I’ve got a question: is it possible for something to be your “favourite” if you’ve only had it once? I mean, the word favourite generally implies a lengthy relationship, doesn’t it? If it is possible, though, I’ll say this: this is my favourite lentil salad. Favourite despite the fact that I’ve only just made it for the first time, and probably don’t have that many other lentil salads to compare it to. What I mean is: this is really, really good.
It’s not that surprising; basically this salad is just a big bowl of my all-time favourite foodstuffs. Lentils? Check. Goat’s cheese? Check. Caramelized onions? Oh, check. With some walnuts, fresh parsley and balsamic vinaigrette thrown in, this probably should have come with a warning label.
The idea for this salad has been brewing in my mind for a while now, and comes from a few other recipes. The gourmet food shop around the corner from me makes a similar one, minus the onions and plus some fresh pomegranate seeds. Also delicious, but pomegranates aren’t exactly local (or in season, for that matter). I think the caramelized onions are what makes this really delicious. Like I said on Sunday, I’ve recently become of fan on the Arab street food Mejadarah, a ridiculously addictive combination of caramelized onions, lentils and rice. Truthfully, I can leave or take rice, but onions and lentils? Wonderful together.
I use all types of lentils in my cooking, but here the French Puy kind really are best. They hold their shape and don’t become mushy, so work well in salads. Actually, I confess that I don’t buy the pricey Puy kind, but rather the ones labeled “Lentilles vertes” at Sainsbury’s. Essentially the exact same thing, except much cheaper and likely not grown in the Le Puy region.
A quick note about the onions: I know folks can be quite divided on the whole adding sugar/not adding sugar thing. I never add sugar when caramelizing onions- they just don’t need it. To my mind, sugar is just a way of speeding up the process, a way to cheat the sweet flavour that could be achieved through time alone. Cooked oh-so-slowly, in a pan that’s barely warm, onions will become astonishingly sweet anyway, so no sugar needed. Normally, I do like a bit of butter in my caramelized onions, though, and I’ll use a mixture of that and olive oil. For this recipe, using only olive oil seemed to make sense, but you do as you like!
- Lentil, Onion and Goat’s Cheese Salad
- serves 4
- 1 cup Puy lentils
2 medium onions
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch sea salt
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup crumbled goat’s cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
- 1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Rinse and drain the lentils, and add to the water when it boils. Boil rapidly, uncovered, for 10 minutes before turning down the heat, covering, and cooking for another 30-35.
2. While the lentils are cooking, peel and thinly slice the onions. Put in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium low heat and cover. Leave for 4-5 minutes, until all the moisture has evaporated. At this point, add 1/4 cup olive oil and a good-sized pinch of salt. Cover, turn the heat down to low and leave for anywhere from 20-45 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. (The time will depend on many factors, including your pan, stovetop and the amount of onions you’re cooking.) When they’re done to your liking, set aside to cool slightly.
3. When the lentils are done, drain and rinse with cool water. Add to the pan with the onions (if they’re done cooking), and add the walnuts, goat’s cheese, parsley, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Mix gently to combine, and salt and pepper to taste. This can be served warm or at room temperature, and will keep, tightly covered, in the fridge for several days.