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From time to time, I have the chance to work from home – which makes me giddy like a small child at Christmas for two reasons:

1. It’s another 30 or 40 minutes wrapped in the cocoon of my duvet. Bliss.

2. I can make lunch at home and eat something that I wouldn’t normally even think about bringing into the office.

Cherry and goat’s cheese salad from The Sunday Times (Style section), Lucas Hollweg

Serves 4 but it’s pretty easy to cut down to one

You’ll need:

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 big handfuls of baby spinach
4 handfuls of cherries, pitted
200g soft white goat’s cheese (the stuff that comes in plastic tubs, not the rinded logs)
2 handfuls of whole or flaked blanched almonds toasted in a dry frying pan until tinged gold

1. Whisk together the vinegar and oil, and season well.

2. Toss in a salad bowl with the leaves and cherries. Add the goat’s cheese and gently fold in, then scatter with the almonds. Serve.

Cook’s notes

Oops – I misread the recipe and used two tablespoons of sherry vinegar. Happily, this turned out to be a good thing as I hate oily dressing anyway.

I only had the oozy, gooey type of goat’s cheese in the fridge and the recipe was none the worse for it.

Lucas also has a rather tempting-looking cherry frangipane tart in the same article. I think I’ve got enough cherries left over…

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I know, I know – three posts in one weekend. What is going on around here?

Well, mainly it’s me sprinting for the finishing line again – for this month’s No Croutons Required, hosted by the lovely Holler and Lisa. I just don’t work well without the pressure of a deadline…

Unfortunately, WordPress is not playing nicely today and doesn’t want to publish my pictures. Aaargh. Clearly it’s overwhelmed by my sudden spurt of productivity in the kitchen and has had enough.  (Update: oh no, it appears that there’s actually a gremlin in the system and the WordPress folks are trying to fix it. Although I see one of my pics has come up ok…)

Anyhoo, my entry is a butterbean and barley salad, with tangy beetroot-yoghurt sauce taken from Feasts by Silvena Rowe. Lots of lovely parsley and thyme too, since the theme for this month’s challenge was to create a herb-stuffed salad or soup. Handily, it’s also providing me with my lunch for the first few days of the week. Although the sauce is quite garlicky, so woe betide anyone who crosses my path/gets stuck in a meeting room with me tomorrow!

Butterbean and barley salad with beetroot and yoghurt dressing from Feasts by Silvena Rowe

Serves 4

You’ll need:

400g can white beans – anything will do – I used butterbeans because I had a tin lurking in the cupboard
200g cooked barley
50g sultanas (look closely, you’ll see I used raisins – oh, the shame)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
50g shelled walnuts, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
baby salad leaves to serve

For the dressing:

3 beetroots, washed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
250ml thick yoghurt
35g ground walnuts

1. For the dressing, cook the beetroots in boiling water for anything from 20 to 45 minutes, until soft. Cool, then peel and place the flesh in a food processor with the garlic and yoghurt. Pulse until it is smooth and creamy. Pour into a bowl and stir in the ground walnuts.

2. In a large bowl, combine the beans, barley, sultanas, herbs and walnuts and mix well. Season to taste. Add the salad leaves and toss everything together gently.

3. Serve accompanied by the beeetroot and yoghurt dressing.

black bean chili soup

…but for some reason, I’m thinking that toasty, crunchy bits of tortilla might go down a treat with this black bean chili soup – my entry for Holler and Lisa’s monthly challenge. Maybe some melty cheese too. Mmmmmm. Melty cheese…

There will be some more text here, hopefully by tomorrow evening, but I’m sliding under the slowly-closing temple door, Indy style, to get this one in on time (deadline = midnight tonight), so please excuse the lack of usual waffle in the meantime (or maybe you’ll be happy about that!). Let’s just say it’s a real corker – I mean, two whole tablespoons of chili powder, folks – it more than qualifies for this month’s ‘spicy’ theme! (Naturally, there’s a cinnamon hit in there too 🙂 )

