I’m totally a New Years resolution person. I love a fresh slate and a clean start, and boy do I love a list. Resolutions couldn’t have been further from my mind this year though. There has been enough “fresh start” in the past four months to last me a while I think. As much as I planned for this move, of course I couldn’t really anticipate what it would be like.
I didn’t foresee getting incredibly ill for several weeks when I first arrived back in England and I definitely didn’t anticipate that it would take four months to be reunited with my husband while we applied for his visa. When you take a huge leap like this, leaving a country, city, job, and much loved people, turns out life is not super predictable. Control is not yours for the taking so you may as well stop trying.
One of the things that helped to keep me sane amid the constant uncertainty was cooking and eating well. Having eaten out for the entire first two months of living here I was beyond ready for some home cooked fare when I moved into our flat.
I’ve fallen for lentils in a big way this winter. From hearty soups, to lunchtime salads, and simple dal, lentils have been playing a big role in my cooking. They’re packed full of protein and rich in iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium, making them a wonderful staple to include in your diet and they’re endlessly adaptable.
This is a perfect rainy day lunch for winter. Parsnips become sweet and caramelise slightly when roasted, playing off against the other ingredients in this salad beautifully. Lamb’s lettuce has a distinctive, tangy flavour which I think works really well with the sweeter elements and of course they add a lovely colour contrast too. The dressing really pulls it all together – it’s a classic combination of tart lemon, garlic, and hot mustard, all mellowed out by sweet honey.
Roasted Parsnip and Green Lentil Salad
adapted from River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Note: the onion, parsley stems, and bay leaves aren’t essential in the cooking water, but they will add a lovely extra flavour so don’t skimp if you have them.
- 5 medium parsnips
- 2 tablespoons organic rapeseed or canola oil
- coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 2/3 cup / 125g green lentils (known as Puy lentils in the UK)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 an onion
- A small handful of parsley stems
- 2 large handfuls of lamb’s lettuce
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup / 60ml organic rapeseed or olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (from about 1 medium sized lemon)
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp stone ground/ Dijon mustard (I think any mustard would work just fine)
- 1 garlic clove, crushed with some coarse sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F. Peel the parsnips and cut them in half crosswise. You’l want to cut the wide tops in half again so that ultimately you end up with similar sized chunky pieces. Put the parsnips in a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper, then toss with the oil. Roast, turning once, for about 40 minutes, until they’re tender and crispy at the edges.
- While the parsnips are roasting, begin the lentils. Put them in a saucepan and cover them with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for just a minute before taking them off the heat and draining them. Return to the pan with the onion, bay leaves, and parsley stems and add just enough water to cover them. Simmer very gently for about half an hour, until tender but not mushy.
- To make the dressing, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, honey, mustard, and garlic in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Drain the lentils and remove the onion, bay leaves, and parsley stems. Toss the lentils with the dressing while still warm to coat.
- Arrange the lentils on plates with the lamb’s lettuce and parsnip chunks, tossing gently to combine. Serves four as a side dish or two for lunch with some crusty bread.