Put ‘vegetarian’ and ‘lentil’ together in a sentence these days and you find everybody making their excuses and leaving. I think I’ve probably already eaten my lifetime’s share of lentils, which might explain why we use them so sparingly in Café Paradiso. I love red lentils in thick spiced soups in the winter, and dhals of course, especially with coconut. And then there’s this recipe, variations on which are the basis of how we almost always prepare puy lentils. I don’t know if it is technically correct to call this braising; because we are making it up as we go in Paradiso, we seem to have evolved a vocabulary of redefined and nearly-correct usages of catering terms. Anyway, this is a great way to add to the flavour and richness of lentils without drowning out their own character. Jonathan, a Café Paradiso cook, calls it speed-braising, and that’s as good a description as I’ve heard. The finished dish can act as a grounding, earthy element in the balancing of all kinds of rich meals, especially with aubergines and salty cheeses like goats’, blue or feta.
PUT THE LENTILS IN A POT of cold water, bring it to the boil and simmer until the lentils are just tender or a fraction short of it, then drain them and return them to the pot with the tomato, red onion and herbs. Pour in the olive oil and
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