A few weeks ago I was approached to take part in a themed cooking competition for Villa Plus, where I’d square up against some other cooks to come up with a recipe which I felt represented a particular European holiday destination.
When presented with the list of locations to choose from, I realised my knowledge of European islands is severely lacking; in the end what swung me towards choosing Lanzarote was the fact that my Nan and Granddad went on holiday there when I was 7, and brought me back a pretty sweet selection of bootleg Nike t-shirts. This personal experience of the place offered a limited point of reference, so I got my research on.
The thing that immediately struck me about Lanzarote was the terrain – being a volcanic island it has vast expanses of dark grey terrain; basalt rock formed by cooled rock lava. Combined with flashes of deep red sand and rock and aquamarine pools it had an other-worldly appearance like nothing I’ve seen before – far from the sea of characterless Brits-abroad hotel-complexes I’d conjured in my head.
Looking into Lanzarote’s typical cuisine revealed that Lentejas is popular over there – a lentil dish best described as a regional take on classic Spanish paella. Its laid-back format of lentils with seafood, meat and vegetables gave me plenty of freedome to put a personal spin on the dish, by incorporating elements which represented the island’s volcanic character.
The imaginatively-named Lentejas Volcán (Volcano Lentils) uses almost-black, earthy-tasting Puy lentils as a nod to the island’s terrain; Chorizo and sweet potato add magma-like flashes of dark red and orange, as well as contributing an amazing smokey-sweet flavour to the dish.
With Lanzarote being surrounded by ocean, I couldn’t leave seafood out of the recipe – Octopus gives the dish an exotic touch (which like the rest of the ingredients, I bought from the perpetually exotic market in Leeds city center), but if you’re squeamish and don’t like the idea of gnawing on tentacles then prawns or langoustines are a good alternative.
Because it’s so cheap (The two big portions I made came to just over £2 each, if you’re not into seafood then it’d come to about £1.30) and easy to make, this is a great social one to make when you’ve got friends over for tea. Take the pan you made it in over to the table and let everybody dig in, be warned though that they’ll want to lick their plates clean afterwards – save them that indignity by providing a loaf of crusty bread to mop up the juices with.
- 1 Small Octopus (About 200g)
- 1 Medium Chorizo Sausage
- 250g (Prepared Weight) Puy Lentils
- 1 Onion, Diced
- Half a Sweet Potato, Diced
- A Handful of Garden Peas
for the dressing
- 2 Tbsp Rapeseed Oil
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- Small handful of Coriander leaves, finely chopped
- Prepare the octopus by cutting the tentacles into inch-sized chunks. For the rest of the flesh, cut into inch-squares and score in a criss cross pattern. Your fishmonger will do this for you if you ask them nicely. Blanch in a pan of boiling water for 90 seconds – no more, no less! – rinse under cold water, and leave to one side until later.
- Soften the onion and potato in a pan on a medium-low heat. While you’re doing this, chop your coriander really finely and mix it with the rapeseed oil and lemon juice to form your dressing.
- When the onion is translucent and starting to brown ever so slightly on the edges, add slices of chorizo and continue to cook until the fat in the chorizo starts to melt and you can see it slightly caramelise. I added a handful of Garden Peas at this point, to give a variety of texture and a bit of freshness to the finished dish.
- Stir in the lentils and give them a good stir until they’re warm through, and then add the cooked octopus for just long enough to give it a coating of the juices.
- Drizzle with the dressing, and serve with an extra wedge of lemon for squeezing.