I remember the second time I visited my husband’s home country of Czech Republic, it was over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. New Year’s Eve we stayed up almost all night. It was early in the morning the next day, and we were hungry, and only certain “hospodas” (places to order Czech beer and maybe a snack or typical meal) and other joints were still open. Hubby told me that the selection of foods would be quite limited that morning, but they were sure to have one traditional New Year’s food — lentils. Lentils have long been known to symbolize good luck in the New Year, and especially prosperity. I guess I can understand the “prosperity” part because lentils sort of look like coins, in a way. Before that day, the only time I ever ate lentils was in lentil soup. At the restaurant we found, the lentils were cooked with some vegetables and chunks of ham, and then topped with a sunny-side up egg. Pure comfort food! The opposite of an extravagant meal. When I got home, I recreated the simple dish, and even found that it could be made quite diet friendly.
Lentils, Herbs & Ham (optional) with an Egg “Hat” (about 4-6 servings)
- 1 cup dried lentils (I use brown lentils, but I guess others could be used)
- 2 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup green peppers, chopped (or for vegetarians, up to 1/2 cup assorted chopped vegetables, like celery, carrot, parsnip, celery root, or even mushrooms) – See note below.
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 Tbs chopped parsley, plus a little extra for topping
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano, marjoram, lovage, and/or basil (up to 1/2 tsp total)
- 1/2 cup chopped lean ham (or 5 slices chopped Canadian bacon) – can be omitted, but tastes great
- 1 or 2 eggs per serving, as desired, cooked sunny-side up in butter or otherwise
Inspect, rinse and drain lentils and put in a medium pot or sauce pan. Add broth, onion, green pepper, bay leaf, ground pepper and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer 20-30 mins. Remove bay leaf. Add herbs and chopped ham (or Canadian bacon) and then simmer 5-10 mins more, or until lentils are tender, but not mushy, and most liquid is absorbed. Keep warm.
Cook desired number of eggs sunny-side up.
On each plate, top a pile of the cooked lentils with 1 or 2 sunny-side up eggs. Garnish with additional chopped parsley and any extra salt and pepper, as desired.
Note: If you choose not to use ham, using root type vegetables (like parsnip, carrot, and/or celery root) works out great. If you use the root vegetables, first sauté with the onion in a little butter (until golden brown) before adding to the lentils and broth, then proceed as directed. If you want to add chopped or sliced mushrooms, I’d add them with the herbs in the last 10 mins of cooking, OR sauté them separately in some butter, then stir them into the cooked lentil mixture.
A reader who made the recipe used poultry instead of ham and really liked the results. Basically, be creative with any appropriate meats, veggies and herbs that seem to coordinate and taste good with an egg.