The mantra that green equals goodness is something that still sticks, particularly after all those years of having it drilled into me as a kid. I still tend to get nervous that someone will reprimand me if I don’t eat some sort of green veg for lunch or dinner. This salad eliminates any sort of fear that I’m not receiving a sufficient amount of ‘green goodness’. Light, crisp and tangy with creamy slivers of avocado, it is a suitable accompaniment to a slice of quiche or pie as it cuts through the richness. Paired with a slice of crusty bread it is a wonderful lunch in it’s own right. The lentils provide protein, ensuring that it will keep you nice and full for hours after. You can easily jazz it up with some cucumber, yellow capsicum, toasted pepitas or lightly steamed broccoli…almost anything really.
Do make the effort to whip up your own dressing. Not only does it contain far less sugar than store-bought types, but also has a far superior taste – zingy rather than cloying. It enhances the pepperiness of the rocket and aniseed tones of the fennel, rather than masking them. I made a relatively small batch of dressing as I prefer to predominantly marinate the lentils in lemon juice alone, however that isn’t to everyone’s taste. The recipe can easily be doubled and there is certainly no harm in having some left over – it will keep for a week or two in an airtight jar in the fridge.
Fennel never fails to make me giggle – I think it looks startlingly similar to an alien’s head with whacky hair. It seems as though the world is divided into those who love fennel and those who despise it. The trick with using it in salads is to slice it as thinly as possible and not use too much – you don’t want it to overpower everything else. It has been ridiculously cheap at the moment (it’s in season from mid-autumn through winter), so take the opportunity to whip up a salad that feels like summer!
Fennel, Rocket and Puy Lentil Salad
Serves 6 as a side or 2-3 as a main.
100g Puy/Green lentils
1 small onion
1 bay leaf
4 parsley stalks (optional)
4 black peppercorns
1 small bulb of fennel, tough outer layer and fronds removed
75g rocket (can substitute with baby spinach)
½ avocado, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice plus extra
1 tsp French mustard
½ small clove garlic, crushed
¼ tsp sugar
60ml olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Rinse lentils and cover with water in a small pot. Bring to the boil; simmer for one minute then drain. Return to pot, along with onion, bay leaf and parsley stalks and pour over just enough cold water to cover. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Drain, remove onion, parsley stalks, bay leaf and peppercorns and transfer to a small bowl.
Meanwhile prepare dressing by adding all ingredients to a small jar. Screw the lid on tightly and shake to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasoning (lemon juice, salt and pepper, sugar) accordingly.
Drizzle a quarter of the dressing over the still warm lentils and extra lemon juice to taste. I used about a teaspoon. Leave to cool.
Cut fennel in half from top to tail then slice crossways as thinly as possible. If you are lucky enough to have a mandolin, use it!
Dollop two thirds of the lentils in a serving bowl. Top with sliced fennel and rocket, then the avocado and remaining lentils. Drizzle over the rest of the dressing.
Source: Adapted from River Cottage Veg Everyday