This delicious salad marks an end to the summer days in my world, but, it could just as easily be a welcome to spring salad for my friends in the Northern Hemisphere. It makes the most of this transition period for vegetables in my garden, when the tomatoes and basil are coming to an end, and the pumpkins are just coming into their prime season. For those of you heading into spring, the opposite will be happening in the vegetable markets and gardens.
The temperatures plummeted here this week, which left me looking urgently for the comfort of warmer, more substantial food, while still wanting to finish the last of my summer harvest. This salad bought these needs together perfectly.
With events not being quite as I anticipated, and with over ambitious ideas of how much three people really want to eat for lunch – I found myself home alone this week with a lot of left over salad! Four dinners later, I can tell you that as well as being delicious this is a very versatile salad!
Starting with enthusiasm – I mean who doesn’t like to think they haven’t already got a delicious dinner already made just waiting for the finishing touches – dinner number one was enjoyed with a piece of white fish, pan fried and placed on top of my lightly warmed salad. Unfortunately in my enthusiasm to eat, photography was not the priority it should have been. I can only say that it really did taste way better that it looked, and it made an especially good match with the fish because of the generous amount of capers in the salad.
Dinner number two – (salad still going strong!!) – involved adding a couple of beautiful free range eggs and a little Zhoug to spice things up a bit. I was still enjoying my salad and feeling very pleased with my creative changes.
Dinner number three was at the end of a busy day, with motivation running low it was simply served with a big dollop of my Kimchi Everyday on the side. It was still tasting good and it was great to have something healthy and delicious that I didn’t have to cook.
Dinner number four – and I was starting to wonder where my family were when I need help to eat my creations! My enthusiasm was running low at this point. The last of the salad was saved from the chickens at the eleventh hour when I saw my friend Elizabeth buying a bag of crisps and found she was going to use them to add crunch to her dinner wraps that night. Hallelujah! – the remains of the salad were saved and were finished in style, wrapped in a toasted soft tortilla with some yoghurt, Zhoug and crisps. DELICIOUS!, and with that surprise last minute, inspiration the salad finished the week as deliciously as it started.
Eliminating food waste can be quite the challenge and, although at the end of my weeks experiments I mightn’t make this salad again for a little while, I am excited to think that it is a delicious salad with MANY different serving options and so is well worth remembering.
THE MOST VERSATILE TOMATO, BASIL, PUMPKIN AND PUY LENTIL SALAD
Serves four as a main course salad (or one woman home alone for four days)
Pre heat oven to a fairly hot 200’c
- 200 grams of puy lentils cooked
- Bunch (generous handful) of fresh Basil, shred half the basil and leave the rest whole to garnish and toss through the salad with the spinach leaves
- 3 -4 cups of chopped mixed tomatoes of choice or availability
- 3 – 4 cups of pumpkin chopped into bite size wedges
- 1/2 cup of capers plus a little of this juice for the salad dressing
- 2 tablespoons dijon or walnut mustard
- 1/2 cup of olive oil for dressing, plus extra for roasting pumpkin
- Salt and pepper
- Baby spinach leaves
- Optional mozzarella, feta or yoghurt to serve it with
Firstly cook your lentils and allow them to drain well. It is important when cooking any beans or pulses to make sure the water is well seasoned and, if possible , throw in aromatics such as a bay leaf and a clove of garlic.
Toss your pumpkin with a glug of cooking olive oil, salt and pepper and place in the preheated oven and roast until well done In my home oven this takes approximately half an hour, but all ovens are different so judge it by your oven.
Meanwhile, in the bottom of your largest mixing bowl (if you don’t have a large bowl a roasting dish works just as well) add olive oil, mustard a pinch of salt and pepper, a couple of tablespoons of caper juice and whisk together.
Assemble the salad in your large bowl by firstly adding your lentils and mix them with the dressing.
Follow with the pumpkin, spinach and capers and gently mix together, this will allow them to cool a little before adding the tomatoes, basil and cheese.
This salad is best served warm allowing all the flavours to come together and the mozzarella (if using) to soften and absorb the flavours. When I ate this the next day I simply allowed it to sit in a warm place for a while and served on a warm plate.