Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Roasted parsnip, puy lentil, and watercress salad

The watercress which is growing rampantly in my garden has inspired this recipe. I never thought I would be able to grow watercress in the tropics, however the garden is semi-shaded and well mulched, and as I was gifted a couple of small plants there was no loss if they didn't survive, although I would have been disappointed. Perhaps as the imminent tropical heat sets in it will die back, I hope not, so I am  making the most of their lush green foliage and peppery flavour. I found this recipe in the River Cottage Veg everyday book, and whilst a couple of the ingredients need slight modification the dish is healthy and delicious.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to the authentic Lentilles du Puy, "puy" lentils, then use them for this recipe, although only those grown in the volcanic soils of the Auvergne region of France can legitimately be called puy lentils. A similar story to champagne.The lentils are tiny, and slate green in colour with delicate bluish marbling. However, a French style lentil is now grown in Australia, and packaged by McKenzies as premium French style lentils, and is available from our supermarkets and the Asian supermarket. This is what I used in this recipe for puy lentils.

Rapeseed oil is grown abundantly in beautiful golden fields throughout Europe, and can be found growing occasionally in Australia, however over here it is still marketed as Canola oil. Perhaps in the larger Australian cities cold pressed Rapeseed Oil can be sought out.

This recipe serves 4 as individual servings.


5 medium parsnips or use sweet potato instead
2 tablespoons canola or rapeseed oil
125g McKenzies French style or Puy Lentils
1 bay leaf
1/2 onion, unchopped
A few parsley stalks
A large bunch of watercress, tough stalks removed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 garlic clove, crushed with a little coarse sea salt in a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon English mustard
2 teaspoons clear good quality honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons canola or rapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 190 deg. C. Peel the parsnips and halve them length ways.Cut the wider top parts in half again so that you end up with chunky sections about the same size. Put the parsnips into a roasting tin, scatter with some sea salt and pepper and toss with the oil. Roast them for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through to avoid sticking, until tender or starting to caramelise. TIP: Cook some extra as when they come out of the over they look and taste delicious, and everyone wants to eat some straight away.

Put the lentils in a wide based pan, add plenty of water and bring them to the boil. This won't take long. Simmer for a minute only, then drain. Return the lentils to the pan and pour on just enough water to cover them. Add the bay leaf, onion and parsley stalks. Bring back to a very low simmer and cook slowly for about half an hour until tender but not mushy.

To make the dressing, whisk all of the ingredients together thoroughly with some salt and pepper or shake vigorously in a small glass jar with lid on.

Drain the lentils and pick out the bay leaf, parley stalks and onion.While still hot, toss the lentils with the dressing. Taste and check the seasoning. Add more if necessary.

Add the warm lentils, roasted parsnip chunks and watercress sprigs onto serving plates or a large salad dish, and finish with a few cheese shavings if desired. Add shavings of Parmesan, hard goat's cheese or another well-flavoured hard cheese.

Serve warm.

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