The name comes from the latin lens, a term that has since been borrowed to describe the optical lens, named after the lentil's similar shape. Lentils were popular in the diet of the Romans and Greeks, particularly the poor, and the obelisk which now stands in the centre of St Peter's Square at the Vatican was said to be shipped from the banks of the Nile, nestled in 1.3 million kilograms of lentils. These days, the humble lentil has been embraced by modern-day gourmands, in particular the Du Puy, a small green lentil of French origin that goes perfectly with salted pork. The larger green or brown lentil is more common, while the red lentil is bright orange and often sold split - this colour fades to yellow during cooking.
- 275 gm small green lentils
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 600 gm celeriac (about 1)
- 400 gm beetroot, peeled (about 2)
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 1 radicchio, washed
- To serve: crusty bread
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp pouring cream
- 1Place lentils in a saucepan with bay leaves and garlic cloves. Cover with 1 litre of water and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low-medium, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until lentils are just tender. Drain in a colander and stand until cooled to room temperature.
- 2Coarsely grate celeriac, beetroot and carrots and set aside in separate piles. Remove and discard outer leaves from radicchio, then coarsely tear radicchio heart.
- 3For garlic salad cream, place garlic cloves in a mortar with 1 tsp sea salt and, using a pestle, crush to a paste. Transfer to a bowl, whisk in olive oil and lemon juice, then stir in cream and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- 4Arrange ingredients into piles among plates or bowls, drizzle with salad cream and serve immediately with crusty bread.