From Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, p. 81.
Only through the application of common sense and experience did this recipe turn out as well as it looked on paper. When I return to London next summer, I would like to find a way to pull Yotam Ottolenghi and Sammi aside. “Yotam, Sami, please. Bubbies. What were you thinking? Do not farm out the writing of your cookbooks. Did you test the oven temperatures? The measurements of ingredients? I don’t THINK so.” Last night I tried a third recipe from the estimable Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook and once again found myself scratching my head. Did he really think half a cup of lentils, 2 oz of spinach, 8 strips of bacon, and a half a cup of Gorgonzola cheese were proportionately balanced? Once again, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt — sort of.
I doubled most of the ingredients, except for the spinach and bacon. I used a big saucepan, because I had a hunch that wilting spinach into lentils whose liquid had been much reduced would take up a lot of volume. I did not anticipate that the dish would require as much salt as it did.
But here’s the recipe I more of less followed…
125g [4.4 oz] Puy lentils
2 bay leaves
2-3 shallots, finely chopped
4 Tblsp olive oil
3 Tblsp water
1 tsp caster sugar
60g [2.1 oz] dried sour cherries
70 [2.3 oz] ml red wine vinegar
8 streaky bacon rashers
80g [2.8 oz] baby spinach
120g [4.2 oz] creamy Gorgonzola cheese
salt and black pepper
1. Wash the lentils under cold running water and then drain. Transfer to a saucepan and add enough water to cover them by 3 times their height. Add the bay leaves, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are al dente.
2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Place the shallots in a pan with 2 Tblsp of the olive oil and sauté over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until golden. Add the water, sugar, cherries, and vinegar and continue simmering over a low heat for 8 – 10 minutes, until you get a thick sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
3. Drain the lentils well and immediately add them to the sauce so they can soak up all the flavours. Stir together, taste and adjust the salt again. It will need quite a lot, but remember you are adding bacon and Gorgonzola later, which are salty. Set aside to cool down.
4. Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan and fry the bacon in it for 3 minutes on each side, until it turns quite crisp. Transfer to a piece of kitchen paper to cool. Tear the bacon into large pieces and add to the lentils, then add the spinach and stir well. Taste and see if the salad needs any more oil, salt or pepper.
5. Transfer to serving plates and dot with broken chunks of Gorgonzola.
Now, when I made the lentils…
Regarding the ingredients, I used Trader Joe’s inexpensive tart dried cherries.
I cooked the lentils according to the book.
Sauteing the shallots for 10 mins over medium heat seemed excessive — unless Yotam meant to caramelize them. Otherwise, preparing the sauce went according to plan. The only adjustment I would make is not to drain the lentils well. I think the sauce needs more liquid.
The trick is how to keep the lentils moist and quite warm while cooking the bacon, because the point is to keep the lentils warm enough to melt the cheese when you finally serve them. So, I’d move quickly from adding the lentils to cooking the bacon, adding it quickly with the cheese right before serving.
Finally, salt. Yotam’s right: taste it for salt. In spite of the bacon and cheese, it will need a lot.
When I served the dish…
I served it with sliced leg of lamb. My four guests enjoyed it very much and declared the recipe a keeper. I’m going to try it again one of these days. Actually, I’ll be curious to taste the leftovers to see how the flavors have melded.