For one year, in grade seven, my school decided to raise money by having “Hot Lunch Wednesdays”. Instead of bringing our lunches on Wednesdays, if our parents paid into the system, we’d get a hot lunch prepared and served by Nick, our school custodian. Trust me, the lunches were better than you might think. Nick was beloved in our school and the lunches were highly sought after. My favourites were the beef pies with gravy and the sloppy joes – two things that weren’t in my mom’s repertoire. My mom made beef pies on occasion, but they were filled with rutabaga and other vegetables along with beef. Nick the Custodian’s pies were sized individually, came inverted and covered in gravy. They were, I later realized, from the supermarket’s frozen section and unlike my mom’s pies, there was not a vegetable in sight. My grade seven self cheered loudly. But it was the sloppy joes that made the biggest hot lunch impact. The combination of the beefy chili hitting the hamburger bun was a match made in heaven for my tender tastebuds. The hamburger bun was transformed from a bun to a wet delicious sponge (I know, it doesn’t sound that good to me either). When I got home, I begged my mom to pour a ladle of her homemade Bolognese sauce over some sandwich bread so I could replicate a sloppy joe at home. It was true comfort food.
I first had lentil sloppy joes at a local brew pub and was gobsmacked that I had never heard of such a thing. It was tasty, healthy and paired well with a beer. Not too shabby. I remember bookmarking the Snobby Joes recipe from Veganomicon, but never following through. Until today. But this recipe isn’t the same one from that cookbook. Instead of cooking the lentils separately, I cooked them like I would in a stew hoping to get a smoky flavourful dish. I also wanted to use up an apple that had been sitting in my crisper since December. Not so great for snacking on, but oh so good for cooking. I was well rewarded. This dish is simple and hearty and gives me all those good kind of feelings that I had back in grade seven.
apple-lentil slappy joes
This dish is straightforward and simple, but you should check on it once in a while as it simmers away on the stove. You don’t want the mixture to get too dry, so be sure to add in additional liquid to keep the mixture stew-y. Please note, you do not need to use red lentils. I only had 1/2 a cup of green and decided to add the red later (since they are faster cooking) in the recipe for bulk, but I did like the texture that both kinds of lentils gave this dish. If you want to make things even better, add a slice of cheese to each bun before toasting under the broiler – yum!
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 large red pepper, finely diced
1 apple, cored & finely diced
1/2 c small green lentils, picked over & rinsed
1 c red wine (or white wine/stock/beer/apple juice)
2 c water
1 c marinara sauce
1/4 c ketchup
1 T dijon mustard
1 T brown sugar or maple syrup
1 t chili powder
1 t smoked paprika
a big squeeze (or a little squeeze) of sriracha
1/2 c red lentils
salt + pepper
4 whole wheat burger buns, split and toasted under the broiler (dish is only gluten-free if you use gf buns)
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and when the oil is hot, add in the onion, celery, carrot, red pepper and apple. Let everything get shiny and wilty for a few minutes and then add in the green lentils, along with the red wine, water, marinara sauce, ketchup, sugar, dijon, sriracha and spices. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add in the red lentils and add in a bit more water or liquid of your choosing if needed. Simmer on low heat for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender, adding more liquid if mixture becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper and taste to adjust seasoning. Serve open-face over toasted buns.