In our house, lentils with a fried egg is known as "cowboy food." I still haven't understood exactly why, but my husband peddles this dinner to our children as such, summoning up images of crackling campfires, tin cups, neighing horses... Thomas is German, and obviously not very well acquainted with the food culture of the American West. But it works! The children might even call it their favorite meal. It may be the marketing, but it may simply be because it's a very good meal. It's also simple, and budget conscious.
This technique for cooking lentils breaks up the process into two basic steps: First cook the lentils in lots of water with aromatics and vegetables cut into large chunks until barely al dente. Remove from heat and discard the pieces of vegetables and herbs. Then brown more of the same vegetables, finely diced, return the lentils to the pan with the vegetable mirepoix (the finely diced vegetables browned in olive oil), and reheat until the lentils are cooked to desired consistency. —nettleandquince
Pick through the lentils to look for small stone intruders that must be discarded.
To wash lentils, cover with cold water and drain in a fine mesh sieve.
Peel and cut into large chunks half an onion and half of the other vegetable, reserving the rest for later.
Place lentils into a large saucepan with 4 cups (double the volume) water. Add vegetable chunks, a few sprigs of parsley, and bay leaves, bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat when the lentils are just starting to soften but still retain a nice bite (they will cook a bit more later). Discard sprigs of parsley and vegetable chunks, pour lentils into a large bowl, and set aside. Quickly rinse and dry saucepan for reuse.
Finely dice the rest of the vegetables, and wash and finely chop the rest of the parsley.
Heat enough olive oil to cover the base of the saucepan. Add onion and cook until nicely brown, stirring occasionally. Add vegetable and sweat for a few minutes until it becomes translucent. Add the lentils with some of the excess liquid. **The lentils should remain moist and shiny but not swimming in liquid. If necessary add of dash of plain water to prevent the lentils from drying out.** Season generously with salt and pepper and heat gently. The lentils will continue to cook, so test and remove from stove when they have reached the desired consistency (I personally like lentils to retain some bite).
Check salt and pepper seasoning, adjust, add a tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon each of balsamic and red wine vinegars, stir in the chopped parsley.
Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan. Once hot, crack the eggs into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Fry until the white is set but the yellow still runny. Serve over the lentils.