I’ve been commissioned to organise a Middle-Eastern feast for a cool PR event and this dish is one of the first on the menu. I always attempt to use ingredients that are typical in the Middle East but rarely seen in restaurants. I feel people get a sense of authenticity, despite any contemporary take on the ingredient. This dish, for instance, is not one you would find anywhere in the Middle East. The ingredients are eclectic and not singularly regional. But they work.
This salad is all about balance, freshness and texture. The lentils need to be cooked just after the al dente stage, the pumpkin needs to be creamy, and roasted hazelnuts add crunch and nuttiness. Oven-dried tomatoes are a great alternative to fresh tomatoes: they’re sweet and not overly moist. Preserved lemons and fresh thyme contribute that “je ne sais quoi” element, where the flavour is somewhat fleeting and exotic, only identifiable by an experienced palate. The real kicker here is isot pepper – one of my favourite all time chilis, second only to Maras chili. I went crazy for isot in Turkey and am always well stocked. Find a Turkish shop and buy some. That smoky sweet flavour of isot pepper goes with anything.
Puy Lentil Salad with Hazelnuts, Preserved Lemons, Thyme and Isot Pepper – Recipe
Since this is a salad, quantities and proportions are up to you. Want a bit more kick? Add some more isot pepper. Love preserved lemons? Go crazy!
Mix the following ingredients together:
- 2 cups puy lentils, boiled until just after al dente. I added a bouquet garni in there but you can omit. Also, I couldn’t find puy lentils, so I bought something labeled “french lentils” which are brown in colour but tastes like puy.
- 1/2 cup roast pumpkins, cut into small cubes
- 1/2 cup oven-dried tomatoes – Make your own or use good quality semi-dried tomatoes – coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp preserved lemon peel – rinsed and finely chopped
- A handful or two of roasted hazelnuts, peeled
- 1 tbsp isot pepper
- 1 tsp allspice
- olive oil and salt – to taste