This year, as we read the parsha snow is falling across Canada. There are record snowfalls in New York State and freezing temperatures in 50 states. Torrential winter rains are falling in Israel. So, I thought this might be a comforting time to repost a recipe for Jacob’s (in)famous red lentil stew.
Toledot gives a quick overview of Rebecca’s marriage to Isaac and their family life. Rebecca was blessed with twins- two boys- who started figting even before they were born! Two boys, different interests and strengths, and super sibling rivalry. And Jacob was able to take advantage of one of Esau’s weaknesses.
According to the text Esau had been out hunting. Naturally he was tired when he came home. When he noticed that Yaakov had been cooking lentil stew he said, “Give me now some of that red, red stuff.” (Genesis 25:30) It makes me think of some other brothers who grunt and burp at each other just to be obnoxious. Why couldn’t Esau have said, “Gee, Yaakov. You are such a great cook, and that stew smells AMAZING! Can I please have some, and I’ll share my meat stew with you tomorrow?” But he didn’t do it the polite way. So therein played out another one of our history’s famous sibling rivalries.
I always wondered about that mystical lentil stew. It must have been filling, it probably smelled wonderful, and it would have been red. I found a recipe which fit the bill. One note of interest- this recipe doesn’t call for red lentils. Red lentils turn yellow when they cook. Instead this recipe calls for brown lentils. Yes, the stew does end up red. I suspect that Yaakov and Esau both cooked. When you are in the field for days at a time, you have to have some way of warming up your dinner. Esau, being a hunter, probably liked lots of meat in his stews but the meat may not always have been available. Here we have a nice collection of lentils, vegetables and 10 (!) spices. Beware, the spices are pretty intense!
The aroma of the sauteeing carrots and onions with fresh ginger and garlic filled the air.
The addition of 10 exotic spices made the aroma even more pungent. The tomatoes and lentils were added next.
La Voila! The finished and filling stew was ready to eat, garnished with yogurt and fresh cilantro. Just like our ancestors in Israel would have done, we scooped up our pottage with some toasty flatbreads.
If you want to make it for Shabbat you can put all the ingredients in your crockpot on Friday afternoon and it will be ready for lunch on Saturday.
Spicy Red Lentil Stew
1 cup brown lentils
2 cups water
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. ginger, minced or grated
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup water or vegetable broth
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
Boil the lentils in the 2 c. of water for about 45 minutes, until they are tender.
In another pot, over medium heat, saute the onions and carrots for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and spice blend. Saute 5 more minutes. Add the canned diced tomatoes (you can use 6 fresh, chopped tomatoes instead), the tomato paste and the additional 1 cup of water/ vegetable broth. Simmer until bubbling.
Serve with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of cilantro- or parsley if you prefer.
This makes 4 large servings.
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May the families of those slain in Jerusalem find comfort among the mourners of Zion. And may we see peace and tranquility in Israel soon.