15 –20 minutes
4 as starter
2 as main course
Lentilles du Puy are grown in the sunny, volcanic Auvergne. The hot climate and mineral-rich soil give them a unique taste and texture, and they are known in France as poor man’s caviar. They contain less starch than ordinary green lentils, so they hold their shape better: no mushy lentilles du Puy. Traditionally they are boiled in water, then fried with some chopped onion and lardons. I tend to improvise with ingredients I have in the fridge: they make a fine accompaniment to almost anything.
- 1 cup Puy lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig of thyme
- salt and pepper
- 1 cooked beet, peeled
- a handful of baby salad leaves (optional)
- 7 oz fresh soft goat’s cheese
- extra virgin olive oil
For the dill vinaigrette:
- ½ bunch of dill
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- a pinch of sugar
TO MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE: Whizz the dill (stalks included) in a blender with the oil, vinegar, ½ tsp salt, and the sugar. Taste and add more salt if desired.
- Wash the lentils in cold running water, then put them into a large pot with the bay leaf, thyme, and a generous pinch of salt. Cover the lentils with at least double their volume of boiling water and cook for 15 minutes or until tender.
- Use a mandoline or a sharp knife to thinly slice the beet.
- Drain the lentils and discard the bay leaf and thyme.
- Divide the lentils equally between individual plates (or you could use a large serving dish) and scatter over the salad leaves (if using). Place the beet slices on top and crumble over the goat’s cheese. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and a little olive oil, and finish with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
* If you prefer a stronger-tasting cheese, try feta or a hard goat’s cheese.