Black lentils. It doesn’t sound great, does it? You’ll be surprised. These pulses are fabulously flavourful, an attractive dark colour and surprisingly versatile. I’m a little obsessed with them at the moment. They are aromatic, with hints of cinnamon and cloves. I imagine that they are good for all kinds of things, and like them in an easy dinner-for-two salad. Recipe below.
I haven’t found a source for dried or tinned beluga lentils, but Merchant Gourmet now does them in microwaveable pouches. They are extra tasty because they’ve been cooked in vegetable stock. Pouches are a little pricy if you want to cook up a big batch, but one pouch feeds two when mixed with other things. I’d like to cook them to scratch, to see what they taste like without salt.
I’d also like to find dry ones to make burgers. I think these pulses would make a lovely burger if cooked really soft and mixed with a little fried onion, maybe some chopped hazelnuts and a good pinch of fresh parsley. See, my head is full of the possibilities of these lovely things. They are gorgeous, both to look at and to eat. Their rich flavour are perfect for winter: comforting and soothing. I can see them with sausages, or as a side to a lamb roast. But my first black lentil dish was a salad.
Black lentils with beetroot and feta cheese
I try almost everything new I come across with beetroot. It’s such a versatile root vegetable that, and it deserves wider use. So it is natural that I’d think about adding beetroot to black lentils. I do a salad of beetroot and feta with an orange and olive oil dressing. This is kind of the same thing, but meatier because of the lentils. And without the citrus. I don’t want to confuse my taste buds.
(If you can’t find black lentils, this recipe is tasty when made with a tin or pouch of green lentils too. Not as tasty, but still good.)
- 1 pouch black lentils (or 200 grms of cooked, warm black lentils)
- 1 packet of cooked beetroot, the vinegar-free kind
- 100 grms Feta cheese
- A couple of large handfuls of green leaves – preferably peashoots but spinach or Romain works too. Avoid watercress and rocket . The greens should add sweetness and crunch, not more heavy flavours.
- Olive oil (optional)
- Black pepper (optional)
Serves two for dinner or four as a small starter.
- Heat the lentils according to the instructions on the packet.
- Chop the beetroot into half-inch (1.75cm) cubes and reserve.
- Chop the Feta into half-inch cubes and reserve.
That’s the preparation done. It’s time to plate up.
- On two plates, divide the green leaves equally.
- Put half of the lentils on each plate.
- Top with beetroot.
- Top with feta cheese.
- Sprinkle with olive oil (or your favourite dressing – I like this more or less naked to give the vegetables’ flavours full play.)
- Grind some black pepper on top, if you want to.
I want to try this with wilted spinach instead of other tender greens, and chèvre instead of feta. I think it could make a really nice salade gratiné if lentils, spinach and beetroot are mixed together, packed fairly tightly in oven-safe cookware, covered in chèvre and cooked in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes or until the chèvre is golden. That’s an experiment for next week.
Merchant Gourmet’s ready to eat black lentils are available from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, the co-op and Ocado. Dry lentils are available online. If you find shop in Edinburgh that sells them dry, let me know! Real Food doesn’t, and that was as far as my imagination stretched.