Thursday, April 27, 2006

Curried Parsnip & Lentil Salad

Though spring has ostensibly started it hasn't really felt like it. There was snow in March in London and the weather has remained a little on the chilly side most days, even now. The first of the jersey royals and english asparagus are just appearing at Borough Market now but there is still the last of the winter veg as well. We had a great piece of rare grilled rump steak for supper on Saturday with nothing more than a crisp green salad and a piece of crusty bread. Bliss. But expensive.

I needed to have a few cheaper dishes up my sleeve to get us through the week. Flicking through a Vogue Food magazine recently I found this recipe for parsnip and lentil salad and it seemed to fit the hesitant mood of spring perfectly. It has a really fabulous mix of textures and flavours, the sweetness of the roasted parsnips balanced by the earthiness of the lentils and the green beans add crunch to the final dish. The always ideal combination of curry with parsnips rounded it out. The dressing is a bit of a faff to make - it takes about an hour - but it really makes the dish. It lasts indefinitely once made so you could always make it beforehand when you have more time and leave it in the fridge then this is blissfully simple to make.

Curried Parsnip, Bean and Lentil Salad

500g/17.5oz Parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthways
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs
200g/7oz green beans
100g/4oz green lentils
Small bouquet garni - parsley, thyme, bay tied with string
1 tbsp shallot, finely chopped
100g/4oz salad leaves

For the dressing:

150ml/1/4pint vegetable oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp mild curry powder
1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
1 tbsp mango chutney
Juice of 1 lime

To make the dressing put the oil, onion and garlic into a saucepan and cook over a gentle heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the curry powder and coriander and cook for five minutes. Tip the contents of the pan into a sturdy sieve and puush the oil through into a bowl with the back of a ladle. Discard the onion mixture. Leave oil to cool.

Put the mango chutney and lime juice into the bowl of a food processor. Season with salt and pepper and pulse until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream - you are aiming for the consistency of single cream. Refrigerate until needed.

While the oil is infusing preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Put parsnips, oil and salt and pepper into a roasting pan and mix thoroughly. Roast for 30 minutes, turning them after 15, till the are golden.

For the lentils, put them into a small saucepan with the herbs and cover with water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 30 minutes till tender. Season with salt and pepper after 20 minutes. Drain and discard the bouquet garni.

For the green beans, simply blanch them for a minute in boiling water then refresh under cold water.

Like all warm salads, this should be assembled at the last minute. Poach the eggs and place the beans, lentils, chopped shallot and salad leaves into a salad bowl. When the eggs are ready, add the parsnips and a couple of tablespoons of the curried dressing to the other ingredients and toss lightly but thoroughly. Divide between two plates and drape a poached egg delicately on top.

With a slice of crusty bread this is a wonderfully satisfying supper.

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