Espresso Black Bean Chili Soup adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

Chili serves 6 to 8 (Soup serves 3 to 4)

3 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 cups canned tomatoes
1/2 to 1 cup freshly brewed espresso, 1 to 2 cups brewed coffee or 2 tablespoons espresso powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 cup dark brown sugar or 3 tablespoons molasses
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 pound dried black beans, washed, picked over and soaked for around 8 hours (easy to do before slogging off to work)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Put the oil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over a medium high heat. When hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

2. Stir in the tomato, espresso, brown sugar, cinnamon and beans, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat so the liquid bubbles steadily but not violently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans begin to soften, 30 to 40 minutes. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Continue cooking until the beans are tender – anywhere from another 45 minutes to 1 hour and 30 mins. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more sugar, salt or pepper.

4. This is actually the point that the real recipe stops and I started playing around because the recipe produced a lot of chili and I had to think of different ways to use it all up. So, for a soupy treat…

5. Take about half the beans and place in a separate pan with 1 pint of stock. Whizz the lot up, until reasonably smooth.

6. Spoon in some more beans if you’d like a bit more texture. Freeze the rest of the chili to eat another day/turn into soup or feed it to your starving husband who says he ‘gets a bit of a tingle from the chili but it’s not blow-your-head-off hot’. 

Cook’s notes

Yep – I should have made about half of the recipe but didn’t think it through. And, with limited freezer space, I had to find ways of squeezing black bean chili into everything, except maybe my morning cereal.

Didn’t have any espresso, so I nicked some of Mr B’s fresh coffee. He was a bit upset about that until he tasted the end result. He is a convert 🙂

There may even be a better photo, if I get the chance to take a snap during daylight hours…

mushroom risotto

You have a bit of time to daydream when you’re standing around stirring risotto.* Time to ponder some of life’s great mysteries, like what can we do about global warming, what’s going to happen when the oil runs out, or who is the final undercover Cylon in Battlestar Galactica?**

Or you can just zone out and watch the rice swirling around in the pan as it absorbs the stock, transforming into plump little grains of savoury goodness.

Where does your mind wander to when you’re cooking?

*Mostly because you can’t go anywhere while you’re making it. Enforced relaxation? Hmmm…
**Some of us need to know, dammit. Roll on the final season in March, writers’ strike permitting.


Roasted mushroom risotto with parsley
 from Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver

This recipe comes in two parts – the risotto bianco and the roasted mushroom add-ins. But once you’ve got the risotto bianco sorted, you can go wherever you like with it if you’re not a fan of ‘shrooms 🙂  

Serves 6

For the risotto bianco, you’ll need:

2 pints/1.1 litres stock (veggie/chicken/whatever you prefer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
a knob of butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 head of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
400g risotto rice
2 wineglasses of dry white vermouth (dry Martini or Noilly Prat) or dry white wine
seas salt and freshly ground black pepper
70g butter
115g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Stage 1: Put the olive oil and butter into a large, heavy-based pan, add the onion, garlic and celery, and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

Stage 2: Keep stirring the rice until it looks slightly translucent (about a minute). Add the vermouth/wine and keep stirring.

Stage 3: Once the vermouth/wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice to check if it’s cooked. If not, carry on adding stock until the rice is soft with a slight bite.

Stage 4: Remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for two minutes. Then serve up 🙂
 

For the roasted mushrooms, you’ll need

200g wild mushrooms, cleaned and torn
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bulb garlic, cloves peeled and halved
a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
1 tablespoon butter
a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped
1 lemon
Parmesan cheese, for grating

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/400F/gas mark 6. Start making your risotto bianco. When you come towards the end of stage 3, you need to roast your mushrooms, so…

2. Heat a heavy-bottomed ovenproof frying pan or baking tray until medium hot and add a splash of oil. Fry the mushrooms for a minute or two, until they begin to colour, and season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, thyme and butter, and mix together.  Place the pan in the preheated oven and roast the mushrooms for 6 minutes or so, until cooked through.

