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Easy Chicken and Beluga Lentils in the Pressure Cooker

Okay, I don't do New Year resolutions, for the most part but I am kind of making one anyway. Due to high level adulting that my life has required over the last 6 months, I have not been cooking enough. It's gotten to the point where our waitress worries about us if we haven't been to the pub in a couple of nights and that is just kind of sad, seeing that cooking is kind of what I am supposed to do over here.

Enter my Instant Pot. Because of this stupid, crazy amazing thing I no longer really have an excuse to skip cooking dinner. I can throw together a delicious, nutritious stew like this in almost no time. Honestly, from the first chop of an onion to slopping it into a bowl and slamming it down on the table, this dish takes under 45 minutes.

This is my favourite type of recipe because it's more of a template than a recipe.The possibilities are endless and the flavour combinations are only limited by what you happen to have in your kitchen at the moment.

Year of the Pulse

Did you know that the United Nations declared 2016 the year of the pulse? Click here and go read all about it and then come back here and finish reading. It's okay, I'll have a coffee and wait.

So, what is a pulse you ask?
Pulses are legumes but not all legumes are pulses. Pulses are the dried seeds of the legume family - the most common are lentils, chickpeas, dried peas and edible beans. They are low in fat, high in protein and fibre, they are inexpensive culinary powerhouses and we should all be incorporating them into our diet.

Fun fact: Canada is the world's largest lentil grower, producing over 80% of the world's lentils. 

If you are wary of serving lentils as your main dish, start with a recipe like this, mixing something familiar like chicken with the sturdy beluga lentil that can stand up to stewing without losing it's shape or texture. No beluga lentils? Fine, use some French green lentils ( Puy lentils) or the more common brown lentil (just not the red or yellow dal because they turn to a delicious mush which is great for other dishes, just not this one). No parsnips? Throw in a carrot instead. If you want it to go a bit further, add a potato and if you have no thyme, use whatever you have on hand. Some lemon zest would be great, as would a handful of fresh parsley.

beluga lentils are tiny, black lentils that resemble beluga caviar when cooked, hence the name beluga

This can be done in any pressure cooker but I have tailored it to the Instant Pot, my new bff. You can easily double this to serve 4-6 people but we are just three and at the rate I am going with this thing, I will run out of room in both my fridge AND my freezer by the end of tomorrow so I am trying to avoid leftovers right now.

This is delicious but, let's be honest, it is ugly, brown food at it's finest so if you need your food to be pretty, feel free to scatter chopped parsley, fennel fronds, lemon zest etc over the top. Put a colourful cocktail parasol on the side of the bowl, grab festive napkins and dim the lights if you must but I am bringing BROWN FOOD SEXY BACK.

Chicken and Beluga Lentil Stew

serves 2-3 people

1 tbls olive oil
4 oz diced pancetta
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
stalks from a fennel bulb, diced
4 bone in, skin on chicken thighs (approx 580 grams or just over 1 lb)
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
4 oz beluga lentils
5 cremeni mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
2 or 3 stalks fresh thyme
1 tsp sherry vinegar

Turn the pot to saute
Heat the olive oil and then cook the pancetta until it's just getting crispy before adding in the onion, garlic and fennel. Saute for a couple more minutes and then push the vegetables to the side and add in the chicken breasts, skin side down. Leave them to brown for about 4 or 5 minutes, without turning and then remove the chicken from the pot. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pot.

Add the chicken back in along with the parsnips, lentils, mushrooms and chicken stock. Lay the thyme on the top, sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Seal the lid and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes.
Use quick release when the time is up, remove the chicken, fish out the thyme stalks and hit the off button. Now hit the saute button again, bring the contents to a simmer and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens a bit and the lentils are completely cooked.

Meanwhile, discard the skin and bones from the chicken and shred the meat. Add the meat and the vinegar back into the pot, stir well and serve.

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