Lentils are a great ingredient to throw into salads. They are high in protein, inexpensive and dried lentils can be kept for upto a year in your pantry. Three heaped tablespoons of cooked lentils count as one of your five-a-day.
Puy Lentils (also known as French Green Lentils or Lentilles du Puy) are very easy to cook. Unlike dried beans, they don’t need to be soaked overnight so no advance planning is necessary (very important for the spontaneous chef). You simply need to put them into a a pot of cold water, bring the water to the boil, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. They keep their shape nicely (assuming you don’t overcook them) and lend a nice earthy bite to salads. Dressings with a slight amount of sweetness work well as a contrast to puy lentils’ peppery flavor, so I love using balsamic vinegar when I make puy lentil salads.
Puy lentil salads make a beautiful background for colorful vegetables, and here I’ve combined it with magenta radishes, green coriander, and creamy white Halloumi cheese (a salty Cypriot cheese which keeps its shape when cooked). The Halloumi cheese should be pan-grilled or fried just prior to serving.
PUY LENTIL AND HALLOUMI SALAD
(Serves 4 as a side salad)
150g dried Puy Lentils
5 radishes, cut into quarters or sixths
3-4 Tbsp fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), roughly chopped
1-2 spring onions (scallions), sliced
200g Halloumi cheese, sliced
A little olive oil (to brush on the Halloumi before cooking)
Pinch of salt
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt
- Cook Puy Lentils by putting them into a pot of cold water and letting it come to the boil on the stove. As soon as the water starts boiling, reduce the heat to a good simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Drain and allow to cool quickly by spreading the lentils on a plate.
- Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by shaking all the ingredients together in a jar (I recommend keeping a few used, clean jam jars on hand for preparing dressings).
- Cut the radishes into quarters or sixths depending on their size.
- Chop the coriander roughly.
- Thinly slice the spring onions.
- When the lentils are room temperature, combine them in a bowl with the radishes, coriander, and dressing. The salad can go into the fridge now until you are ready to eat it. (You can also mix in the spring onions if you like, but I prefer to save them until the end and spinkle them on top of the Halloumi.)
- About 10-15 minutes before you want to eat the salad, heat a grill-pan or a frying pan on medium-high heat. Cut the Halloumi into 1cm (1/2 inch) slices, brush with olive oil, and cook for around 3 minutes per dise (until it turns light brown).
- Place the warm Halloumi either on top of the salad or on a platter on the side.