Garlicky Beluga Lentils, Roasted Carrots, Pomegranate and Zhoug

Dec 13, 2023

In the mood for a hearty, healthy and flavorful dish in the midst of the holiday rush? Then I suggest making today’s recipe of garlicky beluga lentils on a bed of creamy thick yogurt, topped with roasted carrots, zhoug and pomegranate seeds for a true party in your mouth!

When building a meal, I always start with what’s in season at the time I’m making it. This time of year, root vegetables are in abundance, such as carrots. For today’s recipe I found some gorgeous rainbow carrots at my local market and decided to go with that.

We also eat with our eyes so composing a meal with multiple colors have shown to increase pleasure and happiness!

Choose smaller carrots as they are always sweeter, and easier and quicker to roast in the oven. When roasted, the carrots get caramelized and become even sweeter with additional layers of flavor revealed as they are tossed in a bit of pomegranate molasses and olive oil before going into the oven.

Beluga lentils are deliciously delicate and earthy with a flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. They provide a lovely texture as they hold their shape well (nobody wants mushy lentils!) and are also fantastic at absorbing other flavors. Plus, they are so pretty to look at!

These black lentils are high in fiber and anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in black berries and provide a good amount of protein as well. Lentils just don’t get enough love – they are some of the most flexible, tasty and healthy plant-based foods around!

Zhoug is a spicy cilantro sauce or paste with origins from Yemen in the Middle East but is also popular in Israel. Typical ingredients include garlic, jalapeños (or serranos), cilantro and spices like cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes in addition to lemon juice and oil. As I am not a fan of throwing away anything I added a little twist and included the carrot tops in the sauce (I often do this when I make pesto as well!)

I make the zhoug in my mortar and pestle as I find it becomes more flavorful when made by hand but if you’re in a hurry or lazy, you can throw it in your food processor and pulse a few times. It’s a quick and flavorful sauce to put together and fantastic as toppings and sides to various dishes like falafels, shakshuka and shawarma, and adds a splash of vibrant green to your meal.

For a final sprinkle of color, the dish gets sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. You can find pomegranates readily available in stores now as they are in season and with their vibrant red color adds a nice holiday look to meals. They provide nice acidity to the dish against the creamy yogurt, with a juicy sweetness and tartness and a fun crunchy texture. Look for plump, rounded pomegranates that feel heavy in your hand when you pick them out in the store.

Tip: pomegranates do not ripen after they are picked so often you will find under-ripe pomegranates in regular grocery stores, so if you can find some at your local farmer’s market, that’s the best place to shop for this gorgeous fruit!

Pomegranates are also potent antioxidants and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. A win win in both the flavor and nutritional department!

Now that we’ve got our meal sorted out, let’s move on to an appropriate wine to drink with this delicious meal!

Wine Pairing Recommendation

The flavors of the Middle East are fantastic vessels for a nice bottle of full-bodied red wines, which is often what I reach for during the colder winter months. The earthy, warmth and fragrancy of the spices in the dish along with the zip from the hot peppers in the zhoug are perfect complements to a juicy wine made from Grenache. Rich in fruit as well as earthiness and a touch of pepperiness, it has the capacity to envelop a wide range of flavors.

2019 Brunier Domaine de Vieux Telegraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Piedlong”

I decided to pull out my finest southern Rhône Valley wine today because lately, life has been showing me that there’s no better day than today to enjoy life. Life is so short and recently I’ve experienced losses and hardships that confirm the sentiment “Don’t wait for tomorrow to open that bottle you’ve been wanting to drink.”

This is one of those wines that offer immediate pleasure but can also be aged for years to come. But who knows if anyone has got years? I’m not known for my patience so I like to drink my wines asap so decided to open up this beauty. I couldn’t imagine a better pairing for this flavor-bomb of a meal.

The Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe has been run by the Brunier family for six generations since 1891. The vineyard, with an average age of 60 years, is located on the famous plateau of La Crau, the Mecca of the viticulture of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The wine is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre, and the grapes are hand-picked and go through gentle crushing and selective destemming followed by at least 30 days’ traditional fermentation in concrete and wooden vats.