3. At stage 4 of the risotto bianco recipe, when you add the butter and Parmesan, stir in all the parsley. Roughly chop half the roasted mushrooms and garlic, and stir into the risotto, adding a good squeeze of lemon juice to balance the flavours.

4. Divide between the plates and sprinkle over the remaining mushrooms. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Cook’s notes

I only had chestnut mushrooms but they worked out just fine.

Loved Jamie’s advice about letting the risotto relax for a couple of minutes after stirring in the Parmesan and butter. As he says, ‘it becomes amazingly creamy and oozy’ during this time. Perfect.

I kept this post pretty short because of all the recipe-typing-up involved. And because my arm has nearly fallen off from stirring risotto.

Roasted parsnip and parmesan soup 

This recipe very nearly didn’t reach its proper soupy destiny for one exceedingly good reason: the crunchy bits. 

Let me explain. Any time Mr B. makes roast potatoes (and, for some reason, he always gets this task), he chucks in a couple of tiddlers because he knows I love the crunchy bits best of all and will jump around excitedly like a small child at the prospect. It’s the little things in life that make me happy. 

So when I pulled some roasted parsnips with parmesan out of the oven yesterday with the intention of whizzing them into soup, you can imagine what happened next. I mean, take a look:

 Parsnips roasted with parmesan

First one piece of crunchy golden parsnip disappeared down my greedy gullet… and then another… I tried to pull myself together a bit – they’d taste just as savoury and moreish with the addition of a bit of stock and the judicious application of a hand-held blender, I reasoned to my unreasonable self. Okay, fine, but I’ll just have one more piece… 

This all leads to a sort of ‘two in one’ recipe post (bargain!). If you’re looking for an interesting side dish for Sunday lunch, just follow the first part of the recipe. If you’d like a fantastic starter, or just a mug of intensely savoury and satisfying soup to come home to after a bracing weekend walk in the cold (ah, good intentions) then see it through to the end 🙂

Roasted parsnip and Parmesan soup from The Covent Garden Soup Company’s Book of Soups 

Serves 4 to 6 

You’ll need: 

450g parsnips, cut into lengths
50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
15g butter
A drop more olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon plain flour
2 ¼ pints/1.35 litres veggie or light chicken stock
4 tablespoons double cream 

1. Preheat the oven to 2ooC/400F/gas mark 6. 

2. Simmer the parsnips in plenty of salted water for 3 minutes. Drain well and toss in half the Parmesan cheese.  

3. While the parsnips are simmering, put the olive oil in a roasting tin and heat in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes. Then arrange the parsnips in the roasting tin, add the butter and bake for around 45 minutes, basting frequently. 

4. In a large soup pot, warm up some more olive oil and cook the onion gently until soft, without colouring.  

5. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Add the stock, stirring constantly and bring to the boil. Add the parsnips. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. 

6. Allow the soup to cool a little and then pureé it together with the remaining Parmesan cheese in a liquidiser/or in the pot with a hand-blender. 

7. Stir in the cream, taste for seasoning, reheat and serve. 

Cook’s notes 

I usually forget to do the bit with the flour. Never missed it, so if you’re gluten-free then don’t worry about this step. 

I like my soup a little thicker (like stand-your-spoon-upright thick), so I never add as much liquid as suggested in the recipe above. 

The cream went right out the window in a token gesture towards saving my figure. Milk works just fine instead.

Yay, my laptop was returned yesterday! The scribbled note that accompanied it said there had been something wrong with the mainboard. Does that mean anything to anyone? My lack of techno-knowledge is shameful. Anyhoo, they fixed it and I’m back up and running 🙂

So, what have I been cooking in the meantime? Lots of things that went wrong, as it turns out! I tried making rugelach for the first time and managed to weld them firmly to the baking sheet. A cranberry orange sorbet turned out a brilliant deep red colour but only tasted of oranges (nice but not the point…). Then a salmon dish I was convinced would be a total stunner ended up just being, meh, ok. Soon I’ll be burning toast.

