Autumn Salad of Puy Lentils – for WHB

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At this time of year I seem to find it more and more difficult to pry myself away from both my duvet and comfort food. I appear to have some sort of inbuilt neolithic urge to stock up on fat to survive the winter. It’s a good thing that whaling is outlawed as I may be tempted to just go straight for intravenous blubber infusions as temperatures plummet. The thing is, although I live on salads in summer, they just don’t fill the gap in winter. But I start to miss my regular intake of fresh herbs.

When my mom was very busy and working long shifts at her restaurant she would always fuel up at the salad station. They would prepare fresh hummus, aubergine pate, lentil salads, chickpea, barley and wheatberry salads, marinated artichoke hearts, olive, dolmades and pickles daily, so it was the work of a few minutes to stock up a fabulous plate, rip a few lettuce leaves, chop in some fresh fruit and veg …. She always maintained that she could feel the nutrients from the herbs flowing into her veins. For her this was like a shot of red bull.

And I have to admit, I never ate as healthily as the summers I spent in that hot African kitchen. I still love to eat this way, but as the only person in my house who is mad about pulses, I tend not to bother. Which is silly, and I was reminded just how silly the other day, when I whipped up this lentil salad in next to no time.

Lentils don’t need to be pre-soaked and do not take long to cook, so not much pre-planning needed. And like a lot of pulses, if they sit for a day they become infused with the flavours you have added, and therefore exponentially more delicious.

My favourites are these tiny little green speckled Puy lentils. Originally grown only in the volcanic soil of Le-Puy-en-Velay, in the Auvergne region in central France, they are now grown in Italy and North America as well. They have a lovely peppery taste and they hold their shape when cooked, making them perfect for salads.  They also have a pretty impressive cv when it comes to health benefits, being low in fat, higher in protein than other pulses, packed with vitamins and minerals and good for lowering cholestrol.

They are easy to cook too, just rinse, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for around 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. You can add more water if necessary and you can add things like bay leaves, whole garlic cloves or stock to give added flavour. Do not season until they are cooked though, as salt toughens their skins.

Once they are drained you can serve as a warm salad, or dress and allow to cool before adding your other salad ingredients. In my case, the salad is usually dictated by what I have in the fridge, and this time it was a simple combination of sundried tomatoes, greek feta, red onion and plenty of herbs. Thyme, mint, coriander, parsley and Greek Basil, to be exact. Tossed with a balsamic vinegar and lemon juice dressing, the salad was just perfect. You don’t really need to eat anything else with it as the lentils contain plenty of protein, but you could add some crispy bacon or pancetta if you wished. I ate it garnished with some extra Greek Basil and a slug of sweet aged balsamic vinegar. A perfect Autumn salad, and not a lettuce leaf in sight.

This is my entry for this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Kalyn herself this weekend.

16 Responses to “Autumn Salad of Puy Lentils – for WHB”

  1. on 30 Nov 2007 at 4:13 pm Kit

    That looks so good and you’ve reminded me that I love lentils too, but rarely cook them except as a very occasional soup. When I worked in Italy the best lentils were the ones from Castelluccio in Umbria – tiny brown ones similar to the Puy ones. We used to see little old ladies sitting outside their doors sifting them for grit up in this tiny rough village high in the Monti Sibillini. Now I’m hungry for some.

  2. on 30 Nov 2007 at 11:56 pm marye

    O.k..I want that when I come to lunch. :)

  3. on 01 Dec 2007 at 5:00 am Julie

    Your dish looks delicious. I love lentils as a comfort food, too, and appreciate how quick they are to prepare! I should make curried lentil stew sometime soon!

  4. on 01 Dec 2007 at 5:36 pm steamykitchen

    In Florida, “winter” means 70-80F – which is absolutely no justification for my “stocking up on fat” and the extra 5 lbs I’ve gained.

    boo.

    ;-)
    j

  5. on 01 Dec 2007 at 6:15 pm african vanielje

    Kit, I love that visual, and these are gone so time to make another dish.

    Marye, you are welcome to lunch anytime, as long as you bring one of your fab desserts

    Julie, that sounds delicious. My mom does a great lentil curry too. I should get her recipe.

    Jaden, I’m sure that if I lived in Florida I’d think of another reason why I felt compelled to pile on the pounds.

  6. on 01 Dec 2007 at 6:53 pm marye

    Deal!

    How about the one I am currently working on ?
    Chipotle, pistachio and bittersweet chocolate baklava?

    By the way, I launched a new blog today….The more I write the sooner we can do lunch. ;)

  7. on 01 Dec 2007 at 7:01 pm african vanielje

    That sounds scrummy, I’m just popping over to you to check it out

  8. on 01 Dec 2007 at 8:51 pm Katie

    I love those little green lentils…especially in salads. I’m the same about winter – I made lentil stew last week!
    Gorgeous advent calendar btw…

  9. on 02 Dec 2007 at 5:33 pm Jeni

    This look fantastically good and easy. I, too, love puy lentils. (Sorry I’ve been away from commenting for a few days. I come back and see that you have been busy posting! )
    xo, jeni

  10. on 02 Dec 2007 at 5:49 pm african vanielje

    Katie and Jeni I’m on a lentil roll at the moment. 101 ways to eat lentils, all yummy.
    Jeni, hope you had a good break

  11. on 03 Dec 2007 at 4:51 am Laurie Constantino

    Gorgeous salad, hard to believe your family members won’t eat it. Perfect seasonal fare, and I’m with Katie, Puy lentils are the best. (By the way, I really like the font you are using to title your posts — it really suits the style of your blog.)

  12. on 03 Dec 2007 at 8:32 am Sophie

    I know what you mean, regular salad just doesn’t cut it in Winter…

    Your lentil salad sounds delicious! I also love puy lentils with roasted onions, peppers and mushrooms and a dab of that balsamic vinegar.

  13. on 03 Dec 2007 at 12:21 pm Susan from Food Blogga

    I agree–lentils are so easy to prepare and are so versatile. I never tire of lentil salads and am always trying new combinations of ingredients. Yours looks delicious!

  14. on 03 Dec 2007 at 1:44 pm Helene

    I never thought of lentil salad, well another have to try.:))

  15. on 03 Dec 2007 at 4:06 pm african vanielje

    Laurie, I know, but I live in hope. They never used to eat beans or barley either but lately my husband is quite taken with it. Thanks, I like the font too. I wanted it to be informal, like my journal…

    Sophie that sounds gorgeous. Lentils are just so versatile…

    Susan, let me know of any new combos you come up with

    Helene, you haven’t lived yet. It is the perfect winter comfort food, without being stodge.

  16. on 06 Dec 2007 at 4:31 pm Jeanne

    Lentils are The Best. I actually make a dish rather a lot like this but serve it warm – lentils with mushrooms, onion, semi-dried tomatoes and feta stirred into it. And then I have the leftovers for lunch the next day. Heaven.

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