I am something of a lentil champion-er. They've been good to me over the years: seeing me through my studenthood; through sickness; through health and through financial instability. I won't hear a bad word said about them. They've had a bad rep for a while, but I think (as Bob Dylan puts it) 'the times, they are a chaaaangin'. Lentils are proving their versatility and are popping up on menus everywhere.
Puy lentils (or poor man's caviar as they're known in France) are the crème de la crème of the lentil world—they hold their shape and texture much better than standard lentils, as they are grown in the hot volcanic climate and mineral rich soil of Le Puy. This warm salad uses them as a bed partner with mozzarella and makes for a lovely, rustic, peasant-y plate.
Warm Puy Lentil Salad with Burata and Mint Dressing (serves 2)
Preparation time: 20mins
Cooking Time: 30mins
For the lentils:
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 celery stick, diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 200g puy lentils
- 1 bay leaf
For the rest:
- a large hunk of white bread (stale works well)
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- a handful of mint leaves
- 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- a big handful of spinach
- 1 ball of burata (or buffalo mozzarella, or just really nice mozzarella)
- a big handful of washed spinach
- baby salad leaves if you want it to look prettier (not obligatory)
- Sweat the carrot, onion, celery and garlic in a big pan until lightly coloured.
- Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold water.
- Add them to the vegetables with 600ml of cold water and the bay leaf.
- Bring them to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25 mins or until tender.
- For the croutons – rip up the bread into large-ish chunks, heat a pan with a good big glug of olive oil and fry them until golden and crispy (you may need to add more oil as you go). Season with lots of salt and pepper.
- For the dressing just whiz up the mint leaves with a glug of olive oil, vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt.
- When the lentils are ready, drain them, season them, then stir the spinach through them so it wilts in the heat.
- When you dish up – tear the burata and croutons over the lentils and spoon over the dressing.
- Decorate with baby salad leaves.