A warm salad of grilled aubergine and puy lentils
After a long day at work, supper needs to be super-fast. When I’m only putting my key in the front door at 8.30pm, I need something that requires minimal effort and intervention, nothing more than a little slicing, a little stirring.
A salad might not be the first thing that springs to mind, but when it’s getting late, I shy away from the default bowl of pasta and pesto, knowing that it will be still be sitting heavily in my stomach when my head hits the pillow just an hour or two later. When time is of the essence, a pack of ready cooked puy lentils from my store cupboard stash of pulses is invaluable. The addition of some grilled aubergine, which can be left happily to its own devices, gently charring and softening away whilst I freshen myself up, makes for a light but substantial dinner.
So, before you even take your coat off, heat a griddle pan over a medium heat and slice half an aubergine into about 0.5cm rounds and then cut each round into quarters. Drop the aubergine onto the dry pan, no need to add any oil or anything. There is a balance to be struck when grilling an aubergine – you don’t want it to char too quickly so that it is still raw on the inside. I find a medium-low heat is most effective and then you can leave it grilling for up to 5 minutes on each side without worrying about it.
Then very finely slice a few slices of red onion, as wafer thin as you can manage, and put them into a small bowl with 2 tbsp vinegar and a good pinch of salt. I used a beautiful, sweet pedro ximinez vinegar, but balsamic or red wine vinegar would be equally nice. At this point, you can leave it all alone for a while, but pop back after a few minutes to turn the aubergine.
Once the aubergine is softened and lightly charred, heat 125g ready cooked puy lentils (I generally pop mine in the microwave) and then add the aubergine. Fish the onion out of the vinegar and put to one side. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the vinegar and then use this mixture to dress the aubergine and lentil mixture. The warm vegetables will really soak this up, adding lots of flavour. Stir through a good couple of handfuls of salad leaves, some chopped parsley or other soft herbs, and some grilled tomatoes or peppers from a jar, if you have them. Pile onto a plate and then top with the slivers of red onion. I imagine some feta would make a nice addition to this.
Shopping list:1 packet of pre-cooked puy lentils, 1 aubergine, 1 red onion, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salad leaves. Optional jar of grilled peppers or dried tomatoes.
Makes one generous serving.