Leeks, potato & french lentils stew … and burgers

Leek and lentil burgers

Leek and lentil burgers

This morning Clio and I tried to go for a walk on the towpath. It had been raining for hours, and on one side the sky was as bright as day, but on the other, it was dark and purple-grey. I stood for a while uncertain about whether to go on or be safe and turn back. Across the canal a little green heron stared at us suspiciously, his tufty head the color of the weeds streaming beneath the muddy water. It felt good to just stand for a while, watching the heron, watching the clouds in the teeming sky, feeling the relief of cool winds and spatters of rain. Clio looked up at me with a sweet confused face, and then resigned herself to grazing on the long grass that grows against the stone wall. I’d been thinking about the story of Cupid and Psyche, which has always been one of my favorite myths. It’s a long, remarkable story, and it has a million meanings and interpretations, of course. But I was thinking about the part where Psyche, though perfectly happy, is persuaded to doubt whether she’s perfectly happy. She’s had a lot of strange and wonderful adventures, and she’ll have plenty more. Every time she’s tested she feels hopeless and wants to throw herself off of something or into something else, but everybody she meets seems to like her and wants to help her, even the bugs and the reeds. And eventually she goes back to the place she’d been happy all along. Aside from all of the other things “psyche” means, apparently it meant “life” in the sense of “breath,” formed from the verb ψύχω (psukhō, “to blow.”) Derived meanings included “spirit,” “soul,” “ghost,” and ultimately “self.” With a name like that it’s hard not to turn Psyche’s story into some sort of allegory for our own sense of well-being. It’s hard not to think of Psyche when you feel discouraged or disgruntled and, provoked by doubt, you step aside for a moment to look at your life as it actually is, at all of the skills that you have and the people who want to help you, or who need your help. Clio and I decided to play it safe and walk back home. She woke the boys, which is her favorite thing to do, and she’s spent the whole rainy day since running away from them when they try to pull her ears. The sky was bright for a while, we could have gone for our walk. And then it poured and thundered, and now it’s bright again, but the heavy clouds are rolling in, and that’s probably the way it will go all day.

Lentil leek and potato stew

Lentil leek and potato stew

I always think of leeks and potatoes as sort of wintery, but we got them from the farm this week, so that makes them summery. This stew was amazingly tasty. We topped it with fresh chopped cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, which was a nice sweet contrast to the savory comforting stew. We turned the leftovers into burgers, and I made soft smoked-paprika buns for them.
smoked paprika buns

smoked paprika buns

Here’s Horace Andy with Rain from the Sky

2 T butter (++)
2 leeks, trimmed and washed
2 t fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound small potatoes, scrubbed and chopped in half, or larger potatoes peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 bay leaves
1 cup french lentils
1/3 cup white wine
1 t tomato paste
1 t balsamic
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

In a large stew pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise (you’ve probably already done this to clean them!) and then slice them into 1/4 inch slices. Add these to the butter along with the thyme and garlic. Stir and fry until the leeks begin to soften, about five minutes. Add the potatoes and bay leaves, stir and fry until for about five minutes. Add the lentils and stir to coat, cook for a minute or two. Add the white wine and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes until the wine is reduced and syrupy. Add a few cups of water, you want to cover the lentils and vegetables by an inch or more. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for about half an hour, until the potatoes and lentils are cooked through and just as soft as you like them. Add the balsamic, more butter if you like, and plenty of salt and pepper.

Serve with crusty bread and top with halved cherry tomatoes mixed with fresh basil.

For THE BURGERS, mix the leftover lentil & potato mixture with one egg and 1 slice of whole wheat bread, crumbled to crumbs. Grate in some smoked gouda or cheddar. Mix well and smush up a bit. Preheat the oven to 425. Lightly oil a large baking sheet. Form the lentil mixture into patties, and place on the sheet. Bake until brown and crispy, turning from time to time. Should take 20 – 25 minutes.

For the BUNS

1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup warm water

3 cups flour (+/-)
1 t salt
1 t smoked paprika
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water and set aside for about 1/2 an hour to get bubbly. Add the flour, salt and smoked paprika and mix well. Break in an egg and 1/2 cup milk, and add enough water to make a workable dough. Knead for about five minutes, and then put in a large lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside in a warm place for 1 1/2 half to two hours.

Punch down, and let sit again for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Lightly oil a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 450. Break the dough into 6 balls, and roll them to smooth rounds, tucking the ends under a few times to create texture. Allow to sit while the oven preheats.

Bake until puffed, golden, firm to the touch and hollow-sounding when tapped.

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