African Vanielje on Nov 30 2007 at 12:03 pm | Filed under: Uncategorized
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.Â 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.