* Beetroot and lentil salad
* Red lentil dhal
* Spiced lentils with a fried egg and toast
* Blackberry and brown sugar tart
Lentils seemed excessively healthy to me during my college years, I had only ever tasted them over-cooked and stodgy, they were a food eaten for the sake of virtue rather than for taste.
A visit to India taught me that they could in fact be something quite different. I travelled around for six weeks and was served a variation on a lentil dish at almost every meal.
Dhal became one of my staples, when cooked well it is the perfect comfort food for a weary traveller.
Now I make dhal regularly at home and it has the power to transport me straight back to a roadside shack high up in the Himalayas or to a hot and dusty restaurant on the banks of the Ganges.
I most often use red lentils for dhal as they give a nice consistency, but you can use other lentils if you wish, it is an inexpensive and filling meal and when treated right, they make the back note for many interesting dishes.
Lentils do have the health benefits that I had been told about in college, they are very high in protein which is why they are invaluable to many people on a vegetarian diet.
After soya they have the next highest ratio of protein for a legume, as well as providing dietary fibre and essential nutrients.
The salad recipe included is more indicative to French cooking rather than the Indian subcontinent.
The green lentils work well with the earthy beetroot and the soft creamy buffalo mozzarella.
I particularly like the spiced lentils when the runny yolk blends in and you can dip the toast to mop it all up.
It is a perfect weekend brunch dish which is also good served with a wedge of roasted butternut squash and a dollop of creme fresh.
For the last recipe I could not resist including a simple blackberry tart made with golden brown sugar and some sliced apple.
A hot slice will ease in the cooler autumn evenings with its rich fruity flavour oozing onto the plate while outside the evenings get shorter and there is the beginning of a nip in the air.
QUICK MID-WEEK MEALS
Toss the beetroot, red onions and the roughly chopped garlic in oil and seasoning, as well as the orange juice and zest.
Place into an oven-proof dish with the star anise and roast at 180D for about 35 minutes until the beetroot is soft. Set aside to cool.
In the meantime, cover the lentils with water and bring to a boil reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until tender, adding more water if needed. Drain any excess once they are cooked through.
Whisk together three tablespoons of olive oil with the vinegar, mustard and crushed garlic. Season to taste. You can make twice as much of this dressing a keep some for the next recipe.
Cut each half of beetroot into three pieces. Toss the leaves in the dressing and then toss through all of the contents of the beetroot dish as well as the lentils. Season to taste. And sprinkle with the pieces of mozzarella before eating.
Put the rice on to boil and drain when cooking.
Cover the lentils with water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in the turmeric and butter.
Allow to bubble away gently until the lentils have softened. Add more water if needed.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently sauté the onion, once it has turned translucent add the garlic, chillies, grated ginger and the tomatoes.
After five minutes of cooking on a very low heat stir in the cumin and coriander. Set aside until the lentils are cooked.
Stir the lentils to check their consistency, they should be like a thick soup, add a little more water if necessary.
Stir in the contents from the pan and season to taste.
Serve the dhal with the rice and some coriander sprinkled on top.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND
Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion until it is translucent.
Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder, cayenne pepper and cinnamon and stir over a medium heat.
Add the lentils to the pot and cover with three cups of water. Cook for about 25 minutes until the water is adsorbed and the lentils are tender. Taste and season.
Once the lentils have cooled slightly stir in the chopped herbs and chilli flakes. Taste and season.
Fry the eggs in oil and season them well. Divide lentils between four plates, top each one with a fried egg and sprinkle with some more chilli flakes and black pepper.
Toss the leaves in the dressing and toast your bread.
Grease and flour an 8 inch spring form or loose base tin.
Mix the flour and salt. Rub in the butter, do not over mix, just rub it until it resembles rough breadcrumbs.
Stir the sugar into the eggs, mix it lightly and then add the mixture to the flour. First stir it in with a fork and then bring everything together with your hands.
Set the pastry aside to rest for an hour in the fridge or you can leave it over night.
Roll the pastry on a flour dusted surface and cut a large circle an inch and a half bigger than your tin. Gently press it into the tin.
Chill the tart for ten minutes in the fridge.
Prick the base with a fork, then cover with baking parchment and baking beans.
Place in the oven to bake blind for 20 minutes, remove the beans and the paper, then bake for a further 10 minutes more until biscuity in colour. Remove from the oven.
Place the apples into a large saucepan and very gently stir in the berries and sugar and two tablespoons of flour with a pinch of salt, heat gentle for five minute.
Scoop the mixture into the pastry case.
Cut 12 thin strips of pastry each the length of a tart. Cross the strips over the tart and pinch at the edges.
If you wish you can brush the top with an egg yolk mixed with two table spoons of milk. This will put a shine on the pastry.
Bake the tart at 180 degrees for an hour until brown and bubbling.
Leave the tart to cool for at least a half an hour before serving.
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