Puy Lentils with Grilled Radicchio and Caramelised Lemons

There is an undeniably irresistible flavour of those caramelised lemon slices you find tucked in and roasted alongside a chicken. So much so that I like to cook lemon slices and shallots on their own, adding their slightly charred sweet flavour to side dishes and vegetarian options on those occasions when stealing the crispy edged golden slices off the chicken thighs before they reach the table is not an option.

These Puy lentils with grilled radicchio is on of my favourite winter sides also doubling as a vegetarian main for anyone so inclined around your table. Feel free to replace the radicchio with roasted tomatoes in the warmer months or make it greener with chards and spinach. The grilled lemons and shallots are the star of the dish adding a richness to the lentils and a sweetness to to the radicchio. Don’t just use them here, use them on everything from green veg to grains to warms salads.

Each of the elements of this dish can be made at least a few hours ahead and assembled at the last minute and serve at room temperature. The only important step is to make sure you dress the lentils with the vinegar when they are still warm. I like to serve this straight out of the dish for ease (and because who needs to wash up anything extra?).

Hanna Geller of Building Feasts, buildingfeasts.com

Serves 4-6 as a side

Puy Lentils:

  • 250g (1 1/4 cups) Puy lentils
  • 600ml (2 1/2 cups ) boiling water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 1/2 carrot
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp each of chopped dill, mint and parsley

     

    Caramelised Lemons and Shallots:

    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/2 tbsp butter
    • 2 banana shallots
    • 1 unwaxed lemon, preferably organic

     

    Grilled Radicchio

    • 2 small radicchio (or 1 larger head)
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • good pinch of salt

     

    Optional extras:

    50g roughly chopped toasted almonds or hazelnuts

    crumbled feta or goats cheese

    Rinse the lentils well and place in a saucepan with the bay leaf, garlic, onion, carrot, celery and salt. Cover with the boiling water and bring back to the boil. Place a lid on the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes until al dente.

    When the lentils have finished cooking, remove the aromatics and drain any water remaining in the bottom (this will depend on the age of the lentils). Immediately season with the sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper. Replace the lid and keep to one side until you are ready to finish making the dish.

    While the lentils cook, thinly slice the shallots and lemons into rounds (making sure to remove any pips).

    Place a frying pan on a medium heat and coat the bottom with the tablespoon of olive oil and drop in the butter to melt together.

    Add the shallots and sprinkle with a pinch of salt to stop them browning too much. Cook until translucent and just beginning to colour. Lay the lemon slices on top, wedging them in so that they also touch the bottom of the pan.

    Cook for 3-5 minutes, checking regularly until the lemon slices are caramelised before flipping over. Keep moving the onions around periodically to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from the heat and remove the lemons from the pan onto a chopping board. Chop the half the lemons finely, keeping the remaining whole slices for garnish - they look beautiful.

    Stir the shallots and chopped lemon through the lentils making sure to add any remain-ing oil from the pan as a dressing. Add all the freshly chopped herbs.

    To grill the radicchio, cut each head in half and then in half again lengthways through the root. If you are using a larger radicchio, you might want to cut it in to 6 or 8 wedges instead of 4.

    Place the wedges on a plate or board and drizzle with olive oil and a good shrinking of salt on both sides.

    Heat your griddle pan or frying pan on a high heat until very hot. Carefully place each wedge onto the hot surface and sear for a minute or two on each side until the edges are charred and beginning to wilt a little. Do not crowd them in the pan or they will steam, so if your pan is not big enough (or your lettuces are on the larger side) you may need to do this in a few batches.

    Remove the seared and delicious leaves from the pan and either add to the lentils, or place to one side until you are ready to build and serve the dish.

    When you are ready to eat, top the lentils and radicchio with the remaining lemon slices and a few more chopped herbs for garnish if you like. This can be served warm or room temperature.

    Hanna Geller of Building Feasts, buildingfeasts.com