Spring is here in the northern hemisphere, and that means it’s time to break out the salads! Not just any salads, but a whole meal, loaded with texture, flavour, protein, calcium, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
This salad was inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s onion, chickpea and goat’s cheese salad. My brother and I made it more or less to the original as part of a Middle Eastern feast, but I switched the chickpeas for lentils in this incarnation, as they are gentler on my stomach.
250g (about 1/2lb or 4 small-medium) red onions, peeled and quartered lengthwise
250g (about 1/2lb or 6 medium) shallots (eschalots), peeled and halved lengthwise
90ml (6 Tbsp) olive oil, divided
Salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp dried oregano
450g (1lb or 2 cups) uncooked puy (French green) lentils
1litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp za’atar, divided
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
200g (7oz) young spinach leaves
300g (10 1/2oz) soft goat’s cheese, cut or broken into 2-3cm (1″) pieces
2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
Heat the oven to 200°C (390°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Put the onion quarters and shallot halves in a roasting pan with two tablespoons of olive oil, a good pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper and toss together gently. Place in centre of oven and roast for 20 minutes, until soft and starting to brown. Stir through oregano, breaking the onions and shallots apart a bit, and roast for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside at room temperature.
Meanwhile, pick over the lentils and remove any foreign objects, then simmer in vegetable stock for 20 – 25 minutes. Check for doneness, and when they are of the desired consistency, drain and set aside. There won’t be much liquid remaining when you drain the lentils, but you can reserve it and freeze it for later use – it’s a great addition to a soup base.
Put a small skillet on a high heat with two tablespoons of oil and the garlic. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add two teaspoons of za’atar, the cumin, a pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Put the onions, shallots, lentils and spinach in a large bowl. Add the garlic and its oil, two teaspoons of za’atar, the remaining two tablespoons of oil and the vinegar. Toss to combine, then stir in the goat’s cheese. Season to taste
Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant.
Sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds and remaining two teaspoons of za’atar, and serve.