Red Lentils & Pork with Round Zucchini & Rice
I love the round zucchini- little cannonballs of flavor and so much more fun that the regular ones, which can often be a little bland if we are honest. The round ones on the other hand, are generally speaking a little more intense in their flavor. That's what I like about them most- but you have to admit that they look a little bit cooler too!
This was a quick version of stuffed zucchini- a cheats version I'll admit, but full of flavor and just the right thing for a cold Winter's evening. I decided to cook the zucchini and the filling separately, firstly to save time, secondly in order to have the filling well cooked but neither the zucchini nor the lentils over-cooked and thirdly, because then each element of the meal retains its own flavor. Now I have told you why- let me tell you how!
This was so quick to make because I used one of my favorite little tricks and steamed one ingredient above another that was boiling away- in this case the zucchini above the rice. I halved the zucchini and scooped out the middle, seasoned it with salt and pepper and then started 1 cupful of rice boiling in 2 cupfuls of lightly salted water. I then set my steam rack down on top and popped in the zucchini, put the lid on top and let the rice simmer gently for 10 minutes. And of course in that time I got busy with the filling...
For the filling, I started the ground pork frying in it's own juices/fat in a non-stick frying pan. Once it began to brown, I added finely chopped garlic, cumin and fennel seeds and one each of those small, mild chili/bell peppers in red and yellow... or you can use whichever pepper you prefer... or are able to handle! As soon as the peppers began to color and the pork was nicely browned, I added about a third the amount of red lentils as I had pork and stirred them in until they became nicely coated with the juices from the pork and peppers. I then added a good tablespoon of tomato paste, stirred this in well and after a minute or so of frying with all of the other ingredients, deglazed the pan with enough water to cover everything. I then added a finely chopped Spring onion, some sweet paprika powder, a little cinnamon, a leaf of bay, salt, pepper and some cayenne.
By this time, 10 minutes had passed- so the first thing I did was check the rice, stir it through and turn off the heat to let it finish steaming in the residual heat of the saucepan itself. By this time the zucchini were also perfectly done, so they remained nice and warm for later as well... perfect! Also, by this time, the lentils had absorbed the water and juices that were in the frying pan too- so I topped it up again and let that also simmer for another 10 minutes. So in just 20 minutes in all, my supper was finished, perfect and ready to serve!
I set the zucchini on a bed of rice and spooned in the pork and lentil filling, adding a sprinkle of chili flakes and a drizzle of olive oil at the end- perfect! Quicker than either a stuffed zucchini or a chili dish, this was plenty comforting and lots of fun to make and eat! Buon apetito!