A girl needs two things she can rely on when the seasons start to change. One – a good cardigan because the weather can turn on its heel between winter and spring (or winter and summer as it happens here). Two – a good cross-seasonal salad. Something that can be made no matter what looks good at the farmers market, or if you happen to be relying on your grocery store because going to the gym with your sister seems so much more appealing than getting out of bed super early after a challenging week at work. It happens.
Now, I can’t help you on the cardigan choices (although these people here certainly know a thing or two) but I can certainly help you with a salad that crosses seasons and can transform refrigerator and store cupboard staples into a meal (or side dish) that satisfies hunger and delights tastebuds. No matter what the season it’s easy to find a bag of carrots, some fresh baby spinach, and a packet of dried lentils. Even in the dead of winter, this salad will bring a little sunshine to your life, or on a blustery, humid summer night a little comfort without weighing you down.
The natural sweetness of the carrots is brought out by some time in the oven with a coating of olive oil and maple syrup. The lentils are cooked with bay leaves and cinnamon; flavours that both reach down into the earthiness of the lentils and give them real flavour and presence in this salad, rather than just being the good, solid backbone of a hearty salad. The dressing pulls everything together and unites each separate, stunning part into bite after delicious bite. The dressing is a combination of olive oil, maple syrup, orange juice and zest, rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper, and just a touch of cinnamon.
If you are searching for a salad that does double duty as a healthy lunchtime meal and a side dish for a family gathering (think of my USA friends preparing for Thanksgiving) then this is the salad for you. For my Thanksgiving friends with tricky to feed guests this salad is vegan and gluten free, which that no matter their dietary constraints, your guests will be pleased. If you are preparing for summer beach season then this salad is perfect for filling your lunchbox. Protein from lentils, healthy fats from walnuts, and the green power of baby spinach will keep you satisfied and help you work towards your summer glow.
Serves 3-4 | Gluten Free | Vegan
- 1 cup dried Puy lentils
- 3 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 medium carrots
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup walnuts
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
For the dressing
- Juice and zest 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Salt and pepper
- Place lentils, water, bay leaves and cinnamon stick into a medium saucepan, cover with a lid and bring to the boil over a medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are cooked, but still firm to the bite. Once cooked, drain lentils and allow to cool to room temperature. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick.
- While lentils are cooking heat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil.
- Top and tail carrots and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) thick rounds. Place in a small bowl with maple syrup and olive oil. Toss to coat and then spread across baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until carrots are easily pierced with a fork.
- To toast walnuts add to carrots in the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Allow to cool and chop roughly into large pieces.
- To make dressing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk vigorously with a fork.
- Combine lentils, walnuts, carrots, cranberries and spinach in a large mixing bowl. Pour over dressing and gently toss until everything is well coated.