I never appreciated lentils until I left home. Lentils were boring, weren’t they? And y’know, farty. I then discovered Indian dal and Spanish lentejas and the little French puy lentils and I’m not sure how it happened but I now love the little legumes. They’re cheap, they’re healthy, they’re tasty – what’s not to like? Well, ok, so they’re still a bit farty but we all can’t be perfect.

Lentils with Chorizo

This recipe for lentils with chorizo is easy – if you didn’t want to mess up both a pot and a pan, you could fry the onion, garlic and chorizo in the pot and then chuck everything else in and set it to simmer. I wanted to get my lentils on first to save time that chilly weekday. It makes for a budget meal too as I reckon it costs about £1 a serving. You can bulk it out a bit more by adding potatoes too.

Poor Blai though! Just the look and smell of these triggered memories of terrible school lunch lentils; he admitted to feeling despair when presented with a bowl of them. Luckily (for him and me), he did proclaim enjoyment of the dish after a few spoonfuls! Hurrah!

Lentils with Chorizo
serves 3-4.

250g green lentils
150g chorizo
1 carrot
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato paste
olive oil
1 onion
1 clove garlic
a large pinch of dried chilli flakes
a large splash of dry sherry
1-2 tsp pimentón
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pick through your lentils (you’re checking for stones), wash them thoroughly and cover them with plenty of water and set to boil. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat till it’s at a strong simmer. Stir occasionally.

Peel and cut the carrot into large chunks and throw them, the tomato paste, and the bay leaf in with the lentils. Cut the chorizo into large chunks. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and throw in the chorizo and let fry in its own oil until the cut surfaces are golden. Stir the chorizo and its oil into the lentil pot.

Finely chop the onion. Place the frying pan back over the heat, add some olive oil and add the chopped onion and a large pinch of dried chilli flakes. Fry until the onion is golden. At this point, mince or chop the garlic and add it to the pan and fry until fragrant. Deglaze with the dry sherry and once all the alcohol has bubbled away, scrape everything into the lentil pot too.

Stir in the pimentón and continue simmering lentils until done – about 45 minutes altogether. Add more water if required during the simmering time – how thin you wish to have it is up to you. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with some bread on the side.

On our first weekend back from Barcelona, you would think that we’d go off in search of another cuisine other than Catalan or Spanish. But one Sunday morning, we wanted to go out for lunch at a place we hadn’t tried before (ok, that was my requirement), a place where we could relax over a nice meal, a place that wasn’t too far away from home. We planned on heading to Chiswick and I remembered The Duke of Sussex, a pub next door to Le Vacherin. Their menu was always dotted with Spanish dishes, triggering my interest every time I passed it. And now I’d have my chance to try it!

We arrived at the pub just past noon that Sunday and it was a good thing too as we didn’t have a booking (it got pretty packed soon after). Many tables were booked but there were enough free that we had a choice of sitting in the bright and airy bar in front or the restaurant in the back. We opted for the front and got a table right by the large windows. Ah, it was lovely that day with blue sky and bright sun! We liked the look of the pub; my brother liked the selection of ales available. I opted for my usual pub drink: Coca Cola (regular readers of this blog probably know that I’m not great with alcohol!).

It took us a while to select our dishes but once ordered, it took an even longer while for the food to arrive. I suppose we weren’t in a rush as it was a relaxing Sunday afternoon but my stomach was growling! It turned out they were preparing everything to come almost at once. We started with a few fried bits and pieces. The salt cod fritters (£5.50) were lovely and light though Blai found a large bone in one of them. Ham croquetas (£5.50) were huge, of the requisite creaminess, and weren’t bad at all.

Salt Cod Fritters

Ham Croquetas

The chorizo con huevos (£6.25) came looking very different from how I expected; this is not necessarily a bad thing. Here the eggs had been beaten and cooked together with slices of chorizo and chopped vegetables. However, this dish was a bit of a letdown as we could taste undercooked onion pieces in the vegetables.

Chorizo con Huevos

Somehow we settled on trying two of their rice dishes – they both did sound gorgeous! The Catalan rice w/ meatballs and prawns (£13.50) was a soupy rice dish that almost resembled a stew. Sloppy, soupy rice dishes like this exist in Catalunya but this one had the unfamiliar flavour of paprika. Unfortunately, it was also too soupy and required more rice but overall, it was a delicious dish with tasty meatballs and extremely fresh prawns. (But the kitchen really does need to look at its preparation – I nearly cracked a tooth on a nubbin of bone in my meatball.)

Catalan Rice w/ Meatballs and Prawns

The Roast cod, black rice, aioli (£13.50) was excellent and nothing could be faulted with it. The cod was flaked beautifully at the touch of a fork while the black rice left rings of squid ink around our mouths as we shovelled it in along with the creamy aioli.

Roast Cod, Black Rice, Aioli

There was still a little room for dessert and we chose the only sweet on the menu that wasn’t British: the crema catalana (£5.25). It was very good but could have been a little bit bigger!

Crema Catalana

There are definitely a few things that need to be ironed out in the kitchen but overall, it’s not a bad place for a meal or a drink and I’d probably return since I live close by; however, I doubt I’d cross town just to eat there – so it’s a good local instead (I hear they have a good garden for the summer) and a very pleasant place to while away the time if you happen to be in the area. There was a man noshing on a bowl of excellent looking chips with aioli at the bar and I’ve already decided I’ll be having that next time! If Spanish food isn’t your thing, there are a number of British dishes also available; the boys at a neighbouring table were tucking into lovely looking Sunday roasts.

The Duke of Sussex
75 South Parade
London W4 5LF

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