When it all goes wrong in the kitchen, there are certain fall-back recipes that I return to repeatedly because they never ever, ever let me down. Like this shepherdless pie – it’s certainly a great big wodge of stodge with all that mashed potato on top but it’s also crammed with veggies in the lentil layer, so you feel like it’s doing you some good, even as you roll away from the table to collapse on the sofa in a starch haze. Perfect cold weather food.

Right, now that I’ve got my proper list of favourites back, I’m off to catch up with the rest of the blogosphere!

Shepherdless pie – adapted from a Good Food magazine recipe somewhere back in the mists of time

Serves 6

You’ll need:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 celery sticks, diced into small pieces
3 carrots, diced into small pieces
2 peppers, diced
400g can of chopped tomatoes
¾ pint / 425ml veggie stock
2 tbsp tomato pureé
100g red lentils, rinsed
3 tbsp green pesto

For the mash:

1.5kg floury potatoes, such as Roosters (told you there was a substantial starch element)
Milk
Cheddar cheese, grated
2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed

1. Heat the oil in a large pan with a heavy base. Add the onions and fry for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Add the celery, carrots and peppers, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, stock, tomato pureé and lentils. Bring the mixture to the boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

3. Take off the heat, season well, stir in the pesto and then spread the mixture in a 1.7 litre capacity ovenproof dish.

4. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6 and get on with whipping up the mash – you don’t have to use the version above if you have a particular or favourite way of making it. But you’ll need about 1 to 1.5kg of potatoes, depending on how much you love spuds. Me, I love them, so I err on the side of greed and chuck in a couple of extra.

5. Spoon the mash over the filling, sprinkle some more cheese over the top and then bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the topping is crispy and golden brown.

Cook’s notes

My friend uses red pesto for this recipe and we sometimes argue (nicely) about which is better – green or red. I still think green wins out – adds a real zip to the recipe.

This is a great one for the freezer – divvied up into individual portions and stashed away, it can be a bit of a lifesaver in the dark, miserable days of winter when the inspiration/motivation/energy to cook goes right out the window.

I can tell what you’re thinking… ‘Come on Jen, I know you’re trying to find something to blog about every day for NaBloPoMo and all that, but cheese on toast? That smacks of sheer desperation.’

But wait, in my defense, this is lip-smackingly wonderful cheese on toast. Perhaps the best ever. Ever. And when you find out that the recipe comes from the queen of all good eating, Alice Waters, then there really can be no argument.

There’s no curiously plastic day-glow orange cheese or slice of cardboard-like bread involved here. Instead, there’s tangy, soft goat cheese, blended with garlic and thyme to create… well, something that had me salivating from the minute I read the recipe, let alone when it was under the grill. The smell coming from the cooking mixture had me jumping round the kitchen like a small child, checking every few seconds to see if it was done yet.

Yes, when I finally removed the slices from the grill, I managed to burn my tongue. Greedy guts.

Goat cheese croutons/toasts from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (who cites Alice Waters as the recipe source)

Serves 6

You’ll need:

170g soft white goat cheese
3 tablespoons milk or cream
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped thyme leaves, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly milled pepper
6 large or 12 small baguette slices

1. Smooth the goat cheese with the milk or cream, then stir in the garlic, thyme and a little pepper.

2. Toast the bread slices under the grill until the tops are lightly coloured. Then spread the cheese mixture thickly over the untoasted side and put under the grill again until the cheese goes golden-brown and bubbly on top.

3. Serve with salads, stews, soups…

Cook’s notes

This lasted two days for me because I used bigger pieces of bread and I made it the main course of my meal, instead of the appetiser/starter that the recipe would suggest.

As you’d expect, the garlicky taste was stronger after the flavours had a chance to mingle overnight in the fridge. Delicious.

Yesterday, I paired the toasts up with salad, today it made a good sharp foil against a lentil stew from Mollie Katzen’s online site.

