This Puy lentil recipe is a wonderful vegetarian dish; simple, earthy and full of the rich bold flavours of carrot and beetroot. Best of all it makes for a delicious tasty meal for the youngest members of your family.
I serve this with a homemade ricotta. I know, I know, why bother. But it’s easy to make and there’s nothing more satisfying than making something with your own hands: with love, passion and time. Having said all that it’s not exactly a true ricotta as traditionally ricotta is made by heating the whey leftover from other cheesemaking projects (those made by using starter cultures and rennet). This simplified version just requires some full fat milk and lemon juice. That’s it. Unbelievably simple. Takes your microwave 3 minutes or so to make and then all you have to do is strain it. I’ll stick the directions below this lentil recipe. So onwards to dinner:
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 large onion, finely chopped
360 g Puy lentils
2 bay leaves
100 ml white wine
150 g Ricotta or creme fraiche
Salt and pepper
First thing to do is individually wrap your beetroots in tinfoil with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Chuck into the oven at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 90 minutes, or until tender. You’ll know by sticking a skewer into them. After 40 minutes throw in your carrots and get them roasting. While your beets and carrots are cooking in the oven sweat the onion in a pan, add the lentils, bay leaves and wine, then add enough water to cover. Bring to the boil then simmer.
When the lentils are tender turn up the heat and allow most of the water to evaporate, until there is just enough to keep them moist. Remove the bay leaves from saucepan, peel and dice the beetroot and carrots and add to the lentils. Gently heat your lentils and crumble over ricotta and heat through. Season and serve. And that’s it. Simple.
Now for your ricotta.
240 ml whole milk
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice or distilled white vinegar
Line a colander with four layers of cheesecloth or 2 layers of heavy duty paper towels and set over large bowl. Combine milk, salt, and vinegar or lemon juice in microwave safe glass jug. Microwave on high heat until lightly bubbling around edges, 2 to 4 minutes (milk should register about 165°F on an instant-read thermometer). Remove from microwave, and stir gently for 5 seconds. Leave it sit. Milk should separate into solid white curds and translucent liquid whey. If not, microwave for 30 seconds longer. Repeat until fully separated.
Using slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer curds to prepared colander, cover exposed top with plastic wrap, and allow to drain until desired texture is reached. You’ll find the cheese sets harder the longer you leave it. Personally I prefer using lemon; I like the flavour in the ricotta and have no good reason to be adding to my already vast collection of vinegars. It’s getting out of control as it is.
By the way once you start making your cheese this way you’ll never go back to store bought. Oh and on another note. I’ve been reliably informed that the leftover whey is great for baking with so if you’re so inclined try using it instead of water in your next batch of bread or pizza dough.
Enjoy. Plum torte next.