Warm Lentil, beetroot & fennel salad with peas, buffalo mozzarella & herb oil


Gooood Morning again - it's been a bit feast or famine (nice little foodie reference right there) in the recipe department lately, but here we have two in two days! This is my most recent web recipe for Dish magazine, and while that Mulligatawny soup from yesterday is a fabulous, soothing and nurturing dish for glacial weather, this warm salad is ideal for (possibly this weekend?!) the clear, cold weather at the start of spring, which while still freezing is a little tease of brighter days ahead. The salad is also super-tasty, but with an enlivening healthy vibe, I love the textures of nubbly lentils, squishy peas and tender onion and fennel, with the firmish, dense beetroot and soft mozzarella - and those flavours! Earthy, sweet, herby, milky - seriously my kind of food :) 

Not much more to update (not surprisingly) since yesterday...Henry is back into the swing of things, and thank God his new and lovely flat is right near his work and yoga studio, and extra bonus, the gorgeous Will isn't far away. Meanwhile Rich has been back to the gym and working hard - hurrah! I have a half day planned today (hmmm contingent on if I finish all my work this morning), and am really looking forward to some soothing yoga time (can't quite bring myself to say 'on the mat'), and a cruisey afternoon doing a bit of prep for tomorrow - friends coming for rugby watching and the menu is for some old-school Kiwi food with a slow-roasted lamb shoulder, the meat pulled and made into pies, along side kumara and potato mash and braised leek and peas. Now I just need to plan dessert...

12 small baby beetroot
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and thickly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 cups green lentils
2 bay leaves
a sprig each of mint and rosemary
1 ½ cups frozen peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 small clove garlic
1 cup of soft herbs, I used a combination of basil and mint but you could also use parsley and coriander
350g soft buffalo mozzarella
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, pine nuts or almonds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line two baking trays with tinfoil – put the beetroot in the centre of one piece of foil, drizzle with oil and vinegar, and sprinkle over fennel seeds, sea salt and black pepper. Draw the tinfoil up around the beetroot and fold in the sides to create a sealed parcel. Repeat with the fennel, oil, wine, lemon zest and a little more sea salt and black pepper in the other piece of foil. Roast both for 50-55 minutes until the beetroot and fennel are soft and tender. Set aside, and bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the lentils and herbs and very gently boil for 15 minutes, add peas and cook a further 5 minutes. Drain, and stir through the oil, vinegar and caramelised onions, and season with sea salt and black pepper. Trim and peel the beetroot while still warm, then cut into wedges.  Put the oil, lemon, garlic and herbs into a small food processor and whiz to combine.

Spoon the lentils onto four serving plates and top with beetroot and fennel. Top with mozzarella, torn into large chunks, a drizzle of herb oil, nuts (if using for an added textural crunch) and a last little sea salt and black pepper. Serves 4

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