In line with a general feeling that salades composées are an important part of a French restaurant menu, I came up with this recipe. It’s a melange of the kind of things I like to find in a salad.
- 175g small beetroots, washed but not peeled
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 100g Puy lentils, rinsed
- 1 fresh thyme sprig
- Small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 ripe pear
- 100g goats’ cheese log
- 2 small handfuls rocket leaves
- 4 walnut halves, roughly chopped
- Salt and black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp walnut oil
- 1 tbsp Banyuls or sherry vinegar
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Put the beetroots on a baking tray and roast them for up to an hour, depending on size. They should be tender to the point of a knife when done. Leave them until cool enough to handle, then peel off the skins and cut them into wedges. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and sweat the shallot and garlic over a medium heat until softened. Add the lentils, 300ml of water, thyme, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper, then simmer for 23 minutes. You may need to add a little more water, but the object is for it all to become absorbed. Leave the lentils to cool down, then add the chopped parsley.
Core and slice the pear, leaving the skin on. Cut the cheese in half horizontally or into 4 slices, depending on how many you are serving. Preheat the grill and grill the cheese on one side. Mix the olive oil, walnut oil and vinegar to make the dressing. Put the lentils in a wide dish, then top with some rocket leaves. Nestle beetroot wedges and pear slices among the leaves and top with the grilled goats’ cheese and dressing. Sprinkle over the walnuts and serve at once.
Extracted from Rick Stein’s Secret France (BBC Books, £26). Photography by James Murphy.