Warm Lentil Salad with Creamy Eggplant

For my first post I would like to share one of my favourites for a warm autumn night. I have made this adapted Yotam Ottolenghi recipe a few times for friends and family and everyone always raves about it. The fresh flavour of the heaped herbs and texture of the puy lentils pair deliciously with the creaminess of the blackened eggplant and yoghurt.

What  you need to serve four lucky people:
  • two medium sized eggplants, pierced with a sharp knife a few times all over
  • 2 cups of dry puy lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup each of finely chopped parsley and coriander 
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill (I normally use 1 teaspoon of dry dill if I don't have fresh)
  • natural yoghurt, approximately 4 tbsp
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (good quality)
  • one large punnet of cherry tomatoes (grape if possible), halved
  • 1 large carrot, thoroughly washed and scrubbed, chopped 1cm cubes
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar/molasses sugar or 1 tbs agave nectar
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
For stock*:
  • 2 small carrots chopped into big chunks
  • 2 celery sticks chopped into big chunks
  • 1/2 brown onion chopped into big chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 thyme sprigs
*(note you could use a good quality pre-made vegetable stock instead if you don't have much time)

How to Cook It:
  • Heat the grill in the oven to 200g, place the pierced eggplants on a foil lined tray and put them directly under the grill for 1 hour, turning a few times. After an hour the eggplants should have deflated completely and their skin should have burnt and broken.
  • As soon as the eggplants are under the grill put the lentils in a saucepan and add one carrot, half a celery stick, bay leaf, thyme and onion . Cover with water and bring to the boil. Alternatively use vegetable stock, approximately the equivalent of 2 cups stock and 2 cups water. Simmer on a low heat for 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain in a sieve and remove and throw away the carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme and onion if used.
  • While the lentils are cooking, add carrot, cherry tomatoes, 1 tbs of grapeseed oil, sugar or agave and toss to coat. 
  • Put drained lentils in a bowl and add 1 1/2 tbs of red wine vinegar, 1 tbs of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, stir and set aside. Cover the bowl with foil to keep the lentils warm.
  • Take the eggplants out of the oven and turn the oven down to 140 degrees C. Cut a slit down the centre and scoop out the flesh. Let the flesh drain for 15 minute in a colander then mix with 1/2 tbs vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
  • While eggplant is draining, cook the vegetables in the oven at 140 degrees C for around 20 minutes or until carrot is tender but still firm.
  • Add the vegetables to the lentils, then add the herbs and stir gently. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. 
  • Spoon lentil mixture onto 4 serving plates, place the eggplant mixture on top of each plate followed by a tbs of yoghurt for each plate.
  • Bon apetit! 
Make it naughty - add some crumbled goats fetta or creme fraiche instead of the yoghurt.

Variations - add.a squeeze of lemon juice in at the end, add some chopped red onion (or whole small ones) in with the vegetables (or finely sliced raw if you prefer).