So there I was, about to attempt a fancy, swirly sourcream pattern in some beetroot soup when I realised that the blobs had shaped themselves into a cute Scottie dog – or should that be a West Highland terrier? Hmmm, I thought. You can get coffee art, so why not (accidental) soup art? I’ve invented soup art!

Then I remembered that soup art already exists – in restaurants. That’s what they do.

Oh well, it was still extremely tasty and a rather vibrant pinky-purple to boot.

And there’s a sneaky, hidden ingredient to make this a proper winter warmer… vodka! Only a teeny bit, mind – 2 teaspoons per serving. Just enough to give a little kick.

But, seeing as I’d like to enter this recipe for the Weekend Herb Blogging event (hosted by Kalyn’s Kitchen), let’s concentrate on the beetroot and what it can do for you, as I think we all know what the vodka does in large enough quantities. And how.

After rummaging through a couple of books*, I found out that:

  • Beetroots are an excellent source of folic acid and a very good source of manganese and potassium.
  • However, don’t throw away those beet greens – they’re even more nutritious because they’re richer in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C, as well as containing magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B6.
  • Beetroots have long been used for medicinal purposes, mostly to treat liver disorders, because they stimulate the liver’s detoxification process (bringing us back to that vodka…).
  • The amazing colour comes from a pigment called betacyanin, which is apparently a powerful cancer-fighting agent.
  • Beet fibre has been shown to have ‘a favourable effect on bowel function’ (such a lovely way of describing it).
  • Those last two points mean that beetroot is thought to help protect against colon cancer.

So there you go. Beetroot – an all-round winner in the ‘good for you’ stakes, as well as being pretty to look at (once cooked, admittedly) and a pleasure to eat. What more could you possibly want?

Tipsy beetroot soup from A Paradiso Year (Autumn and Winter Cooking) by Dennis Cotter

Serves 6 to 8 people

You’ll need:

800g beetroot
3 onions
6 cloves garlic
half a bulb fennel or 1 stick celery
olive oil
100g potato
1,500ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon fresh dill, fennel or lovage
large pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to season
vodka
sourcream to serve

1. Cook the beetroot in boiling water until tender, then peel under cold running water and chop coarsely.

2. Meanwhile, chop the onions, garlic and fennel or celery, heat some olive oil in a pot and cook them until the onions are soft.

3. Chop the potato and add it to the onions, along with the beetroot, the stock and your chosen herb. Bring this to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the potato starts to break down. Add the cayenne pepper and the balsamic vinegar. Blend the soup to a smooth purée, season well with salt and pepper.

4. Pour the soup into the bowls and put a teaspoon or two of vodka into each serving. Then drizzle a little bit of sourcream over the top and serve.

Cook’s notes

I’d maybe double the amount of potato suggested but that’s just because I like a really thick soup.

Vodka – I tried the soup both with and without it, and it works both ways. So if you don’t want alcohol in your lunchtime soup, don’t worry, it’s still delicious.

*The fantastic beetroot facts came from The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Dr Michael Murray and Dr Joseph Pizzorno, with Laura Pizzorno.

Note to self: please, please, please remember to check the settings on the camera before taking any pics. Otherwise you’ll end up with slightly blurry pics of your very last cup of fennel soup and will be left with no other choice but to post it on your blog because the recipe’s so darn good it can’t possibly wait for another day. Nnnnnrgh!

Fennel and almond soup from Little Red Gooseberries by Daphne Lambert

Serves 4

You’ll need:

4 fennel bulbs
1 leek
50g butter
1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable stock
4 tablespoons ground almonds
Salt and pepper

1. Cut the fennel leaves from the bulb and save for decoration. Remove the tough outer layers of the fennel bulb and chop the remaining bulb into small pieces. Remove the outer leaves from the leek and slice into rounds.

2. Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and stir in the fennel and leek. Sweat gently for 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to to boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the ground almonds and cook uncovered for a further 10 minutes.

3. Cool slightly then blend the soup until smooth. Heat through and divide between 4 bowls.

4. Serve garnished with the chopped fennel leaves (although I used some lovely purple watercress I found in the farmers market last weekend).

