Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lentil, Chévre and Walnut Salad


We were invited to a housewarming barbie on Saturday night, and I said I’d take salad. But the weather was so wet and miserable that, when it came to cooking time, I really couldn’t come at anything cold and green. Instead, I threw together an earthy lentil salad using ingredients from the store cupboard, gussied it up with herbs from the garden, and served it in a wooden bowl made by Keith, a much-missed family friend.

Eschewing gladwrap, I balanced the bowl on my knee as my husband rather sadistically drove through the backstreets, thus ensuring he hit every speed bump in Brunswick. Each time I shrieked, raised the bowl, and prayed the lentils wouldn’t spray out at me, he sniggered in the driver’s seat. Perhaps there are times a bit of plastic wrap is called for – or perhaps I should look for a less sadistic husband.

Yet the salad and our marriage arrived all in one piece, and the party was a goodie. It had just the right proportion of old friends, interesting acquaintances and new people – and was ever so suitable to our life stage. My kids were absorbed into a tribe of children while I rocked someone else’s baby to sleep, caught up with half a dozen people, and met a few more. Four hours later, we headed home, tucked in the kids, read a book and were still in bed by ten. Now that’s my sort of party – kids and babies everywhere, lots of conversation, and a nice early night!

Lentil, Chévre and Walnut Salad
- 3 cups lentils, green French-style (Puy) work best
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 3 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 bay leaf
- 150g chévre or other soft goats cheese
- 1 cup freshly shelled walnuts
- a bunch of fresh parsley and/or thyme
- red wine vinegar
- a hefty pinch of salt
- extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Place the lentils in a bowl. Boil the kettle, and cover the lentils with a generous amount of boiling water. Leave to sit for ten minutes.

Chop the carrots and celery small. Ideally, you want them to be not so very much bigger than the lentils, yet with each piece having individual form. Warm the olive oil in a deep pan with the bay leaf and add the carrots and celery. Cook gently, stirring from time to time, until they begin to glisten.

Add the lentils and their soaking water to the pot; add a little more water if necessary to just cover the lentils. Simmer for 15 minutes, add salt, then cook for another 5 to 15 minutes, checking every five minutes until the lentils are cooked through but still have some firmness. Remove from the heat, and take out the bay leaf. A guy I know almost died choking on a bay leaf, so I insist on this point!

Drain the lentils, and pour them into a large bowl. Drizzle them with olive oil and the tiniest splash of red wine vinegar, just enough to sharpen the flavours but not enough to dominate.

Chop the herbs (parsley and thyme, separately or together, are a lovely match for lentils) and toss them through. Crumble the chévre over the salad, then sprinkle the walnuts over the chévre. Add cracked black pepper, if you wish, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, also if you wish. Serve warm or at room temperature (but definitely not cold).

Notes: This is a very loose recipe. You can add a finely chopped onion and/or garlic, warmed in the olive oil before the carrots and celery, if you wish; and the proportions of lentils to veggies are just a guide. Also, this makes Quantity. Halve it if it’s just you and a friend; or eat the top half, then turn the bottom half sans chévre into soup the next day by adding stock and heating it through.

(Backyard/gleaned: bay leaf, parsley, thyme. Wimmera: lentils, olive oil, salt. Gembrook: walnuts. Meredith: goats cheese. Mystery: carrots, celery, red wine vinegar. Ah well.)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alison.
    Don't know if you do awards but I've recommended you in my post yesterday.
    I love lentils and a lentil salad sounds good. I do a dahl pretty much every week in winter.