Green lentils, brown lentils, red lentils, black lentils, yellow lentils, split peas, dried peas – the world of Western lentils is quite different to the world of Indian lentils. It presents a challenge to your pantry space if you commonly cook lentils from both cuisines. Two of the coloured lentils we adore and keep in our pantry each winter – the green French or Du Puy lentil, and the black Beluga lentil.
This salad is terrific, mixing hot green lentils with parmesan and asparagus with a dressing made from watercress and parsley. In many ways, this dish is about the parmesan rather than the lentils, dressing or asparagus. That yeasty, earthy umami flavour with the lentils and dressing as a base will have you coming back for more and more. The asparagus offers a delightful crunch.
It is an Ottolenghi recipe from his book Plenty. Currently we are cooking from his book Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.
It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.
Green Puy Lentils, Asparagus and Watercress
100g du puy or other green lentils
60g watercress, thick stalks removed
3 Tblspn olive oil, plus extra
0.5 clove garlic
sea salt and pepper
200g asparagus, cut into 6cm pieces
50g parmesan, pecorino or manchego cheese, cut thin, broken into chunks or grated
2 lemon wedges, to serve
Wash the lentils in cold water, then put them in a saucepan and cover with plenty of fresh water. Bring up to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until just cooked.
While the lentils are cooking, put half of the watercress, the parsley, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor, and blitz until smooth. Pour into a bowl.
As soon as the lentils are cooked, drain well and mix them while hot with the watercress dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning – you’ll probably need more salt.
Cook the asparagus in simmering salted water for 2 – 3 minutes; then drain. Cut them into 6cm lengths.
Serve the salad warm or at room temperature. Toss together the lentils, asparagus and most of the remaining watercress. The cheese slices should be integrated carefully while you’re plating up so that they don’t break up. Or mix most of the grated cheese with the lentils and sprinkle the remainder over the top. Finally, drizzle with walnut oil and garnish with remaining watercress. Serve with a lemon wedge.
recipe notes and alternatives
This salad is also great with black beluga lentils.
Add some roasted red onion wedges to the salad – the sweetness these add is wonderful.