Vegetable, two bean & lentil hotpot. Served with watercress & green onion champ and homegrown broccoli
Vegetable, two bean & lentil hotpot. Served with watercress & green onion champ and homegrown broccoli
 
 
 
From the tunnel the Hotpot uses broad beans and celery from the freezer which were grown in the tunnel earlier this year, and stored onions that also grew earlier in the tunnel.  It also uses carrots and parsnips started off in the tunnel in early spring. It's accompanied by champ made my way with watercress and scallions both growing in the tunnel now, potatoes from the garden and another of my stored onions.
It really is one of the most delicious recipes you will ever taste - and I promise you that no meat eater will turn their nose up at it!  If they are absolutely desperate for some meat - you can cook some really meaty good quality sausages until they're nicely browned and throw those into it - then you can call it 'cassoulet' and they won't know the difference! Nicely browned meaty sausages, with all that lovely sticky Marmitey 'Umami' on the outside, add delicious extra flavour. I have to credit my son for coming up with this idea! You could also add some streaky bacon, crisply grilled first for extra flavour - some traditional French cassoulets contain both sausages and bacon.
It's quite possibly almost the easiest recipe you will ever make!
Although lots of the ingredients are seasonal at the moment - they're also available everywhere for most of the year - both organic and non-organic - and you can vary some of them depending on what you have to hand - so it's a useful frugal recipe to have in your repertoire all year round.
It's a very filling, hearty stew or soup and quite cheap to make without sausages, as it doesn't contain expensive meat - but you wouldn't know that from the great flavour!
It's suitable suitable for vegetarians (unless you add meat obviously!).
It's very versatile - you can use it as a stew, a hearty soup, or a vegetarian cottage pie filling or even a pasty filling if you make it a bit thicker. You can also vary it by adding different ingredients such as tinned sweet corn or butter beans, or even frozen green beans or peas.
 
It's a very healthy recipe! The ingredients all pack a real punch nutritionally speaking. The pulses (beans and lentils) and the other vegetables provide plenty of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, together with a lot of fibre that's vital for gut health, as it encourages and feeds the good gut bacteria which are your immune system. If you include the grains in the recipe it provides a completely balanced meal protein-wise - but if you don't eat grains you could leave them out and just add a different protein source such as tofu or grated cheese to make a nutritionally balanced vegetarian or vegan meal. 
 
The carbs in the hotpot recipe are high quality carbohydrates from whole grains and vegetables which have a low GI - or glycemic index. These won't raise your blood sugar very quickly after the meal - unlike highly refined carbs. (Contrary to what some of the latest fashionable fads may say - archaeological evidence shows that humans have been eating cooked wholegrains like bulghur wheat for at least 8,000 years and our gut is quite used to them - so unless you're actually coeliac, or allergic to wheat or barley - they won't upset your digestive system).
The fats used - olive oil and coconut oil are both very healthy fats which are essential to help the body to absorb many of the other nutrients in the recipe - such as lycopene in the tomatoes. I really love coconut oil - it gives things a deliciously sweet flavour.
This freezes incredibly well. It's perfect for dividing up into single portions if you're just cooking for one. I tend to make it in huge batches as it's so useful to have in the freezer as a standby. It tastes even better heated up the next day or after freezing!
If you're serving the champ with this - mashed potato does have quite a high GI* and is not something we should be be eating every day of the week. You're not eating them on their own however, but in the context of the whole meal which also contains a variety of pulses (beans & lentils), vegetables and whole grains as well. These take your body longer to digest so are more slowly converted to glucose in the gut. It's the balance of the whole meal that counts - not just one single ingredient. Plenty of onions, scallions/spring onions and watercress in the champ again boost the nutrition in the dish. The hotpot is still just as nice though served with a green vegetable like broccoli instead, if you want to avoid potatoes altogether.
 
*GI is a measurement of how fast a food raises your blood sugar after a meal. Eating a lot of refined carbs and sugar all the time keeps your blood sugar continually high and can eventually cause problems. It's a bit like running your car with the choke out all the time - eventually the engine gets damaged - and that's what happens to your body! Eating organic wholefoods is much better for health and I personally think wholefoods have far more flavour. They're also far more filling, so tend to make you satisfied with a smaller quantity of food. As long as you don't have a blood sugar problem or are diabetic, then I take the pragmatic view that a small portion of potatoes occasionally is not going to do any major harm as long as the rest of your diet is good. So enjoy!
 
 
 
Equipment:
 
You'll need a large, heavy based saucepan or stockpot to cook it in - and good a sharp knife to chop all the veg. That's it!
 
Ingredients 
Makes about 6-8 portions depending on how greedy you are!
 
