Obviously, the salad can be enjoyed cold, too: The original recipe from the GAIL’s cookbook, which I have amended a little to my taste, actually suggests it to be eaten chilled. I do, however, love the combination of warm “al dente” puy lentils and warm(ish) oven-baked beetroots whilst the remaining ingredients are cold (or let’s be precise and call them “at room temperature”).
The “secret” method which gives this salad its interesting twist and strong aromatic flavour is to bake the beetroots in the oven with their skin on; with spreading their skin with olive oil first, then wrapping them in kitchen foil and baking them for about an hour you will get the most aromatic little beetroots you may have ever tasted!
Now, admittedly this is not one of those salads you prepare within five minutes by just mixing veggies together and drizzling them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. There is a lot more love and appreciation needed to make it as delicious as it can be. But since it’s grey and cold and dark outside most of the time anyway, you may as well spend your evenings in the warm kitchen making this delicious salad – even the scent of the beetroot will be worth it (not to mention the colorful platter in the end!), trust me.
Lentil salad with beetroot, rocket, goat’s cheese and a sun-dried tomato pesto vinaigrette
For two servings.
3 small beetroots, skin on (about 200 g)
Olive oil to spread
120 g puy lentils
A pinch of sea salt
20 g sun-dried tomatoes (approx. 4 pieces)
5 sprigs of mint, leaves only
4 table spoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
1 teaspoon clear honey
Juice of half an unwaxed lemon
optional: 1 garlic clove, crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 handful of rocket (at room temperature)
100 g goat’s cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 handful of hazelnuts, skin on (about 20 g), toasted and roughly chopped
Lemon zest to garnish
Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan). Remove the leaves and stems from the beetroots, spread the beets thinly with olive oil, using a brush or kitchen paper. Wrap the beets in kitchen foil and place them on a baking tray and bake for around 50 – 60 minutes, depending on the size of the beetroots (check with a sharp knife, if you can easily stick it into the beets and remove it as easily it is more than likely they are done).
In the meantime place the lentils in a small pot and add triple the amount of water. Bring to a boil and allow to cook for 15 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Season the lentils with a pinch of salt when cooked.
To make the pesto vinaigrette, thoroughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes. In a pestle and mortar smash the mint leaves. Whisk together tomatoes, mint, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, honey and lemon juice (optionally, add garlic, too), and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Please note: You can also use a food processor to make the pesto, if you have one.
Once the beetroots are done, allow them to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and peel them with the help of a sharp knife. Cut the beets in quarters or slices.
In a large bowl mix lentils with rocket and the pesto vinaigrette. Arrange the lentils on two plates, add beetroot slices, crumble goat’s cheese over the salad, and finally top it with chopped hazelnuts and lemon zest to garnish. Enjoy!