Jacob’s Lentil Stew

Each week I chat with Matt Swaim on the Sonrise Morning Show, Sacred Heart Radio. Today we talked about root veggies, and which were common ones grown during Bible days. I also shared a recipe for Jacob’s Lentil Stew.

Lentil stew takes many forms, and today I’m sharing a recipe that has ingredients that were diet staples during Bible days. Like carrots, onions, garlic and celery.

Here’s some fun facts along with a yummy recipe for lentil stew.

Carrots

These are such a common vegetable that we don’t think of the origin of carrots – it seems like we’ve always had them to enjoy. Carrots are members of the parsley family, and they are probably natives of Afghanistan and Central Asia. There, carrots with red or purple roots still grow wild. 

In the Fertile Crescent near the Nile, carrots were probably cultivated as long as 1000 years before Christ was born. It is believed that the Israelites may have encountered carrots during their captivity in Egypt. By the 10 century people in Iran and northern Arabia were growing both purple and yellow carrots. 

Onions and garlic (MATT will you segue into why they’re mentioned in the Book of Numbers  – you tell it better than I can!)

The ancient Egyptians worshipped the onion, believing that its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternity. Onions were buried with Egyptian pharaohs. Archeologists discovered small onions in the eye sockets of the mummy of King Ramses IV who died in 1160 BCE, and onion bulbs were found in the tomb of the Egyptian boy king, Tutankhamen. 

Tip on cutting onions

If you cut it longways from pole to pole/stem end to root end, the shape holds up better in cooking. Also it’s supposed to release less sulphur containing compounds/heat than if you slice an onion through the middle horizontally, which, when you slice it in pieces, exposes more of the sulphur containing compounds.  

Garlic – Hard neck garlic vs soft neck – (MATT will you talk about the one you prefer: hard neck – that produces garlic scapes – has larger cloves but doesn’t keep as long as soft neck, which has smaller, numerous clove). (I like hard neck)

Garlic was used both as food and medicine. Along with onions, they were considered energizing food for the slaves when the Egyptian pyramids were built.

Today we know that garlic is a good immune system and heart booster.

These root vegetables were staples in the ancient Biblical diet. They were often combined with pulses/beans/lentils, etc. in stews cooked over open fires.

JACOB’S LENTIL STEW

Now I’m sure Jacob didn’t have potatoes or tomatoes to add to the stew and with the Jewish dietary restrictions, sausage was a no-no, as well. But the rest of the ingredients were available and important food staples.

Genesis 25: 25-34. In Jewish tradition, it is thought that the lentil stew Jacob cooked was meant for his father, Issac, who was mourning the death of his own dad. Lentils are considered a traditional mourner’s meal, so the stew was appropriate. But we know that his brother Esau came in from the fields and was supposedly so hungry that he sold his precious birthright to Jacob for a bowl of the stew.

Now I will tell you go to taste on everything here.  Use this recipe as a guide. I usually wind up adding more broth, and I now use low sodium broths.

Ingredients

Olive oil

2 cups onions, chopped

1-2 teaspoons garlic

8-10 cups chicken or vegetable broth or more as needed

1 pound dried lentils

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

2 nice sized carrots, sliced (or toss in a small bag of shredded carrots)

2 ribs celery, sliced thin

1 teaspoon oregano or more to taste

1 generous teaspoon cumin

14 oz diced tomatoes or diced tomatoes with chilies (if you like a bit of a spicy kick)

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional but good: Polish sausage, sautéed before adding to soup along with a little sumac (another Bible spice) which gives it a lemony touch.

Curried Lentil Soup: Substitute curry powder for the cumin, and use more, to taste

Instructions

Film bottom of pan with olive oil. Saute onions and garlic until onions turn translucent.  Add 8 cups broth and rest of ingredients.  Bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils and vegetables are tender. Add more broth if needed, more seasonings, etc.

I like to serve this with crumbled Feta or Parmesan on top, and a splash of red wine vinegar.

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