250g/8oz dried green lentils, rinsed.
1lt / 1&3/4 pints of water or vegetable stock (If I don't have homemade stock I use Kallo or Marigold organic stock cubes or powder)
1 large onion, diced/chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
2 large carrots diced, or sliced into rounds
1 very large or 2 medium parsnips diced, or sliced into rounds (There's no need to sweat about the size of the veg. With veg I always tend to err on the side of the 'more veg is always good' principle! Unlike baking where weights need to be absolutely precise or it doesn't work - exact measurements in stews really don't matter)
2 large sticks of celery, chopped or diced
2 x 400g / 14 oz cans of crushed or chopped plum tomatoes
1 x 400g pack / 14oz tin of black beans (give best flavour I think - almost 'meaty'), cannellini or butter beans
A large hand full of broad beans from freezer if you have them - otherwise you can substitute butter or cannellini beans (If you don't like broad bean skins, blanch for 1 minute, refresh under cold running water to cool and then pop them out of their skins one by one. Fiddly so I don't bother - the extra fibre is good for you!)
150ml / 1/4 pint of good extra virgin olive oil (organic definitely best here as some recent research showed that a lot of non organic olive oil is being adulterated with cheaper oils, some not very nice! - and passed off as more expensive E.V. by adding colour & flavour!)
 
1 rounded tablespoon of coconut oil. (widely available everywhere now & very healthy) You can leave this out but I love the sweet flavour it gives.
1 heaped tablespoon of dried oregano.
1 tablespoon of pearl barley and/or 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of bulghur wheat if using (you can increase these if you want it a bit thicker but careful of burning)
Freshly ground black pepper to season. (You probably won't need salt if using stock cubers rather than home made stock as these can be a little salty)
 
Freshly chopped parsley to garnish - flat leaf is nice if you have it - which I think has a far superior flavour.
 
(If you want to add sausages to turn it into a sort of 'cassoulet' - use really good quality meaty ones, 2 per person, and cook them through first, browning the outside nicely for extra flavour, then throw them into the pot about ten minutes before the end.(Our lovely organic sausages come from Eddie at Coolaknowle Organic Farm, www.organicmeat.ie in Co.Carlow, who sell on-line and at various farmer's markets. Gerry Kelly thought these were delicious and asked where to buy them!).
(I always use organic ingredients but it's up to you. Organic ingredients are proven to be far more nutritious and of course contain fewer chemicals. In addition organic herbs and black pepper actually have a far stronger flavour, as they have higher levels of the active phytochemicals which give them their distinctive aroma and scent)
For the watercress & green onion champ you will need some creamy mashed potatoes, a large onion, scallion/spring onion tops and watercress 
(pics & brief method below hotpot pics - I won't insult your intelligence by telling you how to cook mashed potato!) Mashed potato or the champ is very handy to have frozen in individual portions. It looks a bit watery when thawed but when heated up and beaten well with a spatula, it then recombines so don't worry. I now have to admit to a guilty pleasure sometimes when the family aren't here! Mash or champ is utterly delicious heated up and with a couple of fried eggs on top is my kind of 'fast food' and total 'food slut' heaven! I am one of those!!
 
Method:
 
Couldn't be easier - just what you want when you're busy in the run up to Christmas!
After preparing all the veg - just throw everything into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking or burning at the bottom, until it's cooked - about 1 hour. If you want a soup - then dice the veg quite small - if you want the stew/hotpot as a main dish then chop or slice them larger.
If you're using pearl barley - add it at the very beginning. If using bulghur as well/or instead of then add it about half-way through the cooking time.
 
When it's almost cooked you can use a potato masher to gently 'mush up' (technical term) some of the parsnips and carrots if you like - this thickens it a little more.
If you prefer it slightly thinner to eat as a soup, just you could add a little more stock at the end if you like, then taste and season with a little more salt or pepper if necessary.
Serve in bowls or on plates and garnish with a flourish of freshly chopped parsley - which looks fresh and colourful, and adds even more healthy nutrients! 
 
As a soup, it's delicious served with any warm crusty bread & butter.
 
As a main meal hotpot it's really delicious served with some creamy mashed potatoes, or champ (mashed potatoes with leeks & onion) or alternatively colcannon (with chopped kale & onion). 
 
If you make the recipe once as it's written you'll get a 'feel' for it and you can then vary it to make it thinner or thicker, depending what you like. If I have some spare leftovers of my Totally Terrific Tomato sauce I often add that too - and that makes it even more tasty!
 
1. Ingredients prepared & assembled for hotpot 2. Ingredients all in saucepan and ready to go except bulghur wheat to be added later
1. Ingredients prepared & assembled for hotpot 2. Ingredients all in saucepan and ready to go except bulghur wheat to be added later
3. Stock added to ingredients and put on to simmer 4. Vegetable, two bean & lentil hotpot after one hour gently simmering. Ready to serve
3. Stock added to ingredients and put on to simmer 4. Vegetable, two bean & lentil hotpot after one hour gently simmering. Ready to serve
 
For champ 1. - dice a large onion & chop some green scallion tops For champ 2. Gently sweat the onion in butter until translucent then add green onion tops & stir together for 1 minute For champ 3. Add some fresh or frozen chopped watercress to onion mixture then stir all into creamy mashed potato
For champ 1. - dice a large onion & chop some green scallion tops For champ 2. Gently sweat the onion in butter until translucent then add green onion tops & stir together for 1 minute For champ 3. Add some fresh or frozen chopped watercress to onion mixture then stir all into creamy mashed potato
 

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