Lilly Higgins: An incredibly simple but rewarding summer stew

Dill is one of my favourite herbs and one I come across quite infrequently

This week’s recipe is inspired by a beautiful photo of a similar dish that I just had to try to recreate. I usually make a salad of Puy lentils with beetroot and feta, but this is more of a summer stew.

Dill is one of my favourite herbs and one I come across quite infrequently. I love its flavour and it goes with so much, apart from just smoked salmon or chowder. I follow Ukrainian chef and author Olia Hercules and her husband Joe Woodhouse on Instagram and just love what they both cook. The original photo Woodhouse posted was of a dish of lentils topped with yogurt, beetroot, dill and green chilli. I improvised with the recipe and it's one I'll be recreating many times again.

I have one of Hercules' books, Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and beyond. It's a celebration of food and flavours from the Black Sea and Baku to Armenia and Azerbaijan. I bought it mostly for the chapter on fermented pickles and preserves, but there is an excellent range of breads, dumplings, soups and stews. It is a really gorgeous book that I must cook from more. I especially love the generous use of herbs, so much dill, coriander and parsley, balancing salty brined olives and kraut with sour cream, yogurt, kefir and then sweet prunes, cherries and beets.The stews and soups are nourishing, the chicken broth with dumplings is a must-have recipe. I can't recommend the book enough.

The original dish called for yogurt, in true Ukrainian style. The yogurt is delicious with the dill and beets, but I used some very creamy mozzarella that I had at hand. Feta would also work well.


Lentils are just such a fantastic ingredient to have in the cupboard. I always have a few tins and bags. During winter months especially, we have dahl at least once a week. It’s real fast food that’s healthy and delicious.

If you’re starting with raw beetroot, cover them in foil and bake until done then peel, cube and dress with vinegar, salt and a little sugar. I took a handy shortcut and bought some of Ballymaloe’s Irish pickled beetroot. It’s widely available and its sweetness worked so well with the jalapenos. This dish easily fed two as a main course but would do four as part of a larger meal. I imagine it would be lovely with roast chicken or more side salads. We had it with a plate of sliced tomatoes that our neighbour grew, large dark heritage varieties that are so amazing when kept out of the fridge. Incredibly simple but rewarding food.

Recipe: Puy lentils with beetroot and dill