Ajo's CookiesMy friend Fernando’s father is a restaurateur in Madrid  (“I KNOW, RIGHT?”) and when he married his lovely wife Maria Jose (Ajo), she decided she wanted to learn from her father-in-law.  Lucky for me, she also loves to share recipes.  I can’t resist sharing a photo of Ajo in our kitchen a few weeks ago learning to make Christmas cookies.

Nando and Ajo came to visit during Thanksgiving and although Nando is a fitness trainer and massage therapist, we’re convinced he set a new world record for the number of buffalo burgers consumed in a single week.   There’s not much better than sharing cooking time with great friends.  Well, except maybe the eating and drinking time that follows…

Anyway, you’re here for the recipe, right?  So here we go.  Ta Da….

Mini Disclaimer:  Most of my recipes are from incredible home cooks who tell me “add a bit of this and a dash of that.”  So I’m just tellin’ ya now that the quantities of ingredients are approximate — the creative adjusting is up to you!

Ajo’s Incredible Lentils

1 to 1 1/2 Cup Lentils:  In Spain there is a standard type of lentil that is greenish-brown, but use whatever you can find. Soak overnight if you have time.  If not, just allow for longer cooking time.

1/2 to 1 lb Spanish chorizo – preferably the grilling type.  This is NOT Mexican Chorizo.  You can substitute a sausage such as bratwurst — it won’t be the same, but it’s better than nothin’.

Cut chorizo into bite size chunks and saute’ gently in a little white wine with 2 small bay leaves and a bit of fresh ground black pepper.

Meanwhile, clean the vegetables and cut into bite size pieces:

2 large carrots

1 Green Pepper

1/2 Red Pepper

2 Medium Potatoes

1 Medium Onion

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Rinse and drain the lentils, put the lentils and all the veggies in a large pot.  Cover with water and add 1 cube of veggie or chicken stock (or instead of water & cube of stock, use homemade stock if you have it).  Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and turn down to simmer.  Cook about 45 min or until lentils are almost done.

5 Cloves Garlic

1 Small or 1/2 of a Medium Onion

Ajo's LentilsClean the garlic and mince.  Cut the onion into bite size pieces.  Add a small amount of olive oil and the onion and garlic to a small sauté pan.  Sauté gently until the onion is nearly transparent.  Then dust the mixture with a little bit of flour and continue to cook until the mixture is lightly browned.

Sprinkle about 1 – 2 tsp of good, smoked Spanish paprika over the onion mixture and stir in.  Careful with the quantity – good smoked paprika has a strong flavor. Turn off heat.

Grate 1 medium sized tomato  (This is common  in Spain.  Cut the tomato in half and run it over a hand grater.  Discard the skin.).  Add the tomato pulp to the onion mixture.  Mix all well.  The mixture should be fairly thick and somewhat dry.

Using a ladle or a measuring cup, add some of the lentil stock to the onion mixture and thin the mixture down.  When there are no lumps, add all of the onion and tomato mixture to the lentils in the pot and mix gently to incorporate all the flavors.

Continue to simmer gently about 30 min. When the lentils are done, add the chorizo with the wine and drippings to the lentil pot.   (Don’t add the chorizo early in the cooking process or you will cook all the flavor out of the sausage).

Let the stew continue to cook gently until the lentils are softened, but not mushy, and the vegetables are cooked through.  Time will vary depending on whether the lentils were soaked, and the altitude where you are.

Final mixture should be the consistency of a thick stew.  As Ajo says  “Bon Apetitte!”

Wine Pairing:

Because the stew is hearty and has a fair amount of body and flavor, we suggest a nice Spanish Syrah.  If you’re in the mood for white… I’m going to recommend something blasphemous…. try a really full-bodied white.  There are Spanish Verdejos that fit the bill.  We happened to have one on hand and it was really great with the lentils.

Your comments are always welcome — Let us know what you think!