The wine is then aged in concrete tanks for 1 year, then another year in 50 hl foudre followed by 3 months in the bottle.

Bottle unfined and unfiltered this vegan can be considered vegan.

This is not the typical fruit bomb, over-the-top alcoholic wine that might come to mind if you’ve ever tasted wine from this region but rather, this producer produces earthy and rustic wines with a lot of layers and exhibits elegance and restraint despite its richness. It focuses on the fruit rather than heavy oak and is bright and refreshing while still providing lots of depth and body.

There is a beautiful balance of sweet fruit and earthiness in this wine that perfectly mimics the sweet and earthy roasted rainbow carrots in the dish. The carrots were tossed in olive oil and pomegranate molasses, adding both sweetness and acidity. When roasted in the oven the carrots bring out an even sweeter and layers of more interesting flavor, making them very food-friendly to fuller red wines with depth and complexity.

Well-made wines from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation are often known for having a touch of spiciness, which is where the Zoug topping adds a brilliant touch. The Zoug, with its serrano or jalapeño peppers along with a touch of Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes) complements this pepperiness and the creamy yogurt cools it all down. Finally, the seasonally appropriate pomegranate seeds bring out the red fruit in the wine and lift the entire dish up with a bright, acidic touch.

If you don’t want to spend money on a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a nice Côtes du Rhône would be great here well or a Grenache-based wine from any appellation in southern Rhône.

Garlicky Beluga Lentils with Roasted Carrots, Pomegranate and Zhoug

For the lentils:
1 ½ cups (200 grams) beluga lentils
1 small onion, halved
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, one smashed and the other minced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the carrots:
2 lbs (1 kilo) rainbow carrots (Save the tops)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (or sub balsamic vinegar)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Zhoug:
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds (from about 6 pods)
½ teaspoon whole cloves
2 jalapeños or serrano chiles, seeded and sliced thin
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 bunch cilantro (stems are ok to include)
1 cup (25 grams) carrot top leaves (discard stems)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or Aleppo pepper)
½ cup (125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 small lime
Kosher or sea salt to taste

For the topping:
½ cup (125 grams) vegan labneh or Greek Yogurt
½ cup (80 grams) pomegranate seeds

To make the lentils:
Place the lentils, onions, carrot, smashed garlic clove and bay leaf in a medium saucepan and cover with water.

Add a tablespoon of oil and a teaspoon or so of kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender but not mushy.

Drain the lentils and reserve about ½ cup (125 ml) of the cooking liquid.

Return the lentils to the pan and stir in the minced garlic clove, red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and set aside to cool (add a little of the reserved cooking before serving if they turn a bit dry).

To make the carrots:
Preheat the oven to 425°F (210°C) and set aside a rimmed sheet tray.

Wash and scrub the carrots and halve them lengthwise, leaving smaller carrots whole.

Place the carrots in a large bowl and toss them with a little olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the pomegranate molasses and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Place the carrots in a single layer onto the sheet tray and roast until the carrots are tender, browned, and skins are wilted. This should take about 30 minutes but check a little before as all ovens are different. Turn the carrots halfway through (after 15 minutes). Remove the carrots from the oven, drizzle them with the other tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. Set aside to cool slightly.

To make the zhoug:
Toast the spices in a skillet over medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant then crush them in a mortar and pestle along with the salt (or alternatively pulse them lightly in a spice grinder). Add the chilis, garlic and cilantro stems and pound until a coarse paste form.

Add the cilantro and carrot top leaves a little at a time and pound until a nice green coarse paste. Finally, add the lime juice and olive oil and season to taste with salt.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle: Add the spices to the bowl of a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients and pulse until the mixture is coarse.

To assemble the dish:
Spread a thin layer of vegan labneh or Greek yogurt on a serving plate, top with the lentils, and then the roasted carrots. Drizzle with the zhoug, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, and serve with your favorite glass of wine.

