I spend a lot of time contemplating what to serve on the side. It seems that these days, when you have a crowd around your table, there are an increasing number of excluded food groups, and ideally, I like to make a meal that tries to please all requirements.
To make matters even more complicated, I really like to make something that can be re-jigged into another meal over the next few days. Cold roast potatoes are fine if you are picking them straight out of the bowl while standing in front of the fridge, but as a leftover they are not high on my list of useful items.
Grains, on the other hand, are extremely versatile and helpful as leftovers. They can easily be turned from a dinner side dish into a totally satisfying lunch the next day. The trick is to keep it quite simple in the first use - no veg or fruit or cheese that will give it a short shelf life in the fridge. Keep the seasoning to herbs, nuts, seeds, greens, and it will keep for a couple of days.
I love lentils, as they are great a vegetarian option for those at your table who do not eat meat or fish. This recipe for Puy lentils has evolved over the years and I make it regularly as a side for a large dinner, or as a salad for lunch or brunch. It is as delicious with roast chicken or fish as it is alongside a frittata. In fact, I often make a large batch on a Friday and add to it with any combination of the following for a weekend lunch: extra crunchy vegetables, crumbled goats cheese or feta, or roasted root vegetables or cauliflower.
Puy Lentils with Spinach, Red Onion and Herbs
As we approach summer, this would also be great as a B-B-Q side, and a tasty veggie solution. Serves 4 as a side
30g (1/4cup) sliced almonds (or hazelnuts, pistachios or sunflower seeds)
250g (1 1/4 cups) Puy lentils
600ml (2 1/2 cups ) water
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 small red onion
60ml (1/4 cup) red wine vinegar
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 small bunch dill
1 small bunch parsley
3 tbsp olive oil
50g (2 cups) baby spinach (rocket and lambs lettuce are also delicious)
Toast almonds over low flame in a small frying pan for approx 5 minutes until they are golden and fragrant. Be careful as they can easily burn. (You can also toast them in the oven for 5-10 minutes, but if the oven is not already on I do not bother to preheat it for such a small quantity of nuts!)
Rinse the lentils, and place in a saucepan with the bay leaves, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until al dente.
While the lentils cook, thinly slice the onion and put in a small bowl with the wine vinegar and allow to macerate.
Finely chop the garlic, dill and parsley (I love my mini chopper for this)
Slice the white and green parts of the spring onions.
When the lentils are cooked, drain and transfer to a large bowl. While they are hot, add the red onions, herb and garlic mixture, olive oil, season with salt and pepper and combine. It is very important that you do this while the lentils are hot so that they absorb all the flavours.
Add the spring onions and the spinach and mix through. The spinach will start to wilt which is good.
Finally just before serving sprinkle over the almonds (or any nuts or seeds of your choice).
This can be served warm or room temperature.