Favourite Lentils with Roast Tomatoes + Horseradish
I am so happy to say that my book A Modern Way to Cook is published this week in France. Yes, the land of culinary giants, where meat is king, where fancy cooking reigns have accepted me into their culinary arms and I am very happy about it.
I’ve spent many long and joy-filled holidays in France on the beaches of the south-west, drinking endless good cheap rose and trying (mostly without luck) to dodge the lardons in the salade. I love the French attitude – the family and food. It’s generous, celebratory and holds nothing back. So today I am sharing a recipe for one of my favourites puy lentils to celebrate, a meeting of our two food cultures: puy lentils cooked slowly and topped with the horseradish of a traditional Sunday dinner.
Lentils pair so well with tomatoes, and the shock of fiery horseradish and the crisp savoury crumb make this a firmly British dish. I like to serve this with some simple lemon-and-oil-dressed leaves.
Puy lentils lend themselves amazingly to quick cooking – they don’t need soaking, they cook in 30 minutes and they’re hearty, delicious and creamy. Adding a tomato and a few cloves of garlic to the pan as the lentils cook imparts great flavour. This way with lentils was taught to me by my old friend and long-time boss Jamie Oliver, but I’m pretty sure it’s a classic Italian recipe. You will never want to eat lentils any other way.
If you do have time to soak the lentils overnight, it will make them easier to digest. I always try to remember, but if you’ve forgotten or don’t have time it’s not the end of the world. I use jarred grated horseradish here, not the creamed kind or the sauce, and the fresh stuff of course works well too. Make this vegan by using a vegan mayo or cream cheese instead of the cottage cheese.
FOR THE LENTILS
300g Puy lentils, washed
4 cloves of garlic
1 small tomato
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder, or 1⁄2 a stock cube
a splash of red wine vinegar
FOR THE TOMATOES
400g baby plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
1 unwaxed lemon olive oil
a couple of handfuls of wholemeal breadcrumbs
a small bunch of fresh thyme
1 clove of garlic
FOR THE HORSERADISH SAUCE
2 teaspoons jarred grated horseradish
100ml cottage cheese
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients together. You’ll need a big pan for your lentils.
Put the lentils into the pan with the unpeeled garlic, whole tomato, a few sprigs of the thyme, the bay leaves and the stock powder or cube. Cover with 1 litre of hot water, place on a medium heat, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down. Blip away for 25–30 minutes, until the lentils are soft and the water has evaporated. If they are looking too dry, top up with a little more boiling water from the kettle.
Meanwhile, roast the tomatoes. Cut them in half and put them cut side up on a baking tray with some salt, pepper and the zest of the lemon. Drizzle them with a little olive oil and put into the oven to roast for 15 minutes.
Next, on another baking tray, mix the breadcrumbs with the thyme and roughly chopped garlic and drizzle with oil. Season with a little salt and pepper and put to one side.
Mix the horseradish with the cottage cheese or cream cheese and set aside.
Once the tomatoes have had 15 minutes, put the tray of breadcrumbs into the oven and cook both for 5 minutes more.
By now the lentils should be cooked and all the water should have evaporated, so scoop out the tomato and the garlic and put them into a bowl. Once cool enough to handle, pop the garlic cloves out of their skins and use a fork to mash them to a paste with the tomato. Stir this paste back through the lentils. Taste, season with salt and pepper, then dress with a generous glug of olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar.
Once the tomatoes are sticky and the breadcrumbs are crisp, take everything out of the oven. Serve in deep bowls – a generous ladle of lentils topped with the tomatoes, horseradish sauce and finally a scattering of breadcrumbs.
With thanks to Food 52, who featured this recipe in their ‘Genius Recipes’ a few months back, and Bobbi Lin, who took the photo