3 tablespoons olive oil
3 red onions, halved and sliced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
¾ cup green lentils
700ml vegetable stock
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoons tamarind purée
350g dried fettuccine or tagliatelle
120-150g baby spinach leaves
a good handful coriander leaves
¼ cup pinenuts, toasted

Last lockdown I spent a lot of time diving into cookbooks and came across harak osbao, a Syrian brown lentil and pasta dish. Traditionally, it veers towards a soupy stew in which the pasta is broken up, browned and cooked with stock and the cooked lentils. I liked the nourishing and economical aspect to the dish, but also its big and bold, sweet and tart flavours from the caramelised onion, pomegranate molasses and tamarind. As the weather has warmed up, it has morphed into a more straightforward pasta dish and, along the way, become a family favourite. I like to use green lentils as they hold their shape better. I also add leafy greens to the mix; sometimes silverbeet, rocket or kale depending on what I have to hand, although spinach remains my absolute favourite, especially if I have a few leaves of sorrel to add at the end when in season. Walnuts would be a more traditional nut to use here but a sprinkling of hemp hearts is also very good.

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1.In a wide pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and fry the onions with the sugar and salt, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2.Take off the lid and continue to cook, stirring until dark in colour and silken, approximately another 10-15 minutes.
3.Dress with the pomegranate molasses and set aside.
4.Meanwhile put the lentils in a separate pan with the vegetable stock, bring up to a simmer then cook until just tender but still holding their shape, approximately 20-25 minutes.
5.Drain, but reserve any cooking liquid and set aside.
6.Using the same pan in which you cooked the onions, heat the remaining oil over a gentle heat, add the garlic, cumin seeds, allspice, cinnamon stick and chilli flakes and cook for a minute until fragrant.
7.Add the lentils and most of the onions (reserve some for garnish) and the tamarind purée and keep warm, adding enough of the extra lentil cooking stock to keep the mix loose.
8.Cook the pasta according to the packet directions but undercook by a minute or two.
9.Add the spinach in the final minute.
10.Drain and reserve a little of the pasta water.
11.Add the pasta and spinach to the lentils and allow the pasta to finish cooking.
12.Adjust the seasoning to taste, loosen with the pasta water if necessary and add most of the coriander leaves.
13.Put in a large platter or bowl to serve, garnishing with the remaining onion, extra coriander leaves and the pinenuts.

Recipes & food styling Ginny Grant / Photography Tony Nyberg / Styling Fiona Lascelles

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