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Spiced puy lentil salad

September 29, 2011

Lentils can be a hard sell, but these even managed to get a compliment from a lentil AND yogurt hater. Lentils are mixed with lemon, toasted cumin and coriander, golden onions, garlic, yogurt and if you want extra deliciousness, goat’s feta or chevre. Ottolenghi, we love you. Both of us. This is a very adapted version of his puy lentil galettes (Plenty, p.208), morphed into a salad. I tossed with grated carrots for crunch, let the flavours play together, then layered with green leafy bits (I used miner’s lettuce from the garden, but baby spinach is Ottolenghi’s first choice).

I ran out of lemons so used some bottled (gulp) lime juice and lemon balm. I wouldn’t really say this is a good route to go, just by the way. It was still tasty, but definitely missing the sour kick needed and loved in the first version. Likewise, the yogurt should ideally be thick and sour – this is one of the few times I’d reach for Cyclops yogurt over Clearwater! The lemon isn’t actively sour it just helps balance the earthy flavours in this, so don’t skimp!

So how would I describe this? A little gritty from the combo of carrots and lentils, sweet from the onions and spices, rich and kind of silky/creamy at the same time without being gluggy or that kind of stick-to-your ribs wintery. Doesn’t sound great, but it was wonderful – once you mix the lentils, lemon, spices, and onion, you will undoubtedly swoon. To be honest if I wasn’t feeling more virtuous I’d have just eaten that – no goat’s cheese needed even. Do what suits you and what you have on hand though. This could easily be vegan even – you may want to use sorrel as the leaves though or add some more lemon juice (you’ll have a slightly soupier mix though). One thing I’d recommend though is to cook the spices as specified in the recipe – I tried shortcutting and it didn’t taste the same at all!

Lentil salad

serves two. ingredient amounts are fairly flexible

  • large handful of cooked puy lentils* (I got mine from Med Foods, they’re local! How cool is that?!), drained
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • enough fresh lemon or lime juice (plus zest) to wet the lentils so they are a bit sloppy
  • a large spoonful of thick, sour greek yogurt
  • extra virgin olive oil, cooking oil and salt
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • optional: about 75g goat’s feta or chevre, crumbled
  • optional: lemon balm, finely chopped, or coriander and mint (Ottolenghi included these, but I don’t like or have either) – leave sine whole for garnish if you want
  • salad leaves (pref baby spinach)
*cover lentils in 3-4 times the amount of water with a bay leaf if you have one, cover and turn heat to low. Let sit for about 30-40 minutes until the lentils are soft but still keep their shape. Add more water so they are immersed and sea salt.
Toss lentils with lemon juice, some olive oil, and the carrots. Set aside for the lentils and carrots to really drink in the flavour.
In a frypan, heat the cumin and coriander seeds on medium low heat until fragrant (this actually does happen – the smell is mesmerising). Remove from heat sharpish and pound in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of rock salt. In the same frypan, heat a Tablespoon of cooking oil, and cook onions until softened. Add spices and garlic, cook another two minutes, until garlic is getting golden. Toss through the lentils. Mix in the yogurt and a third of the goat’s stuff if using. Taste, season further if required with salt. Remember to keep it unsalty if you’re using feta!
To assemble, layer the rest of the goat’s cheese with your greens. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (lick a drop and if you like it as is, you’ll like it in the salad!). Serve alongside some crusty bread if you like!

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2011 1:44 am

    I tried lentils for the first time this year, and I’m a fan! Here are two recipes I’ve made with them so far:

  2. September 30, 2011 2:19 am

    Oh, I do love lentils, and so does the Hubby. We’re always on the lookout for new things to do with them – THIS sounds like a real winner!

  3. September 30, 2011 4:57 am

    These wouldn’t be a tough sell for me!

  4. peasepudding permalink
    September 30, 2011 8:42 am

    Looks beautiful Zo. I would definitely add the mint and coriander as I love both and have just planted some new mint for the summer season salads.

  5. September 30, 2011 12:26 pm

    S: Thanks, I hadn’t considered putting lentils into a frittata!

    G: Lucky! Most guys I know don’t really like them :(

    R: That is because you are a man of refined taste :D

    P: Thanks Allison, I should probably try it one day as they might taste really good together, who knows? Will start off with mint when I next have a garden since it’s at least nice in drinks and water.

  6. September 30, 2011 6:19 pm

    How cool to have a local supply, I didn’t know! Will have to get some pronto! Salad looks lovely :-)

  7. mairi29 permalink
    September 30, 2011 7:26 pm

    Beautiful, what an interesting salad & I love lentils :) (And pretty much anything Ottolenghi too!) These are fantastic pics too.

  8. October 1, 2011 8:05 am

    The salad looks gorgeous! Filling but light and delicious :)

  9. October 1, 2011 9:22 am

    One word. Tasty! Adoring the Indian feel, but with a lighter twist.

    This would be FANTASTIC with lamb for us meaty people.

  10. October 1, 2011 12:41 pm

    I love lentils and yogurt – especially together! – so you don’t need to sell me on this salad. Looks delicious!

  11. October 2, 2011 9:21 pm

    Also, I have an award for you :-) It’s waiting here:

  12. October 3, 2011 2:26 pm

    I actually had some French lentils with roasted brussels sprouts for dinner.

    I like how you used lentils in a salad: so filling and it looks pretty too!

  13. October 3, 2011 2:32 pm

    B: I know! Nik at Med Foods mentioned it so I had to whip along and try them. They are lovely, although admittedly a bit pricier – still great value for money though compared to lots of other protein sources!

    M: Yes, Ottolenghi anything seems to be a surefire win!

    T: Yep, that’s about right!

    WLM: Mmm, it would indeed be fantastic with lamb!

    K: I’m definitely going to be trying that more in future. Actually I saw a hummus recipe with yogurt in it, so I imagine a red lentil & yogurt hummus would be pretty delicious.

    O: Ooo, you would have to do a bit more convincing with brussels sprouts! I should try them roasted but they never seen very cheap where I am. Loving lentils in my salad – as you say they are actually quite pretty and add a nice earthiness that you can play up or pare down with some zingy dressing.

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