The Lentil of Salad
Lentil salad, chicken. You heard me. Lentils. Hippie heaven on a plate. No, I am being serious. This is the stuff. Rip out that prejudice you have sticking up on the wall of your brain of how unenjoyable lentil salad is. Because baby, it isn’t. I went to a whole lot of trouble to make it into something beautiful and delicious, just to put a smile on your face. I know, I’m such a good person.
I want you to know why I love this salad, and why you should to. First of all, there is no celery in it. Celery is such a spoilsport. Secondly, no raw vegetables. They make salads like this one taste more healthy than delicious. And I would choose tasty over healthy any day. The sesame oil, the feta and the fresh coriander leaves are what make this lovely rock in my opinion. And even though I’m not usually a big fan, a confettied scatter of the ever so popular beetroot makes this salad enter a dimension of its own. Funny, Australians are the largest consumers of beetroot. I never would have guessed. It’s not like we’re big on beet salad or anything. Health Conscious? God no. You know what it is? Burgers. Burgers with a slice of pickled beetroot. At least we get a point for aesthetics. So yes. Sweet, salty and sour deliciousness.
And while you’re at it, you should go buy this cookbook called The Modern Vegetarian: Food Adventures for the Contemporary Palate by Maria Elia. It’s the initial source of inspiration for this recipe. Also, this is a vegetarian cookbook where literally every single recipe makes you want to get cooking immediately. Get it.
The Best Lentil Salad
Serves 2 really hungry people, 3 medium hungry people or 4 as part of a meal. Your pick.
1 cup brown lentils
2 Tsp olive oil
2 carrots, finely diced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp vegetable stock powder
1 garlic clove, crushed
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (4-5 beets) canned baby beetroot, finely diced
1 bunch coriander, finely chopped
100g Danish feta or goat’s cheese, crumbled
You may have your own way of cooking brown lentils, so do it your way if you want – this here is how I do it: Pour the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with about 5 cm of water. Let them sit for about half an hour until they have soaked up some of the water, then put over a low flame. You may have to top up with more water along the way, but see how it goes. Simmer lentils till soft but not squishy. We need them to hold their shape. Drain them and keep to one side.
Now while the lentils are cooking, add the chopped carrots, onion and olive oil to a frypan and cook, covered, until soft. Turn off the heat. Add the sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, stock powder, garlic and pepper. I do this in the same pan to save on dirty dishes. Now add the lentils and give it a good stir. Cover, and let them absorb all those delicious flavours, for about 15 minutes. Once the salad has cooled down, you can add the beetroot, coriander and feta.