The members room (some friends kindly got me a membership for Christmas. Thanks, guys) is a reasonably quiet place to have an only fractionally overpriced lunch with an amazing view over London. In this case, lunch was a genuinely fantastic lentil salad, bursting with garlic and richness. And I forgot to take notes. Bugger.
So this isn’t that. It’s a kind of from-memory analog, accounting for the head of broccoli I had left in, that wouldn’t keep much longer. It is also absolutely a keeper – deep and satisfying. This being me, it involves a whole bulb of roast garlic.
- Puy lentils, 150g
- Broccoli, 1 medium head
- Red pepper, 1 large one or a couple of small
- Tomatoes, 2 medium
- An onion
- Spring onions, a small bunch (4-5)
- Cumin seeds, ~1/2 tsp
- Dried thyme, a pinch
- Chorizo, about 100g
- Chili, a small red one, hot as you like
- Garlic, 1 bulb
- Olive oil, about 1 tbsp, maybe a bit more
- Cider vinegar, about 2 tsp
Serves 4 as a light meal or very generous side. For bulk/protein, omit the chorizo and serve still-warm with some good Lincolnshire sausages, fried slow and sticky.
Put the oven on at about 160c.
Core and de-seed the pepper, and put it in the oven, tossed in a little oil. Put a whole bulb of garlic in with it. These will both be done in around half an hour. Check on them mid way through, and turn the pepper if it’s charring a bit.
Break the broccoli into medium florets. I like to use the stalk, too, so I dice it at this point. You don’t have to. Peel, halve, and slice the onion. Wash and chop the spring onions, including plenty of the green parts. Roughly chop the tomatoes. The whole thing will be less wet if you de-seed them first, but it’s not essential.
Set a pan of water boiling, and add the lentils, cumin seeds, and thyme. A half teaspoon of vegetable stock powder here adds depth, too. But you may find that a bit heavy handed. Cook the lentils, covered, on a low simmer for 20-25 minutes. You want them to retain a little bite and texture. For the final 6-8 minutes or so, add the broccoli and onion.
Once it’s all cooked (the broccoli should be tender but not at all mushy), strain everything and put to one side. If you’re worried about overcooking, you can plunge it into cold water for a minute, then strain again. Once cooled and well drained, combine the lentil broccoli mix with the tomatoes and spring onions.
When the pepper is cooked (soft and slippery but not mushy) and the garlic has softened and smells rich and roasty, remove them from the oven. Once it’s cool enough to handle, it should be easy to slip the skin off the pepper. Doing so makes the dish a bit more pleasant, so I generally would. Slice the pepper into strips, and add these to the salad.
If you’re using the chorizo, then at this point cut it into fine dice, thinly slice the chili, and fry both off with just a little oil. Once the chorizo is cooked and has oozed out all its oily deliciousness, add all of this to the salad. If you want to try extra spices, fry them in at this stage.
Now the dressing. When it’s cool enough to handle, cut the roasted garlic bulb across the middle, clean in half. Squeeze out the garlic pulp from each half, into a pestle and mortar. It should be a rich, sticky paste. Add the olive oil, cider vinegar, and a little salt, then work this all into a smooth puree, a little like thick mayonnaise.
Toss the dressing through the salad thoroughly, and serve.
If you want to play about with this, consider maybe some green peppercorns for a bit of zingy bite, or adding a small amount of shredded lettuce at the end. The chorizo will easily substitute for bacon or ham, and it’s none the worse for leaving the lot out and keeping it veggie, although it does benefit from the chili.
It’s very savoury, and – obviously – garlicky in the extreme. If you want to turn the umami up even higher, grate a little Parmesan over at the the end.
This is a close relative of the lentil and carrot salad from a year or so ago, but I’d say it’s a vast improvement.