Cook’s notes

As per usual, there was something I tinkered with or, in this case, left out because I didn’t have it 🙂 The recipe specifies that 2 teaspoons of pastis should be added at step 3. So if you like a stronger aniseedy flavour, go for it. However, although I love fennel both raw and cooked, I dislike stronger aniseed flavours like liquorice, so I was perfectly happy with my non-pastis version of this soup.

I’m sure it’s possible to cut the butter down for this recipe but it does add a gorgeous rounded-out flavour that complements the fennel and almonds rather well, so I’m loathe to mess with it.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, limes.

The other lovely lime-drenched recipe I’ve added to my ‘will make regularly, forever’ list comes from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I was looking for a good wintery lunchtime salad – something that would fill me up without inducing sleepiness, which is kind of a problem for me. That snoozy, cozy feeling that creeps up after too much mid-day starch and when the office heating dial is turned up to 11…

Granted, I’m not working at the moment but hopefully I will be at some point (soon!), so I’m always on the hunt for new, easily transportable lunchbox fare that isn’t just another boring sandwich again. This lentil salad recipe ticks all the boxes and makes enough to last several days. In fact, it’s better after a day in the fridge, soaking in its punchy lime-cumin vinaigrette (which tastes great when you sop it up with a bit of crusty bread). And, it’s easy to keep this dish from getting repetitive if you vary the added extras from day to day.

So, may I present a dish with an rather unwieldy title but more than enough zingy flavour and substance to keep you powering through till dinnertime with nary a snooze:

Lentil salad with roasted peppers, vegetable garnishes and lime-cumin vinaigrette adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Makes enough for 2 to 3 lunchboxes

For the lime-cumin vinaigrette, you’ll need:

1 garlic clove, minced
grated zest of 2 limes
2 to 3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of finely chopped spring onion or shallot
1/2 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

1. Combine the garlic, lime zest, juice,, spring onion and chile in a bowl.

2. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small frying pan until fragrant, then immediately remove to a plate to cool. Grind to a powder in a spice mill, the add to the juice mixture.

3. Whisk in the oil. Taste and adjust as needed.

4. Let the dressing sit for at least 15 minutes and add the coriander just before using.

For the lentil salad, you’ll need:

1/2 cup of Puy lentils
salt and pepper
2 red or yellow bell peppers, roasted and chopped
lime-cumin vinaigrette (see above)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped mint
2 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and quartered

Possible extras
: feta, hard-boiled eggs, olives, cucumber

1. Cover the lentils with water in a small saucepan, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until tender but still a little firm – about 25 to 30 minutes.

2. Drain the lentils and toss them while still warm with the peppers, tomatoes, half of the vinaigrette, parsley and mint. Taste and adjust seasoning.

3. Mound the lentils in a platter (or a lovely tupperware box, if taking to work) and garnish with any of the suggested extras above. Or whatever takes your fancy, really!

Cook’s notes

Once again, I prefer to use a higher ratio of herbs and veggies to main salad ingredient. There’s nothing worse than only finding a few measley bits of roasted pepper in a sea of lentils. Why would you want that? So I’ve halved the amount of lentils Deborah suggested but pretty much kept the rest of the recipe the same as hers.

Except for the dill. I left that out because it’s not my favourite and there’s enough herby stuff going on in the recipe that I don’t think anyone would miss it greatly. However, if dill is your thing then add 2 tablespoons at stage 2, along with the parsley and mint.

And, of course, because I only used half the amount of lentils, it follows that I just used half of the vinaigrette. Next time I might reduce the oil content of the dressing a bit more as there was already quite a bit on the roasted peppers. But that’s a small quibble and doesn’t take away from the general tastiness of this dish.

Oh yes – I left out the 1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard specified for the vinaigrette because I didn’t have any. Didn’t miss it.

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I'm short of stature (a family trait) but big of appetite (also a family trait). If you're reading this then you're probably big of appetite too. Or a member of my family (hello Mum).
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