This is another Ottolenghi classic. Ottolenghi’s recipes have a reputation for being rather involved but I have also found that the reputation for his recipes being involved is, in the main, unjustified.
This is from my favourite of his set of books – Plenty. It is a relatively simple dish, and adapts easily to some precooking. The tomatoes can be roasted beforehand, for example. You can precook the lentils and onions too, and leave assembly to just before serving.
The recipe douses the lentils with vinegar, onion, salt, pepper, garlic and oil as soon as they are cooked. When warm, they soak in the flavours and aromas properly. Feta, lots of herbs and semi dried tomatoes are mixed in at the end. The result in such a bang of wonderful flavours.
You want lentils with great texture and that don’t disintegrate in the cooking – this makes du Puy lentils ideal for salads. This is a substantial dish which is best eaten at room temperature, can be served on its own or with steamed seasonal greens, a green salad, broccolini or baby fennel.
Puy Lentils with Tomatoes and Feta
Source: Adapted from Plenty, by Ottolenghi
Cuisine: General, perhaps Italian style
Prep time: 1.5 hours for the tomatoes, but these can be precooked. Plus 2 minutes for assembly
Cooking time: 30 mins for the lentils
Serves: 3-4 depending how you use it
1 red onion, sliced thinly
1 tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
250g du Puy lentils
3 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tbsp chopped parsley
3 tbsp chopped chives
4 tbsp chopped dill
80g feta cheese, cut into rough chunks
oven semi-dried tomatoes
400g plum tomatoes (about 5) quartered vertically, or use 400g cherry tomatoes, halved
8 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp thick balsamic syrup/vinegar (optional) or some sumac (optional)
First make the tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 130°C. Place the tomatoes skin-side down on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Arrange the thyme sprigs on top. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic syrup if using. Sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for 1.5 hours or until semi dried. Discard the thyme and allow to cool down slightly.
Meanwhile, place the red onion in a medium bowl, pour over the vinegar and sprinkle with the sea salt. Stir, then leave for a few minutes so the onion softens a bit.
Place the lentils in a pan of boiling water (the water should come 3cm above the lentils) and cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Drain well and, while still warm, add to the onion. Also add the olive oil, garlic and some black pepper. Stir to mix and leave to cool. Once cool, add the herbs and gently mix together. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To serve, pile up the lentils on a large plate or bowl, integrating the feta cheese and tomatoes as you build up the pile. Drizzle the tomato cooking juices on top and serve.
The original recipe uses castellucio lentils. Feel free to use these in place of the Puy Lentils.
Also, the original recipe uses Gorgonzola cheese. I prefer it with feta as I find that our local gorgonzola overpowers the other flavours of the salad.