Whilst puy lentils and beetroot make great companions, they often benefit from a few contrasting flavours to pep up their earthiness. So here they party with sweet hazelnuts, a citrus dressing and some fresh mint. Chunks of roast pepper are also a great addition, both in texture and flavour – as are diced red onions (my stalwart for many salads). Possibly more than any other nut, hazelnuts really benefit from a bit of roasting, plus it makes their skins easy to rub off, so worth remembering to do here!
For the same reasons, I like to roast beetroot if I have enough time. It takes about an hour in the oven, but is non-hassle – so particularly handy if you want to get ahead. In fact this dish is great to prepare way in advance of serving as it’s nice warm or cold – fab for picnics or a relaxed dinner.
Ingredients (serves 4)
Bunch of beetroots – about 500g
200g puy lentils
1 tbsp olive oil
Apple cider vinegar – 1 tbsp
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of half a lemon/lime
1-2 garlic cloves
Bunch of spring onions
1-2 red onions – optional
Fresh mint leaves – I used a 25g bag
Preheat the oven to 180 (fan)/200 (conventional)
- Soak the hazelnuts in a bowl of cold water and leave to the side. You don’t have to do this (I don’t always remember/have time) but it does make them easier to digest.
- Prepare the beetroot by lopping off the top and tail and any fibrous bits. Cut in half or quarters depending on their size. To roast, place the beetroots in a large oven-proof dish with about 1-2 cm of water in the bottom. Cook in the oven until soft, turning once and checking the water level occasionally – replenish if necessary. If you opt for boiling then they usually take about 30 minutes, depending on size.
- Leave the beetroot to cool for a bit before slipping them off with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife.
Boil the puy lentils in a saucepan of water according to packet instructions – they usually take around 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, crush or finely slice the garlic and whisk up with the olive oil, vinegar, lemon and orange juices. Add a pinch of salt and grating of black pepper.
- Drain the hazelnuts of their water and put in an oven proof dish. Cook for 10-15 minutes, giving a little shake half way through to ensure the roasting is even. Allow to cool and then rub together to scratch the papery skins off.
- When the beetroot and lentils are cooked, simply mix together in a large saucepan, slosh in the dressing, add the diced red onion – if using – and spring onion and stir together on a very low heat for a few minutes to let the flavours combine.
- Before serving, randomly break up the roast hazelnuts into smaller chunks by putting them in a freezer bag and bashing with a heavy object such as a rolling pin. Shred the mint leaves and stir into the lentils with the hazelnuts.
Add feta for non-vegans: its tangy, saltiness adds another dimension.