I’m quite partial to a substantial salad – for me, a great salad really has to be filling! For this reason, I often use grains such as quinoa, rice, or cous cous. However, for those who prefer to go grain-free, Lentils are the solution!
Lentils and beetroots are perfect partners – together they lend this dish a woody autumnal flavour, spiced with cumin and sumac, and finished with goats cheese.
Lentils are the perfect base for a satisfying, moreish salad without grains. I only ever use ‘de puy’ lentils in salads – they’re small, grey/green lentils which don’t lose they firmness when cooked (provided you don’t overcook them!). Don’t be tempted to try this salad with any other type of lentil! Mushy lentils are not my friends.
Just in the last few weeks I’ve been spotting so many amazing different beetroots in my local greengrocer – I can’t believe they’re strictly in season in February, but Autumn is just around the corner so keep your eyes peeled for little yellow beetroots (they are SO sweet!), and the pink/white ones, which are easy to mistake for radishes at the shop (I’ve done that before!) but are so beautiful when sliced, with rings of vibrant pink and white.
It’s worth noting that you can make this recipe with raw baby beets (as I do), or you can roast your beets first if you prefer. I really love the woody crunch of raw beet, but it does require very small, sweet baby beets, and won’t really work with larger beets which can be a bit hard going on the jaw! The dish is delicious either way, and in fact it’s actually lovely to do a mix of roasted and raw all together – that way you get a mix of textures and it’s a little easier to chomp!
For the salad
- 1 cup ‘de puy’ lentils (the small, black lentil)
- 1 carrot
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 fresh bayleaf
- 3 cups chicken or veg stock
- 6 – 8 mixed baby beets (we have used a mix of purple, white and yellow baby beets)
- Two handfuls flatleaf parsley
- 100g soft goats cheese (we like Meredith dairy goats cheese in olive oil)
- 1 handful toasted walnuts
- 1 red onion
For the dressing
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon sumac
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- Salt and pepper to taste
Firstly, cook your lentils. Put lentils in a saucepan, and cover with cold stock (about 3 cups). Add 1 peeled carrot, 1 slice of celery, 1 fresh bayleaf and half your red onion. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer, and cook for around 25 mins or until ‘al dente’. Taste test at about the 20 minute mark, and keep your eye on them! The lentils should still be quite nutty when done. Drain any excess stock, discard the veggies and bayleaf, and transfer the cooked lentils to a large mixing bowl to cool.
Slice your raw baby beets as finely as you can – if you have a mandolin, use this to slice wafer thin rounds of beetroot. Sometimes a potato peeler can work quite well too, if it’s sharp! Slice the remaining half of your red onion finely too.
Wash and roughly chop your parsley, then pop all your sliced veg and walnuts into the mixing bowl with the lentils (if the lentils are still warm, that’s ok – this dish is delicious served either cold or slightly warm). Save the goats cheese until the very end.
For the dressing, generously slosh all dressing ingredients into the mixing bowl together, tasting as you go. Crumble your goats cheese over the salad at the very end, and sprinkle a little more sumac before serving, because it looks pretty!