Lentils with bacon.

Nick is a pretty, pretty boy, with bright blue eyes and dimples, and he’s tall and I met him in poetry class in 2006. He was literate and a looker, and that’s all I thought I needed. We started dating in 2007, and shortly thereafter I learned that he fished. And then I learned that he hunted. We were engaged almost immediately, and I’m still surprised I wasn’t the one who asked.

For the past couple of years, we’ve had our freezer stocked with wild local venison, and I can’t think of a bigger thing to brag about. Last year Nathan, my brother-in-law, brought the deer home and we got a portion – a few pounds of ground meat and some backstrap. This year, he and Nick got the deer together a little north of Princeton, BC, and so we have half a deer to call our own, portioned into roasts, chops, stew meat, and ground, and it is some of the most flavourful meat I’ve ever had. Once you try the meat of an animal that’s lived a happy life and that’s been fed its natural diet, there’s no going back to that cruelly treated but cheaper feedlot stuff. This is beautiful meat, dark and lean, wild-tasting but not gamey. If it’s possible, I am more into Nick now that he’s bringing home wild game than I was when our teacher was comparing him to John Thompson and Ezra Pound. The good meat more than makes up for Nick’s faults, which I would later discover include teeth-grinding, wrong-part-of-the-toothpaste-squeezing, and drinking the last of anything I might have wanted in the fridge, among other things.

I’ve deviated a fair bit from what I wanted to tell you, and I hope you’re not disappointed that the thing I sat down to write about here was lentils. I made a venison sirloin tip roast tonight, and it was flawless, cooked perfectly and seasoned with black pepper and rosemary, but to be honest I didn’t write the recipe down and now I’ve forgotten it. I was intent on telling you about the lentils, which Nick groaned about when I suggested them, but which he later helped himself to seconds of, and even though I planned for there to be four servings of the stuff, there ended up only being two.

If you’re going to make these as your side dish, maybe make a salad as well, so there’s enough to go around. These lentils are spicy, warming, a little tart, and taste of bacon, so don’t underestimate their appeal.

Lentils with bacon

(Serves four as a side-dish.)

  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 19 oz. can lentils
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towel, and drain all but one tablespoon of fat from the pan.

Add olive oil to pan.

Add onions to pan, and fry until translucent. Add chili flakes, garlic, and lemon zest, and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add lentils, and then squish lemon juice over top. Add salt, and cook until lentils are warmed through and beginning to brown, about two minutes. Taste, adjust seasonings, and then add bacon back to the pan. Add parsley, and cook until leaves have brightened, 30 seconds to a minute, and then serve.

These are excellent alongside roasted meat, but they’d also be pretty fabulous on their own with some buttered crusty bread, or with some roasted winter vegetables for a mostly wholesome weeknight meal. The recipe is easily doubled, but if you do double it, taste as you go before doubling the lemon; the zest and juice of two lemons might be a lot more than you’ll need.