Today’s post is a freezer meal stockup or family sized recipe that is cheap and cheerful- my two favorite things! Cooking with beans and lentils allows me to skip on expensive meat, and instead load up on healthful vegetables. Sometimes I make the choice to eat meat free and have the nice produce I want. This option actually only uses one fresh ingredient- mushrooms. These could easily be swapped out for rehydrated dried or canned if you are looking to save even more.
The most common comment I get when people talk about lentils is usually a combination of “those take forever to cook” or “aren’t those hard to cook?” My answer is the crockpot we all love- seven hours on low while you sleep, and those lentils are cooked. I boil mine because I tend to do a bunch of food prep all at once and one little lentil pot isn’t going to hurt me, but either way all you need to do is put in however much lentils you want, 3x’s that amount in water, pop the lid on and ignore it.
Lentils with Israeli Cous Cous and Mushroom Ragout
Serves 6-8 meals for $5.81 (or ~$0.83 per person)
2 cups lentils- $1.32
1.5 cups cous cous (if you can’t get ptitim, or can’t find any marked as Israeli or Jerusalem cous cous, get medium cous cous, I used a mix my mum had given me some of ) – $0.59
1 can whole tomatoes- $1.17
~10 mushrooms- $1.48
1/4 bag frozen kale- $1.25
Pantry staples: garlic, red chili flakes, dried basil, dried thyme, a parmesan rind if you have it, olive oil or butter, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper
Start by getting out a large frying pan, a bowl to cook your cous cous in and whatever you’re using to cook your lentils in (pot vs. crock pot).
Your next step is to get those lentils on to cook. I rinse mine until the water runs clear in a fine colander. Sometimes you’ll hear recipes that say to cook the lentils in stock or whatever all else, but to me, that’s a waste of money. It doesn’t add a ton of flavor (I’ve tried it). Save your money! I use Click brown lentils- they’re just the kind my mum uses for soup and I like them.
Take your 2 cups of rinsed lentils and put them in a pot with five to six cups of water. You’ll need a decently big pot for this as lentils do puff up a bit. Crank up the heat until your lentil pot is boiling, then turn down to a simmer and cover with the lid. They’ll need about 20-30 minutes simmering.
Moving on to your ragout, put garlic, chili flakes and your basil and thyme in the fry pan and get to warming them and softening the garlic. While that’s happening, rough chop your mushrooms and then pop them in the pan to get cooked as well.
While those cook down, put on a kettle with 2 cups of water- you need a 1:1 ratio of cous cous to boiling water, so we’re hoping to end up with 1.5 cups of boiling water for our 1.5 cups of cous cous. Put your cous cous in a bowl, pour the boiling water (measure it) in overtop and then cover the cous cous to cook. Fluff it up in ten minutes and it’s ready.
Back to your ragout. Open a tin of whole tomatoes and crush them in a bowl with your hands- then add them to your ragout, with their juice. The sauce will cook to a thicker consistency, don’t worry, just keep the heat decently high. At this point, I like to add a parmesan rind. These are commonly regarded as trash but any Italian nonna would smack you for throwing them out- you can add them to soups, sauces and ragouts to add depth of flavor and a slight saltiness without adding salt. We’ll remove it at the end.
When your ragout is almost done, add 1/4 of a bag of frozen kale (spinach is nice, too if you don’t have access to frozen kale or it’s a bit rich for your budget).
To assemble your meal, mix your cous cous and lentils together, then top with mushroom ragout. If you have it available, a sprinkle of parmesan is perfect!
I hope this gives you an idea of an easy freezer meal you can whip up this weekend to have for when you don’t feel like cooking! This is also nice if you have guests that are vegetarian or vegan- make sure you leave out the parm and are using oil instead of butter, and you’re good to go!