Western Salad – Puy lentils, parsnip and walnuts

Western Salad - 001 Puy Lentils, Beans n Parsnip edited re-sized

As more literature is published about the need to eat healthy with more ideas of how to do it, we have included more salads into our diet. I am always looking out for new ideas for tasty salads or side dishes.

This salad uses ingredients which are more unusual to our SE Asian palate, like Parsnips and Puy Lentils. It was precisely for this reason that I chose this as one of the side dishes in a celebration meal for a family gathering. The extra bit of spiciness from the raw watercress and the roasted parsnips were well balanced by the earthiness of the Puy lentils. Roast Chicken, Beef or Lamb will be the most complimentary main dishes. Perhaps young children will find arugula a gentler flavoured green than watercress.

This substantial dish will be a welcomed change for the upcoming festive meals. It will please your guests and family members who are vegetarians if vegetable stock is used to cook the Puy lentils.

Parsnips, botanically referred to as Pastinaca sativa, is a root vegetable. Parsnips are related to carrots. Historically, carrots came in all shapes and sizes. Currently, carrots are not only orange in colour but they are purple, red, yellow and even white. However, a white carrot is not a parsnip which is creamy beige in colour. Parsnips also do not taste like carrots – they are less sweet than carrots and have a certain spiciness to them with a hint of licorice yet there is also a little grassy flavour. In the West, they are often referenced as part of the “forgotten vegetables,” along with turnips and rutabagas but they are coming back in vogue.

The “Le Puy green lentil” is a lentil that is protected throughout the European Union and in France as an AOC.  In the European Union, the term may only be used to designate lentils that come from the where the volcanic soils of Le Puy-en-Velay, Auvergne region in central France. These lentils are a smaller, green-gray variety believed to possess gastronomic qualities that come from the terroir or the soil in which they are grown. Yes, they do have a earthier flavour and if cooked correctly, they have a retain their shape well.

Some Comments about Ingredients

  • Parsnips. These can be purchased at either the supermarket or at some local wet markets. They are root vegetables so if you don’t have space in the fridge, in the tropics they are stay outside in a cool place for 2 days. They are fresh when they are firm and full.
  • Puy lentils are available from local gourmet supermarkets. They are sold “bulk” at any Whole Foods outlet in USA. They do not require soaking before cooking. Some people don’t rinse them before boiling them.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If you have some walnut oil on hand, please use it instead.

Roasting the Parsnip

STEP 1. Heat oven at 200 C till oven is ready.

STEP 2. Meanwhile, peel and cut parsnips into thick sticks (5 cm by 2 cm). Place these into a large baking tray or roasting pan and toss with 2 Tbsp olive oil and some cracked black pepper. Spread them out in a single layer and roast them in the oven for about 15 mins or till they are slightly golden and cooked.

Cooking the Puy Lentils

Add 1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock, bay leaf, cracked black pepper and salt (if needed) into a large pot and bring to a rolling boil.  Pour in the Puy Lentils and when liquid comes back to a rolling boil again, lower heat. Continue cooking in a covered pot for about 20 to 25 mins more, ensuring that the lid is placed at an angle to let steam escape to prevent over-boiling. We want the Puy lentils to be whole, tender but they still have a little bite. Drain well and cool to room temperature.

HINT: Once you have roasted the walnuts and parsnips; and cooked the Puy lentils, prepare the Salad Dressing too. These steps can be done 2 to 3 days ahead of time and ingredients then refrigerated till the day you need the salad. Prepare the other ingredients and assemble the salad.

RECIPE

Source: Jamie Oliver’s website. Recipe by Pippa Kendrick 

SERVES: 6 to 8 persons

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of watercress, separate the leaves from the stems but use only the tender part of stems. A good SUBSTITUTE – 150 gm arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 5 parsnips, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 150 gm Puy Lentils
  • 200 gm blanched French beans (wash, top and tail and cut into 3 sections)
  • 50 gm roasted walnuts (roast walnuts in the oven before parsnips)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Broth to cook the Puy lentils

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock (home-made or from stock cubes)
  • 1 tsp salt if stock if home-made or stock cube is unsalted

Dressing

  • 3 to 4 Tbsp walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp light flavoured honey
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 or 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Optional Topping

  • Shavings of any type of hard cheeses

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
  2. Prepare watercress or arugula and French beans, as described.
  3. Peel and trim the parsnips, cutting them into sticks approximately 5 cm long and 1 cm thick. Finely chop the shallot and crush the garlic.
  4. Bring the stock to the boil, add the Puy lentils and bay leaf. Simmer gently for 25–30 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender but still retain some bite. Drain the lentils, discard the bay leaf and set aside. Cool.
  5. Place the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove the tray from the oven, scoop out the walnuts, and add the parsnips in their place. Drizzle with the olive oil and roast for 35 minutes until golden.
  6. Make the dressing by whisking together the walnut oil, vinegar, honey, mustard and garlic. Season and stir in the garlic and shallots.
  7. In a bowl, toss together the lentils, walnuts, parsnips and dressing.
  8. To Serve: Place the watercress or arugula onto a large platter or individual plates and pile on the lentil salad. Top with shavings of hard cheese.

HINT: This dish is served at room temperature.

Serving Suggestions

There are numerous food outlets from which a ready roasted Turkey, Beef, Leg of Lamb or Ham can easily be ordered to reduce the work load for the upcoming Christmas and New Year celebrations. Here are some suggestions for

Soups, which can also be prepared 2 to 3 days ahead

  1. Cream of Mushroom Soup. Click here
  2. Minestrone. Click here
  3. Cream of Capsicum and Quinoa. Click here

Fish as a Main Dish instead if you have guests who prefer this.

Baked Red Snapper Click here

Dessert

1. Ginger poached pears will make an excellent make-ahead dessert. Click here.

2. Crepes, sweet Click here.

3. Caramel Custard Click here.

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