Leeks and lentils make a versatile base for quick weekday dinners


The lentil base is delicious with so much (Rey Lopez / The Washington Post)

When you build something people always say the key is a solid foundation. That’s what this dish offers, leeks and lentils with fried halloumi, a hearty base for making a weekday meal and more.

If you have home-cooked lentils, use them, but reaching for canned lentils means you can make this dish quickly any night of the week. First, you lightly sauté the leeks and garlic, add a little broth and then flavor with a little tomato paste, mustard, thyme and lemon juice. Once this combination has simmered a bit, add handfuls of fresh spinach for a flavorful mix that can be used as a base for preparing vegetarian or meat dishes.

For this recipe from The slimming gourmet cookbook by Pip Payne, who writes about healthy cooking on a blog of the same name, the lentils are topped with sliced ​​fried halloumi – and that adds a flavorful, salty, and chewy balance to the sweet lentils. This filling dish takes 30 minutes to prepare.

But the reason I chose this dish is because, as Payne notes, the lentil base is delicious with so much. She recommends roasted root vegetables or, if you’re a meat eater, sliced ​​fried chicken breasts or seared salmon fillets. Or, let everyone in your household decide what to put on top. We tried it with leftover pork and even ate the lentils as is as a quick lunch.

Home cook and mother who lives in the UK, Payne is a fan of batch cooking, so she comes up with recipes that can be tweaked. This recipe is easily expandable, which is great because you can whip up a big batch of it and freeze it for future meals. If you want to freeze the lentils, consider setting the spinach aside and freezing the rest in an airtight container for up to three months. Then reheat and add fresh spinach just before eating.

Payne rounded up 100 recipes that total around 600 calories, but our nutritional analysis is slightly better. It’s probably because we used olive oil in place of his suggestion of low-calorie cooking spray and around 680g of leeks – before cutting them – that we thought we had to taste perfect on the go. tests.

Leeks and lentils with fried halloumi

Serves: 2 to 3

Time: 30 minutes

Get ahead: Lentil mix can be prepared up to 3 days in advance.

Storage Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.


2 teaspoons of neutral oil, such as canola or grape seeds

4 medium leeks (680-900g total), trimmed, cleaned and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced or finely grated

2 cans (400g) green lentils, drained and rinsed

250 ml of vegetable or chicken broth without salt

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard or stone

½ teaspoon of dried thyme

Juice of 1 lemon

Fine sea salt or table salt

Finely ground black pepper

140 g halloumi cheese, sliced ​​0.5 cm thick

2 large handfuls of baby spinach, roughly chopped

Small handful of fresh parsley leaves, coarse stems removed, finely chopped, for serving


In a medium deep-sided pan over medium heat, heat oil until sparkling. Add leeks and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until aromatic, about 1 minute.

Add the lentils, broth, tomato paste, mustard, thyme and lemon juice. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then mix well and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large dry nonstick skillet, add cheese slices in a single layer and sear until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a flat plate or platter.

When the lentils are cooked, stir in the spinach until softened, then remove from the heat. Divide the mixture between serving bowls, garnish with halloumi slices and sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot.

Nutritional information per serving, based on 3 | Calories: 637; total fat: 15g; saturated fat: 7g; cholesterol: 37 mg; sodium: 538 mg; carbohydrates: 91g; dietary fiber: 26g; sugar: 16g; protein: 39g.

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

Adapted from ‘The Slimming Foodie’ by Pip Payne (Octopus, 2021).

© The Washington Post

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