Aaron Bertelsen’s warm spiced lentils with leeks and cavolo nero

This warm spiced lentils dish really makes the most of the intense, slightly bitter flavour of cavolo nero. It is unusual to see these earthy ingredients combined with exotic spices, but it does work. I like this as a main course but you can also use it as a side to accompany lamb, chicken, sausages or even a substantial fish, such as sea bass. I use Puy lentils for their nutty flavour and firm texture – plus the little gleaming, dark greeny-grey pebbles look beautiful with the cavolo nero leaves. Make this with vegetable stock if you prefer, for a completely vegetarian dish. 

warm spiced lentils
Andrew Montgomery

SERVES 4 AS A MAIN OR 6-8 AS A SIDE DISH

PREP TIME 10 minutes

COOK TIME 40 minutes

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large leek, trimmed and diced
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped, grated or crushed
1 tsp ground turmeric
seeds from 1 tsp cardamom pods, lightly crushed
400g dried Puy lentils
1 litre chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 tsp salt
200g bunch cavolo nero, large stems removed, leaves sliced
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp mild wholegrain mustard
handful flat-leaf parsley or coriander, finely chopped, plus a few whole leaves to garnish
yogurt, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat. Add the leek, celery, garlic, turmeric and cardamom then cook for about 10 minutes until soft. 

2. Add the lentils, stock and salt, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. 

3. Uncover the pan and stir through the cavolo nero. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally – take care to not break up the lentils. 

4. Remove from the warm spiced lentils from the heat, add the lemon juice and stir through the mustard and parsley or coriander. 

5. Serve warm, with a good dollop of yogurt and garnish with some extra herbs. 

Growing leeks

A great crop for a partially shaded spot, leeks will grow throughout the winter. These need a pot about 30cm in diameter with plenty of depth. They can also be harvested at different stages, from tender young babies to the heftier specimens. And each time you thin them out, you give the rest more space to grow. 

Buy Aaron’s fabulous new book with a 20 per cent discount

Grow Fruit and Vegetables in Pots: Planting Advice and Recipes from Great Dixter will be published by Phaidon Press Ltd on 7 February, price £24.95. To order a copy for £19.95 with free p&p until 2 March call 01603 648155 or go to mailshop.co.uk.