Mark’s and my favourite kind of food to eat is somewhat sloppy stuff on top of starch, and dang if I’m not willing to provide at least that. Curries, pasta, veg ragout/beans on toast, Moroccan-style tagines with couscous and the like eaten out of a big bowl while we catch up on our stories is how the dinner bell rings most nights. Sweatpants, hair up, dog whining for a few scraps, and any number of variations on the rhetorical “This is good, right?” It makes me happier than a beautifully set table ever could.
I unabashedly love baked beans. From scratch, canned, doesn’t matter. When Kristy from Keepin’ It Kind sent me her new cookbook But I Could Never Go Vegan!, my eyes went right to her maple-baked beans + cornbread dish. Deep comfort in a tidy package. But I didn’t have beans and I had used up all of my cornmeal trying to develop a recipe for my own book, so I had to get creative. Having seen a baked beans approach to lentils from another cooking site that I love, and knowing that millet ground for porridge is very corn/polenta-like, I sort of stumbled into a solution. I like Kristy’s book because, in a very fun way, it’s structured around the idea of “no excuses.” She makes brilliant nut-based versions of cheeses to satiate dairy cravings and thoughtful hearty mains to nip the “rabbit food” criticism in the bud.
This dish, with flavours inspired by her recipe, was so cozy and light at the same time. Once the lentils are cooked, it comes together pretty fast too. I’ve been making homemade barbecue sauce since I learned how to cook and I always find it a satisfying process. The recipe I’ve offered here is my go-to quick and dirty version that’s perfect for this little bowl, but it’s also nice for grilled portobellos, crispy tempeh slices, roasted sweet potato wedges etc.
Vegan BBQ Lentils with Millet Polenta
Quick BBQ Sauce
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 small shallot, peeled and grated on a box grater
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 1/2 cups jarred tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp tamari
- salt + pepper to taste
- 1 1/4 cups cooked french or black lentils
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 small cooking onion, small dice
- salt + pepper
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup raw millet, ground into flour/meal
- handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2-3 sticks of celery, small diced with inner leaves if possible
- inspired by Kristy Turner’s maple-baked beans in But I Could Never Go Vegan! Millet polenta technique from Erin Alderson‘s The Homemade Flour Cookbook
- I cook lentils like pasta. Tons of water in the pot and I just keep checking for doneness.
- With the liquid components of this barbecue sauce, I like to blend them up for total smoothness prior to adding them to the pot, but this is an optional step. A good thing to note as well: I’ve made this sauce with less than half of the specified maple syrup amount, and loved it just the same. If you’re less excited about the play of sweet flavours in a sauce, you can use less.
- Make the barbecue sauce. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the grated shallot and minced garlic to the pan and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft. About 3 minutes. Add the smoked paprika, mustard powder, and chili powder to the pot and stir for 20 seconds or so. Add the tomato sauce, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and tamari to the pot and stir. Bring the barbecue sauce to a boil and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of sauce for this dish and store the rest covered in your refrigerator.
- Combine the cooked lentils and 1 cup of barbecue sauce in a small saucepan and keep very warm. Add a fat pinch of salt and pepper if you like.
- Make the polenta. In a medium saucepan/small soup pot, heat the 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until translucent and soft. About 5-7 minutes. Add the vegetable stock to the pot along with a heavy pinch of salt. Bring the stock to a boil and then slowly sprinkle in the ground millet flour while whisking. Keep whisking the ground millet and stock until you have a thick, cooked polenta-like mixture. Remove it from the heat and divide the polenta among two large-ish bowls. Top the polenta with the warm vegan BBQ lentils. In a small bowl, quickly toss the parsley leaves and celery together with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Divide the little salad amongst the two plates and serve.