Apart from roast chicken, which would probably be my "death row" meal (should I ever find myself in such a hapless position), my next favourite meal would probably be some kind of "big bowl" salad. A salad which is substantial enough to constitute a main meal, be it warm or cold, will find favour with me any time of year.
Right now, when temperatures are plummeting, a warm, substantial, hearty salad is much more likely to find its way to my table than any kind of braise or casserole. I often find inspiration for such dishes in one of my Heidi Swanson cookbooks (Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Ingredients and Super Natural Every Day: Well Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen), or one of my Ottolenghi cookbooks (Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi).
So it was that leafing through Ottolenghi: The Cookbook the other day, I came across a recipe for puy lentils with sour cherries, bacon and Gorgonzola, which seemed to tick all the right boxes for me. The book describes this dish as a starter, but I knew that it would easily be hearty enough for me for a main meal. I made a few minor changes to the recipe to suit both what I had on hand and what was readily available. Firstly, I didn't have any puy lentils in the house (and not easy to come by at my local supermarket either, for that matter), but I did have some green lentils which I knew would make a good substitute. The recipe also called for dried sour cherries which are not available here, so I subbed in some tinned black cherries and left out the sugar called for in the recipe. I also had some beautiful pork, spinach and pine nut sausages from a great little French butchery we have here in Nelson (Phillipe Butchery & Deli), which I knew would make a great alternative to the bacon.
Now this may sound like a really odd combination of ingredients, and it's probably not going to win any prizes in the looks department either, but somehow it really works. The musky, earthiness of the lentils makes a great "backdrop" to the little "hits" of the tangy cherries, the porcine deliciousness of the sausage or bacon, and the salty Gorgonzola - for a vegetarian option, I think mushrooms would make a great alternative to the sausage. The recipe suggests this will make a starter for 2 to 4 people - I found that this made a huge meal for me two days in a row (and, yes, it was just as good on the second day).
Lentils with Cherries, Sausage & Gorgonzola
Adapted from recipe from
Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a starter
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
125g (4.4 oz) green lentils
2 bay leaves
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons water
1/2 of a 400g (14 oz) tin of black cherries, drained
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 pork sausages, casings removed and crumbled into small pieces
2 very generous handfuls baby spinach leaves
120g (4 oz) Gorgonzola
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil for serving
Put lentils into a sieve and run under cold water until the water runs clear. Transfer the lentils to a medium saucepan, and add enough cold water to cover them by three times their depth. Add bay leaves to the pan, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes - until lentils are cooked through, but still have a little bit of bite to them.
While lentils are cooking, make the sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add shallots to the pan and saute until golden. Add the water, cherries and vinegar, and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes until you have a thickish sauce. Remove from heat, taste, and season with salt and pepper.
Drain the cooked lentils and immediately add to the sauce. Stir together so that the lentils can soak up all the flavour. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You will need to add quite a lot of salt, but do keep in mind that the Gorgonzola you will be adding later is quite salty. Set aside to cool.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a saute pan and fry the pieces of sausage until browned all over. Remove to a paper towel to drain and cool. Then add the sausage pieces and spinach leaves to the lentils and mix well. Taste once more to see if you need to further adjust the seasoning.
Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and strew chunks of Gorgonzola over the top.
I'm sharing this salad this week at Cookbook Sundays, where my friends are delving into their cookbook collections and sharing some of their recipes. Do keep reading to see what they're cooking - you might even feel inspired to link up a recipe from one of your own cookbooks.
I'm also sharing this post at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by Michelle at Ms. enPlace, and at Gallery of Favourites hosted by April at 21st Century Housewife.
If you're anything like me you have dozens of cookbooks gathering dust on your bookshelves, some of which have never even been cooked from. Sure I spent hours browsing through them when I first bought them, marking all the recipes I was going to make with little post-it notes, and yet still those books languish in the bookcase and never make it to the kitchen. There are others from which I have made but one recipe which was such a resounding success that I've made it over and over again, and yet somehow I've never made anything else from that book. Sound a bit familiar?!
Take comfort - you are not alone, and now Cookbook Sundays is your opportunity to change that. Every Sunday I'm going to share with you a recipe that I haven't made before from one of my ever expanding collection of cookbooks. And, because I know that if you have read this far then you are guilty of this too, I'm inviting you to join in with me. Each week my Cookbook Sundays post will have a linky for you to share something you've cooked from one of your cookbooks.
The rules for joining in are simple:Now, go and dust off those cookbooks and get cooking! Use the linky tool at the end of this post to submit your entry/entries - simply scroll down to where it says "You are next ... Click here to enter", and then follow the instructions. The linky will be open for one week.
- Your post must state the author and the title of the book your recipe has come from.
- Your post must mention Cookbook Sundays and link back to this post. Including the Cookbook Sundays badge is optional, but always appreciated.
- You may submit as many entries as you like, and you may use the same cookbook as many times as you like. Old posts are also welcome.
- Lastly, remember that what goes around, comes around - one of the reasons you are participating in this is because you want people to read your posts, so do the right thing and go and visit a few of the other participants - you can even "Like" your favourites.
Lastly, if you would like to use the Cookbook Sundays badge in your post, simply copy the code in the box beside the badge below and paste it into your post. Feel free to also use it in your sidebar if you wish.