Lentils are the most easy going of the dried legumes stored in my pantry. They don’t require soaking, so I don’t have to intuit that I’d like to eat them the day before I crave them. And they’re quick to cook, only taking about 20 minutes compared to the long slow boil that others in the family prefer. Lentils are not fussy about what they’re paired with, happy bulking up a salad or providing a base for juicy meats. Thoroughly versatile ingredients like this are worth their space in my store cupboard.
Root vegetables are starting to rear their gnarly, misshapen heads at the market. These winter stars are great friends with lentils, their earthy flavours working well together. Celeriac’s rogue exterior belies its subtle celery-crossed-with-parsley flavour that comes with a nutty finish. It’s delicious in a mash or roasted, but is also tasty simply pan-fried, as I did with this recipe, and paired with lentils.
Celeriac can be a little intimidating to approach, with its intertwined roots and other-worldy looking surface. To prepare, top and tail the celeriac and cut or peel away the outer skin, making peace with the fact that you’ll only use three-quarters of what you started with. You’ll be left with something that is easy to dice into small cubes.
Green, brown or french puy are my preferred lentils for dishes where I want the lentil to hold its texture, leaving red, yellow and orange for mushier meals like soup and dahl. Cooked lentils will keep refrigerated for up to a week, ready to add to a weeknight meal, especially tasty when a fried egg is placed on top. For this recipe I used puy, but green or brown would also work.
I intended to serve this dish with a delicious smoked trout from a farm not too far away, but the local (new! Very exciting!) deli had sold out. So we just ate the lentils as a simple supper, propped on our laps in front of the TV on a chilly evening. It would also go nicely with some grilled chicken or baked trout, if you were being fancy and sitting at the table.
Lentils with Celeriac, Walnuts and Feta
- 1 1/2 cups of dried green, brown or puy lentils
- 3 cups water
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 1 medium celeriac, trimmed, peeled, cut into small cubes
- 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (or walnut oil if you have it)
Thoroughly wash lentils in a strainer and remove any bits that don’t look good. Add lentils, 3 cups of water and garlic to a saucepan and bring to a rapid simmer on a medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered for 20-30 minutes (add water if needed to keep the lentils covered). Lentils are cooked when they’re no longer crunchy. Strain, removing the garlic and season generously with salt and pepper.
While the lentils are cooking, lightly toast walnuts in a hot, non-stick pan (about 3 minutes). Roughly chop the nuts and set aside.
Add celeriac to a pan with some olive oil and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes or until brown and tender.
Combine lentils, walnuts, celeriac and parsley in a large bowl. Combine vinegar, mustard and oil in a jar and shake, then pour the dressing over the lentils and give it all a big yet tender stir. Crumble feta over the lot and serve.