A few weeks ago when I was visiting Marjolein in Belgium, she and I put together an excellent picnic comprising solely of recipes from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More. (You know the friendship is built to last when you fangirl over the same cookbook authors!) One of the dishes we made was a tomato and pomegranate salad. It should have had bell pepper but we didn’t have any on hand and so, in a pinch, we grated in some beetroot. And the result was, as it always is with Ottolenghi, incredibly delicious.
Being on my recent beetroot spree and all, I couldn’t help it – I had to play around with those ingredients again. Mostly because I was hungry, I tossed in some lentils and some feta. Red onion fit the theme too well to omit. There was leftover parsley in the fridge, so in that went. And suddenly I had myself a delicious little beetroot lentil salad, bright and fresh, but also full of satisfying hearty texture.
I used to avoid recipes that called for pomegranate seeds – or I’d buy them already prepared in a little plastic container. I’d learned somewhere that the easiest way to get them out of the fruit was to cut the fruit in half and then whack it with a wooden spoon. When I dutifully tried this out, I got juice all over the kitchen – not to mention my clothes – and left half of the seeds in the flesh. ‘That was pretty easy,’ I half-heartedly told myself.
And then I never tried it again.
For some reason I never questioned the assertion that this was the ‘easiest’ method, and so I accepted my fate as a buyer of little plastic containers of pomegranate seeds. Then one day I had a revelation while watching someone on the cooking network. If you don’t know this already (and you very well might!), it will change your life:
Feel your pomegranate for vertical ridges – there should be 5 or 6 – and use a knife to make vertical cuts along those ridges, about 1 cm/0.5 inch into the fruit. Then cut the fruit in half horizontally. You will now be able to break off sections of the pomegranate, sort of like an orange, and the seeds will be easy to remove with your fingers.
A revelation, I tell you!
And once you’ve tried out your new skills with this recipe, you can marvel at your mastery by making my stone fruit tabbouleh! (See what I did there?)
But back to this beetroot lentil salad: it’s surprisingly hearty for being so pink! The lentils have a wonderful, almost meaty bite; the acidity of the tomatoes works perfectly to balance out the earthy sweetness of the beetroot; the pomegranate seeds bring bursts of freshness and crunch to every mouthful; and the feta, of course, is simply dreamy. This is the sort of salad that makes me wonder why I don’t cook with lentils more often. They are so cheap, quick & easy to make, delicious, and just plain ol’ satisfying. I dress this with a simple olive oil, lemon juice & garlic vinaigrette, which I think brings just a bit of ‘oomph’ and indulgence to the dish and ties everything together, but you could leave it out entirely and it would still be delicious.
This beetroot lentil salad with pomegranate, tomato & feta is a light yet hearty dish that is perfect any night of the week.
Cherry tomatoes don't need to be de-seeded, but I highly recommend doing it for larger tomatoes, as otherwise the salad will be quite wet.