I’ve been making this Delia Smith lentil salad for a very long time. Remember Delia? She’s the no-nonsense English cook who taught a whole generation basic cookery skills. One doesn’t hear much about her these days and it’s been a while since Delia has written a cook book but her recipes are tried and tested and can always be relied upon. I remember years ago when her Summer & Winter Entertaining cook books were released and how excited I was as a novice cook by the recipes and how approachable they all were. I think I made just about every recipe in those books and some are dishes that I still make today, this lentil salad being one of them. There is enough going on in the salad to make it perfect for a light meal but if you are serving it as a side dish, which I regularly do, it’s best to serve it with main dishes that are not too rich. It goes especially well with roast chicken and grilled fish.
Ingredients – Serves 4 as a side dish Adapted from Delia Smith
225 g Puy lentils – these are the small green French lentils which hold their shape very well when cooked
40 g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 fat clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 heaped teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the Dressing
110 g goats cheese
1 fat clove garlic, peeled
1 level teaspoon sea salt
1 rounded teaspoon powdered mustard – I prefer to use Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons walnut oil – you can replace with extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
30 g baby rocket leaves
freshly milled black pepper
First you need to cook the lentils. To do this, heat the oil in a medium saucepan and when it’s hot, lightly fry the chopped walnuts for about 1 minute. Then remove them with a draining spoon to a plate and keep them aside for later.
Now to the oil left in the pan, add the onion and crushed garlic and let these cook and soften for about 5 minutes. After that, stir in the lentils, bay leaf and thyme and make sure they all get a good coating with oil. Next add 275 ml of boiling water, but don’t add any salt – just put a lid on, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and let the lentils cook for about 30 minutes or until they’re just tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. You really need to bite one to test if they’re done.
While the lentils are cooking you can prepare the dressing. Use a pestle and mortar crush the garlic with the salt until it’s creamy, then add the mustard and work that into the garlic paste. After that, whisk in the balsamic vinegar, followed by the oils. Then season well with freshly milled black pepper.
As soon as the lentils are cooked, add salt to taste. Empty them into a warm serving bowl (if you feel that there is still some water left in the pan, drain the lentils first) and while they’re still hot, pour the dressing over. Give everything a good toss and stir, then crumble the goats’ cheese all over and add the rocket leaves. Give everything one more toss and stir, and serve straight away with the walnuts scattered over.