I fell off a wagon that I wasn’t even properly on this evening. You could say that I tripped. On an innocent wander to the shop, I spied some curious lentil crisps, all bagged into nice tidy individual portions, so you know, they assume that we can all behave. I never buy six bags of anything like this, as I have no restraint when it comes to bags of crispy things, be they innocently low calorie or proper actual and delicious crisps. But I can’t resist something new, especially lentils masquerading as crisps. I had to try them.
You see I have a problem with crisps, and this has nothing to do with January. This is a commitment that I had to make to myself years ago, the only wagon I hop on, the NO-6-PACKS-OF-CRISPS-WAGON, and I fell off it today. Spectacularly. I inhaled that six pack of crispy intensity in 45 minutes. Guilty bag after guilty bag. I put them away, I took them out again. Eventually, I gave up, surrendered, finished the lot, and felt sick for a bit.
And, I was doing so well, too.
As for the January wagon, well why bother? January is a grey month and everyone is spent. If there is any month that needs an injection of joy, it is this. Moderation is for the whole year, and while I am terrible at putting this into practice, this is what I need to do. I want to exercise more restraint all year round, not just for a few weeks now. I say restraint, this means I aspire to live normally, and exercise a bit more.
Real food, full fat, occasional but not too much sugar. Food that has little distance from the hands that made it, reared it, or planted it. Lots of lovely real life affirming food that I put together myself at home, and take pleasure in doing so. And January is a great time to go to restaurants, with everyone else feeling guilty at home, it is so easy to get a table. January is, if anything, a month for comfort, culinary trips down memory lane, plans for the future and cleaning out the clutter from the past.
Three years ago I was in Lyon, a city that I have only visited briefly but love and must return to. Where Paris has bistros, Lyon has bouchons. Life affirming places, gutsy and refined, serving food that comes from all parts of the animal, generous and unapologetic, rammed with flavour, and with joie de vivre.
In one bouchon, Café des Fédérations, I had the most memorable lunch. To start, green lentils, and also sliced sausage. The lentils, simple with great bite but in a glorious dressing. I asked what it was, my French clumsy. Salad cream, I was told, and I have been obsessed with home made salad cream since. It is next level, streets ahead of its bottled cousin; tangy, creamy and rich. Also my main course needs a mention, a sublime chicken in vinegar, which I must make soon too.
The other day, while day dreaming, I remembered that lunch and those dishes, I could almost taste them. The lentils called first, and I did my take on it, using beluga lentils. I love the flavour, but they also hold their shape and have perfect bite. Puy lentils will do fine, if you can’t get them.
Home made salad cream required a little research. I ended up with Mrs Beeton and discovered that salad cream is another awesome egg dressing, this time the egg yolks are hard boiled and whisked with mustard, an acid (vinegar or lemon), a little sweetness (honey for me), and cream. When these are whisked together and start to thicken, some oil is whisked in too, which emulsifies nicely and gives everything a lovely sheen. We have been eating it since I made it, and I made a few batches to get it right.
What is wrong with a few calories? Nothing if you are burning them off. Fat is good and healthy too (in moderation!), we are built to break it down, and use it as fuel. Everything in salad cream is real, and delicious. Treat yourself, we need it in January after all, right? Any leftover salad cream will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. Enjoy it.
RECIPE: Beluga Lentil & Egg Salad with Home Made Salad Cream
the salad cream recipe is adapted from Mrs Beeton
150g beluga or puy lentils
2 spring onions, finely sliced
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
sea salt to taste
1 hard boiled egg yolk
1 tsp English mustard (dijon will do too)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about half a lemons worth – you can use vinegar instead if you prefer but I like the roundness of lemon)
1/2 tsp honey (or more to taste – I like mine sour, but you may prefer sweet / sour)
50ml single cream (heavy cream in the US0
50ml good extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste
Boil the lentils in twice their volume of lightly salted water until tender but still firm – about 15 – 20 minutes. Drain.
Boil the eggs to your liking. I like mine soft, and add large eggs to boiling water for 7 minutes, refreshing immediately in cold water when done. Peel, and leave to the side.
Make the salad cream while you wait. Using a mixer / food processor or whisk, combine all of the ingredients except the oil and salt until well mixed, and the cream is thickened but still smooth. Drizzle the oil in slowly, whisking as you do, until it is all absorbed and glossy. Don’t worry too much about it, it is not anywhere near as difficult or awkward as mayonnaise.
Add a couple of tablespoons of the salad cream to the lentils. Remove the thyme leaves from the twigs and add with the spring onions. Season with salt to taste, if necessary.
Cut the boiled eggs in half and serve on top of the lentils, with a further drizzle of salad cream on top. Because, why not?!