After over a week of eating almost everything New York had to offer, I am back in uncharacteristically sunny Denmark, and the real world. The world where I do not have professional chefs providing my every meal and where eating five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day has transitioned back into rule rather than guideline. This means I am back to having to devise interesting lunches to help ease me into the concept of workdays, Denmark’s teacher lockout having finally and thankfully come to an end. To help with the transition, this is a recipe is slightly adapted from a New York based chef, April Bloomfield, by way of a wonderful New York based blog, Smitten Kitchen. This salad is so much more than the sum of its parts. It has a rich, complex flavour combining many ingredients I wouldn’t necessarily have put together. I always regarded feta and tahini as those two friends you know would just hate each other. You love them both, and want to spend time with them, but each requires their own space and time. Turns out they have some good banter together. This makes 2-3 lunch sized portions, if you are the kind of idiot like me who never eats breakfast and is starving by lunchtime, their hunger only accentuated by the five people who have chosen to impart the wisdom that ‘you know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day’..
For the salad
- 200g puy lentils or lentilles vert (not the same thing as green lentils despite their confusing name, basically you’re looking for the small little browny green yokes)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf (the original recipe called for sage, I’m not a huge fan though)
- 1 tin chickpeas, drained
- 1 red onion
- 75g feta
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted.
For the dressing
- 2 tablespoons tahini paste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (if you had a preserved lemon you could chop it up and lob it in as per the original)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- 2 teaspoons ground and toasted coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoons ground and toasted cumin seeds
- First, cook the lentils according the direction on the pack with a bay leaf and the two cloves of garlic peeled until they are tender.
- I am a bit slapdash about lentil cooking, having cooked them a lot over the years, but it tends to be about 20-30 minutes over medium high heat with twice the amount of water as lentils, but I have seen huge variation in instructions.
- Drain the lentils once cooked.
- Drain the chickpeas.
- Meanwhile, toast both the cumin and coriander in a dry pan over a medium heat until they are fragrant (you need to watch this stage carefully, fragrant turns to burnt so very quickly).
- Remove and grind in a pestle and mortar (or a coffee grinder, though I am not sure how effectively you could clean that after to prevent having cumin coffee for the next month).
- Toast the sesame seeds carefully in the pan until they are a medium-dark brown colour, just before they burn.
- To make the salad dressing, mix the ingredients well in a jar, reserving half the cumin and coriander to sprinkle on top of the salad.
- You may want to adjust the dressing to make it more lemony, less lemony, more tahini-y or less tahini-y, this is a just a guideline.
- Finely chop the red onion.
- Finely chop the fresh coriander.
- To assemble, mix the chickpeas and cooked lentils.
- Toss with the dressing and most of the sesame seeds.
- Top with the feta, red onion, fresh coriander, maybe a drizzle more lemon, and the remaining sesame, coriander and cumin seeds.
- Season if required.