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Warm Lentil Salad with Roasted Fennel & Sunblush Tomatoes

Posted Feb 19 2010 1:18am

Lentils are known as nature’s fast food; the ease with which you can cook them and their ability to absorb flavours and spices makes them a wonderful addition or base for many a dish, and that’s before you get to their nutritional value.  Rich in fibre, folate, and iron, lentils are a wonderful source of protein, especially when paired with rice. 

Some of my favourite dishes are made with lentils: whether a delicately spiced dahl or Khicharhhi, an Indian spiced rice dish made with green lentils, nuts and onions.  But the lentil that is currently on the top of my favourites list is the Puy.  The Puy lentil originates from the Auvergne region in France and is known for its unique, nutty flavour and mineral rich density.  Unlike many lentils the Puy contains less starch than normal, which means that it doesn’t break down or become mushy when cooked, this makes it ideal for using in salads, as the foundation of a vegetarian main, or as an accompaniment to roasted meats and fish.

This particular salad has a wonderful medley of colours and flavours to it: the aniseed, roasted fennel meets with intense, sweet sunblush tomatoes; while the toasted hazelnuts add a buttery bite to the proceedings.  Be sure to use a really good quality olive oil for the dressing, it makes all the difference to the overall flavour and adds a glorious sheen to the nutty bite of the lentils.  I like to serve it warm – or at a push at room temperature – with a green leaf salad or some baby spinach leaves.

WARM LENTIL SALAD WITH ROASTED FENNEL & SUNBLUSH TOMATOES

Serves 4

250g Puy lentils

2 fennel bulbs

150g sunblush tomatoes

50g hazelnuts

2 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

A small bunch of parsley

 

For the dressing

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp agave syrup

Seasoning

 

Preheat the oven to 200c (180c Fan).  Trim the fennel bulbs and cut into quarters and then cut each quarter in to small chunks.  Finely chop the parsley and peel and crush the garlic.  Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until golden and toasted – approximately 6 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool down.

Place the lentils in to a large saucepan then pour over enough water to cover them by at least 3 inches. Salt the water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are just tender, adding more water if necessary.  Meanwhile, combine the fennel, garlic and olive oil in a roasting pan, season well and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until the fennel is tender and golden brown at the edges.  Once cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing together, whisking with a fork to amalgamate the flavours.   Once the lentils are cooked, drain and place in a serving bowl, pour over the dressing, stir well, season to taste and add more olive oil if you think it needs it.  Tip in the roasted fennel, sunblush tomatoes, hazelnuts and chopped parsley, toss carefully to mix together and serve while warm.

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