Last month I travelled to the French town of Le-Puy-en-Velay in the region of Auvergne to learn all about their famous puy lentils with Merchant Gourmet. Today I am sharing a recipe for a delicious, healthy and vegetarian salad that is perfect for both summer and winter days!
Le Puy-en-Velay is a historical town with a rich cultural heritage, located at the heart of the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region. The natural setting of this town couldn’t be more impressive: surrounded by high hills and conical volcanic forms on top of which churches and religious monuments are built.
Le Puy is famously known as the starting point of one of the main pilgrimage paths in France that lead to Santiago de Compostela (the Via Podiensis). At the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Annunciation, a stunning 12th century Romanesque church, a mass is celebrated every morning at 7:00 for the pilgrims.
Le-Puy-en-Valey, with its colourful houses and stunning cathedral, open-air food markets and lace shops, volcanic rocks and pebbled streets, has stolen my heart. I’m already plotting a road trip around Auvergne to revisit Le Puy one day!
Green diamonds: so are puy lentils known as in Le-Puy-en-Valey. And you can certainly see why the tiny, but precious lentils are compared to diamonds. I visited this golden lentil field during harvest season and what a wonderful sight it was!
Puy lentils are different from traditional French green lentils and that is why they are DOP (denomination of protected origin). They have a thinner skin and for this reason they are quicker to cook (just 20 minutes and no need to pre-soak) and easier to digest. They have a delicate, slightly peppery flavour and are a fantastic base for winter stews and summery salads.
You can buy Merchant Gourmet puy lentils in the UK in all the major supermarkets (available in dry or pre-cooked packs).
Puy lentils grow at a high altitude, on volcanic soil in and around Le Puy. Farmers have to re-purpose the fields every other year and cannot use fertilisers or irrigate the fields with water. The lentils are then harvested once a year in August. Naturally, the lentil crop relies heavily on the weather every year; lentils can easily be damaged if there is not enough rain or too much rain and wind one spring / summer. Farmers take a big risk by choosing to plant puy lentils, but it’s a risk that pays off when they have a good outcome in the harvest and they can then sell a high quality, organic, delicious and healthy product!
I loved learning all about puy lentils with Merchant Gourmet and visiting the Sabarot factory, a 7th generation family-run company where puy lentils have been sorted and packaged for 200 years! In the evening, we returned to the lentil fields for a wonderful dinner.
During our visit to Sabarot factory, Chef Olivier Clemencon showed us how easy it is to prepare healthy and tasty meals using puy lentils. Among the many dishes Olivier cooked for us, two salads stood out for me as they were packed full of flavours. They were the inspiration behind the recipe I am sharing with you today!
Roasted Cauliflower Salad With Puy Lentils
In this salad recipe, I incorporated puy lentils with cauliflower and just a few other ingredients: roasted lemons, pomegranate seeds, halloumi cheese, crushed peanuts, parsley, mint and a simple tahini dressing.
Crispy cauliflower florets roasted to perfection with a coating of olive oil and served with tahini is a common recipe in Middle Eastern cuisine. I decided to give it a little French twist by adding Merchant Gourmet simply cooked puy lentils! The lentils add an earthly flavour and soft crunch texture to this dish.
Pomegranate and lemon add sweetness and tanginess, while finely chopped parsley and mint are there for extra flavour. Peanuts pair with the nutty flavour of the roasted cauliflower (you can use your favourite kind of nuts). Finally the halloumi cheese turns this from a side dish into a main course.
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp cayenne powder
- salt and pepper
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 250g Simply Cooked Merchant Gourmet Puy Lentils
- 3 tbsp peanuts, lightly toasted
- few handfuls of fresh parsley and mint
- seeds of 1 ripe pomegranate
- 250g halloumi cheese
Preheat the oven to 220ºC and line two baking sheets with foil.
Cut the cauliflower into even-sized florets. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with cayenne powder, salt and pepper. Add the garlic cloves and then spread out in a single layer in a roasting tray. Bake the cauliflower for 25-30 minutes, until it’s turning golden, tossing halfway to ensure all pieces are browning evenly. Let cool slightly before arranging cauliflower on a platter.
Place lemon slices in a single layer on the second baking sheet. Bake for 18-24 minutes, flipping after 12 minutes, until they are nice and caramelised. Set aside.
Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over a medium heat. Set aside. Use Merchant Gourmet Simply Cooked Puy Lentils or cook the dry Merchant in a medium-sized pan filled with water. Gently bring to the boil over a medium heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until they’re cooked but still retain some bite. Drain and set aside.
Top the roasted cauliflower with puy lentils, peanuts, and chopped herbs. Top with roasted lemons. Drizzle tahini dressing (see recipe below) or, if you prefer, simply season the salad with extra virgin olive oil.
Cook the halloumi in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat for a few minutes on each side or until it’s golden. Scatter the halloumi, chopped herbs, and pomegranate seeds over the salad and serve immediately.
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 garlic cloves
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup warm water
In a food processor, blitz together tahini, lemon juice and garlic. Adjust salt to your liking. Add additional water to thin if too thick, until you reach desired consistency.
Disclaimer: this post is sponsored by Merchant Gourmet. All opinions are my own.