Are you in need of something wholesome and nourishing in between all the Christmas baking you have going on? I certainly am, that’s for sure. I’ve been busily working on lots of Christmas goodies to share with you and let’s just say, I’ve gone one licked-chocolate-spoon too far. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE chocolate. Like so much. But my body needs some actual nutrients now, y’know? This Indian-Spiced Parsnip & Lentil Salad is the answer. You’re gonna love it. And your body is going to thank you so much for it, too.
We put up our Christmas decorations yesterday and our house just feels so snug and festive! I love this time of year. In particular, I love adorning my kitchen, my favourite place, with fairy lights. There are few things better at this time than padding into the twinkly-lit kitchen without the need to turn on the lights and getting yourself a little snack. And then returning to your super comfy sofa and watching cosy Christmas TV shows because that’s the December life.
Another thing I love about this time of year, I realised today, is the shortness of the days. Practically speaking, the brevity of light hours is an inconvenience to me – every day that I’m shooting recipes for the blog is a race against time and even then, the quality of light at this time of year can be poor. But ironically, it slows me down, brings me into the present moment. On these days, I’m acutely aware of how precious every moment is. And then, when the work is done, I close the curtains, switch on the sparkling lights and snuggle up, feeling grateful for my comfortable home. It really is a wonderful life.
So let’s put some festive sparkle onto your dinner plate! This Indian-Spiced Parsnip & Lentil Salad makes for a hearty yet light meal, perfect for weeknight suppers and entertaining friends alike. I find that parsnips are an underappreciated vegetable – especially by me. I tend to find their sweetness cloying but they have a complexity of flavour, a spiciness of their own, which can be really delicious when they are cooked well. This Indian-inspired spice mix tempers, but does not mask, this inherent sweetness. Earthy lentils and peppery watercress, slick with a lemon-bright dressing, provide a substantial base while the simple fried shallots lend savouriness. The final flourish of ruby pomegranate arils punctuates the dish with pops of tart juice and brings everything together. This is a truly wonderful vegetarian dish that would satisfy any palate.
One final note: don’t be put off by the length of the ingredients list. This meal comes together quickly and easily – it’s mostly just about waiting for the component parts to cook. You could use pre-ground spices if you wanted to, but the intensity and freshness you get from gently toasting and grinding your own is worth the extra effort. If you really don’t want to do that though, just make sure you use high-quality, fresh ground spices!
Indian-Spiced Parsnip & Lentil Salad
- 500 g parsnips (3 large or 5 small)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon rapeseed or olive oil divided
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji seeds)
- 1 tablespoon runny honey
- 1/2 cup lentilles vertes or Puy lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove garlic bashed
- 2 banana shallots
- 1/2 pomegranate
- a few handfuls of watercress
- 1 lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic finely grated
- 2 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).
Peel the parsnips and cut into batons - make sure they're not too thin or else they'll burn. Place in a mixing bowl.
Add the whole spices to a frying pan and toast gently until they start to pop and smell fragrant, about 3 minutes. Leave to cool and then grind in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. If using a pestle and mortar, sieve the mix before using to remove any large pieces. You should have around 2 tablespoons of spices.
Sprinkle the spice mix over the parsnips, along with the turmeric, chilli flakes and some salt and pepper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil and toss well to ensure all the spices are evenly distributed. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the lentils. In a heavy based pan, bring the lentils to the boil in 1 cup of water, along with the bay leaf and bashed garlic clove. Once boiling, pop on a lid and reduce the heat. Cook gently for 20-25 minutes until tender. Season towards the end of the cooking time and then drain and remove the bay leaf and garlic.
After 15 minutes, remove the parsnips from the oven. Sprinkle with the nigella seeds and drizzle with the honey. Toss gently and return to the oven for 10 minutes. The parsnips should be tender and golden.
Finely slice the shallots. Warm a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan and add the shallots. Add a pinch of salt and gently fry until soft and pale golden. Set aside.
Place the dressing ingredients into a jar and shake to combine. Season to taste.
To serve, toss together the lentils and watercress with a couple of tablespoons of the dressing. Arrange on a platter or on individual plates. Top with the parsnips, fried shallots and pomegranate arils. Serve immediately with more dressing on the side.