, bell peppers, and tomato sauce. Heat a pan with olive oil then sautee onions and bell pepper until translucent about 5-7 minutes, add garlic sautee 2 minutes, add tomato sauce stir 1 minute, then throw into the pot of meat and lentils. Season with cumin, and salt add a couple bay leaves and when it is boiling cover and simmer on medium low for about 40-45 minutes.
(4)Meanwhile peel potatoes and cut them into medium pieces and do the same to the squash, set them aside in a bowl with water (so the potatoes don't brown) when 30 minutes have passed uncover lentils stir and add potatoes and squash stir well, taste for salt if it needs more, and then bring back to a boil on high and simmer for another 15 minutes until potatoes and squash are ready.

(5)Serve over rice or in a bowl and eat with bread, if you wish a nice salad on the side. If eating with rice you can wash and clean your rice and put it in the rice cooker while the sofrito is frying so when the lentils are done so is your rice, and you can make the salad or whatever while the lentils cook so you'll be out of the kitchen in 1 hour if you rush and have a complete meal. That's how my grandma taught me :)




bren said...

almost the way we make ours too! i looooooove lentejas!!

Nathan said...

I loooooove anything with legumes or beans in it to. Maybe you can share yours sometime :)

Karen Brown Letarte said...

I made this last night for dinner, and it was very tasty. I love lentils! The pork I used didn't bring a lot to the party, unfortunately, I think it was too lean. What cut of pork do you use for stew meat?

For beef stewmeat, I usually use boneless short ribs (for soups).

Nathan said...

Karen Brown Letarte,
The pork I use for the stew is usually "pork butt" like the leg of pork or rump? I usually buy de-boned leg of pork, it's well marbled.

You can always add a couple pork bones or if making with beef you can always throw in beef bones for an extra oomph.

Depending on what stew sometimes you can also add pork neck bones.

Karen Brown Letarte said...

Thanks for clarifying, Nathan! I wish it was easier to get boneless pork leg, there are lots of things I could use it for! I did see a Boston Butt (really it's pork shoulder) and I'll use that next time. Meat is one of the things I will only buy at Whole Foods. I try to avoid all the hormones, pesticides and antibiotics regular meat is processed with. (I'm deathly allergic to penicillin.)

For the pork bones, what do you usually use?

Nathan said...

Karen Brown Letarte,
I have a busy Chinese store nearby so they have all sorts of good cuts of pork. (Yeah I'm aware of the benefits of eating good meat, especially grass-fed and humanily raised but my budget does not allow, when it will I would gladly purchase)

Anyways for pork bones the best in my opinion is "Pork Neck Bones" in spanish it's "Espinazo de Puerco" cut into chunks. It's my favorite.

If you ever see pork butt and stuff like that on special buy it even if you have to buy a large amount, you can divide it up into 1 1/2 pound portions or whatever and freeze it, so you can use it for many things. ANd if it has bones just save them, if your lucky to have a good butcher tell him to cut the pork but into rounds that way when your cutting the rest at home the bones arent so large.

As far as beef I forgot to mention "beef shank" it's really good for many stews also in Spanish we call it "Chamorro de Res" (I don't know the english names I always have to google them) in the Hispanic stores they usually give away the beef bones.