Notes:
If you can’t find vegan labneh or Greek yogurt in your market, strain regular yogurt in a cheesecloth or a clean, fine towel placed in a colander over a bowl overnight in the fridge, to let some of the liquid out (Labneh is essentially just thickened yogurt).

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Garlicky Beluga Lentils, Roasted Carrots, Pomegranate and Zhoug

This colorful meal is as delicious as it’s vibrant and fun to look at. Garlicky beluga lentils are layered on a bed of thick, vegan yogurt and toped with sweet and earthy roasted carrots and drizzled with a zippy zhoug sauce and sprinkled with pomegranates. A seasonal meal that will please the most discerning meat eater!

  • Author: Sunny Gandara
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Roasting
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

Scale

For the lentils: 
1 ½ cups (200 grams) beluga lentils
1 small onion, halved
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, one smashed and the other minced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the carrots:
2 lbs (1 kilo) rainbow carrots (Save the tops)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (or sub balsamic vinegar)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Zhoug:
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon cardamom seeds (from about 6 pods)
½ teaspoon whole cloves
2 jalapeños or serrano chiles, seeded and sliced thin
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 bunch cilantro (stems are ok to include)
1 cup (25 grams) carrot top leaves (discard stems)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or Aleppo pepper)
½ cup (125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 small lime
Kosher or sea salt to taste

For the topping: 
½ cup (125 grams) vegan labneh or Greek Yogurt
½ cup (80 grams) pomegranate seeds

Instructions

To make the lentils:
Place the lentils, onions, carrot, smashed garlic clove and bay leaf in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Add a tablespoon of oil and a teaspoon or so of kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender but not mushy.

Drain the lentils and reserve about ½ cup (125 ml) of the cooking liquid.

Return the lentils to the pan and stir in the minced garlic clove, red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and set aside to cool (add a little of the reserved cooking before serving if they turn a bit dry).

To make the carrots:
Preheat the oven to 425°F (210°C) and set aside a rimmed sheet tray.

Wash and scrub the carrots and halve them lengthwise, leaving smaller carrots whole.

Place the carrots in a large bowl and toss them with a little olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the pomegranate molasses and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Place the carrots in a single layer onto the sheet tray and roast until the carrots are tender, browned, and skins are wilted. This should take about 30 minutes but check a little before as all ovens are different. Turn the carrots halfway through (after 15 minutes). Remove the carrots from the oven, drizzle them with the other tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. Set aside to cool slightly.

To make the zhoug:
Toast the spices in a skillet over medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant then crush them in a mortar and pestle along with the salt (alternatively, pulse them lightly in a spice grinder). Add the chilis, garlic and cilantro stems and pound until a coarse paste form. Add the cilantro and carrot top leaves a little at a time and pound until a nice green coarse paste. Finally, add the lime juice and olive oil and season to taste with salt.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle: Add the spices to the bowl of a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients and pulse until the mixture is coarse.

To assemble the dish:
Spread a thin layer of labneh or Greek vegan yogurt on a serving plate, top with the lentils and then the roasted carrots. Drizzle with the zhoug, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve with your favorite glass of wine.

 

 

Notes

If you can’t find vegan labneh or Greek yogurt in your market, strain regular yogurt in a cheesecloth or a clean, fine towel placed in a colander over a bowl overnight in the fridge, to let some of the liquid out (Labneh is essentially just thickened yogurt).

If you are unable to find pomegranate molasses, you can substitute good quality, thick balsamic vinegar.

Keywords: beluga lentils

2 Comments

  1. Tora🔆

    Delicious! We had this recipe for dinner on Christmas Eve. We loved the colors, and the zoust was very tasty! Thank you for the inspiration! 💚

    Reply
    • Sunny Gandara

      Hi Tora! Thank you so much for the kind comment and so happy you liked the dish! Appreciate the feedback! 🙂

      Reply

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