One of the things I love about cooking is the creative process, finding inspiration in unexpected ways.
This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're cooking with Nigel Slater, making dishes with lentils, legumes and pulses. In Nigel's book Tender Vol. I, I came across his recipe for "Lentil soup with lemon, pancetta and mint". Nigel describes it as being ... "One of those soups that doubles as a main course, earthy, filling and beefy. The soup relies on the onion to add depth and body."
Sounded good enough, but enjoying warmer spring days and evenings now I was in the mood for something a little fresher than a hearty, wintery soup. Which got me to thinking that I could put a lot of those same ingredients together in an entirely different way - some lightly sauteed leeks instead of onions, lentils, spinach and lemons - surely these same ingredients could make an interesting salad. Replacing the pancetta in the soup with some lemony prawns would turn this salad into a substantial meal, and the rich fruitiness of some quick pan roasted tomatoes were the perfect foil to the earthy lentils and sweet prawns.
This turned out to be one of those dishes which, in its entirety, was so much greater than the sum of its parts, and was not just every bit as good as I expected it to be, but in actual fact exceeded all my expectations. Thanks for the inspiration, Nigel.
Warm Lentil, Leek & Lemon Salad with Prawns & Roasted Tomatoes Recipe
Serves 2 as a main meal
Download the free recipe card here
extra virgin olive oil
1x cup Puy lentils
1x small leek, halved lengthwise & thinly sliced
red wine vinegar
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper
large handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2x generous handfuls of baby spinach leaves
200g prawns, peeled & deveined
12x cherry tomatoes
Using a peeler, remove a couple of strips of peel from one of the lemons, taking care to avoid any of the white pith. Place in a small bowl, and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside to infuse. Grate the remaining zest from the same lemon and set aside, then juice the lemon and reserve.
Remove the peel and all the pith from the second lemon. Place a sieve over a small bowl. Hold the peeled lemon over the bowl and, using a sharp knife, cut down between the membrane and fruit on each side of the segment to separate it from the membrane. Let the fruit segments fall into the sieve. Squeeze the membrane over the bowl, extracting as much juice from it as you can. Set aside.
Place lentils in a medium sized saucepan, cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender, but not mushy - about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain well, and place lentils in a medium sized bowl. Immediately add a generous splash of red wine vinegar, and a couple of good glugs of olive oil. Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a small saute pan set over medium heat. Add the thinly slice leeks to the pan, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks have softened, but not browned. Add lemon juice to the pan and stir until juice is reduced and slightly syrupy. Remove from heat and add to the bowl of lentils, along with the lemon segments and any of their reserved juice, and flat leaf parsley. Mix well to combine all the ingredients and set aside for all the flavours to develop.
Set a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Add a dash of olive oil and the cherry tomatoes to the hot pan. As soon as they sizzle and the skins start to split, add a splash or two of red wine vinegar, along with generous seasoning of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss around in the pan for a moment or two, until the pan juices are syrupy. Remove from heat and set aside. Wipe out the pan.
Remove lemon peels from the olive oil that has been infusing, and put the lemon oil into the same pan. Set over medium heat, and once warm, add the prawns to the pan. Season generously, and saute until cooked through - 2 to 3 minutes on each side, depending on size. Remove from heat, add to the lentils, and toss gently.
To serve, arrange baby spinach leaves over a serving platter. Spoon lentil salad over the top, and finish with the roasted cherry tomatoes.
If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...
I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum.