An Hearthy Lentil Stew, and a Word for the New Year

“As I unclutter my life, I free myself to answer the callings of my soul.”
– Dr. Wayne Dyer

I do not like New year’s resolutions. I think that time is a flow, and it is always the right time to do or start something good. In fact, there is no better time to have good resolutions than right now. But, during these days of change, I had a few thoughts.
2014 was a year of struggle, but struggle is needed for change, just as a good training is needed to become a good warrior.
The most important word I learned this year was ‘downshifting’. This word refers to living a simpler lifestyle that is more connected to nature and natural living, without stressing too much over how much money we make and overworking ourselves, at the cost of sacrificing relationships around us. This term is translated in Italian as ‘the happy inverse growth’, and it depicts a scenario in which men will not be able to go against nature anymore, and will need to embrace natural living once again.

One time, I was standing at a Whole Foods in New York, staring at a humongous isle filled bottom to top with all kinds of juice. As I perused all the boxes of frozen products and boxes, I thought how convenient all of that was. Yet, I had one of the most illuminating thoughts of my life. I thought:
“I do not need all of this.”
It was true. I did not need it. My mind ran back to my garden in Italy, and to the image of my grandfather bent over the plants, tending the seedlings.
Back then I still wanted to be in the city, but my lifestyle drastically started to change. I started eating less and less meat, shopping carefully and using less chemicals for my beauty routine. Throughout 2014 I learned tons of wonderful things about homemade foods and beauty products and my goal is to keep on learning and sharing. My hope is that more and more people can ‘downshift’, independently of where they are, as nobody can imagine how good it feels like to be healthy if you do not try it yourself. I think that if you experience something beautiful, and that beauty can be helpful to others, then you have a responsibility to share it. It would be a pity not to, right?
And this is why my blog will also feature homemade beauty products, starting from, well… right now! In fact, in my previous post you can see how to make homemade oil infusions that can be used for cooking and for your beauty routine. I cured a skin irritation caused by my sports bra with this Chamomile, vanilla and lemon oil!
here will be tons of news on this blog this year!

Italian Lentil Stew | Hortus Natural Cooking

Another thing that I want to bring on is a healthy, smiling view on everything. This past year, I met two incredibly beautiful people that are also vegetarians (I did not know any before!) that I hope will be in my life for the longest time possible. We talked about alchemy, and the idea of changing lead into gold. Think of lead as all the negative things, feelings and stress, and useless things we impose on ourselves. By decluttering our lives and getting rid of what hurts us, we can dig up the strenght of turning that lead into gold, and finding a new light and inspiration for everything.

So this is what I hope for you too: find your light, find your inspiration, and turn your lead into bright gold.

Italian Lentil Stew | Hortus Natural Cooking

Italian Lentil Stew | Hortus Natural Cooking


Today, I am sharing a recipe for lentil stew. It is the traditional thing to cook in Italy for the new year, as lentils are believed to bring good luck and good money. This lentil stew is actually somewhat out of the Italian ordinary. The recipe was inspired by a Lentil Soup I found in the Pollan Family Table Cookbook, written by the Pollan family. It’s a nice book, with doable everyday recipes. Even though the book has recipes of all kinds, many of them are vegetarian and it’s easy to find ideas for everyday meals. This soup in particular piqued my interest, as we have always cooked lentils the same way and I wanted to see how the addition and substitution of certain ingredients would affect the result.
In the Italian version, we always add a bit of tomato passata, laurel leaves, and not much else, and it’s delicious just that way. The original recipe in the Pollan book includes zucchini, spinach and tofu, which I did not add because 1) zucchini are SO not in season right now 2) I thought there were spinach in the garden but there weren’t 3) I have a not-so-great relationship with soy. For the rest, the recipe is the same. The soup was really good, and I loved the abundance of onion, carrot and celery in it. Not sure I am a fan of the oregano here, but nonetheless I loved it!

And please, let me introduce my clay pot! I LOVE this thing. You can use it on the stove, in the oven, on the coals in the fireplace…and you can just forget about it with no stirring or checking, as the food does not stick and does not burn. I will write a post about Italian clay pots, which are now widely available in the US and worldwide too, in a future post very soon. After all, almost each culture has their own stone or clay pot, and we should seriously consider going back to these natural materials. Not only they cook better and make your food taste better, but it is a very close-to-nature way of cooking your food that cannot compare to any modern pot available, in my honest opinion.
Again, the lovely bowl and dish are from Dishes Only!

Italian Lentil Stew | Hortus Natural Cooking

And here is the recipe. I used a rosemary and sage infused oil, which you can learn to make in this post.

Nonetheless, what hopes and plans do you have for this 2015? I’d love to know! :)
And of course, THANK YOU ALL for visiting my little webspace!! I am grateful for every single comment and every single view. You are the best <3

Hearthy Lentil Stew
Adapted from Micheal Pollan's Family Cookbook.
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, finely choppes
  • 1 cup carrot, diced (I grated it!)
  • 1 cup celery, leaves and stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1¾ cups brown lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups vegetable stock, low sodium if not homemade
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • a 2-inch piece of Parmigiano rind*
  • 1½ tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • a bay leaf (my addition)
  • The original recipe also includes (if adding these ingredients too, add an extra cup of stock)
  • 7 oz cubed firm tofu
  • 1 medium zucchini, quartered and diced into ¼ inch pieces
  • 1 cup packed baby spinach leaves.
  • * If you are vegan, leave this out, or, if strict vegetarian, skip this and add a grating of pecorino made with vegetarian rennet at the end.
  2. Add the olive oil, onion and celery to the pot, and stir-fry until aromatic, 5 minutes. Add the garlic, the carrots, and wine. Stir fry for another couple of minutes, then add the lentils, along with the oregano and bay leaf, salt and pepper (I'd say about 1 tsp of the first and ½ of the second, but you can check for salt at the end). Add the stock and cheese rind, and bring it to a gentle simmer. Cook until the lentils are tender and the stock has reduced, about 30 to 40 minutes depending on the lentils. After 10 minutes of cooking, add the zucchini and tofu if using. Add the balsamic vinegar, and stir well to finish. Serve as is, or with a grating of seasoned cheese. Vegans can just leave the rind out, and add a tbsp of nutritional yeast if they like!
  4. Just throw ALL your ingredients into the pot, stir, cover, and bring it to a simmer! Let it cook for about 30 minutes, covered, then uncover the pot and finish cooking for another 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper.
  5. NOTE: I'd add about ¼ cup of tomato passata to the initial stir-fry if you have it. It really adds a lot to this.

Mist -Italian Lentil Stew | Hortus Natural Cooking


Italian Lentil Stew | Hortus Natural Cooking

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