a different kind of beetroot and lentil salad

one of the new cookery books that i bought recently is anna hansen’s the modern pantry. i’m a big fan of anna’s restaurant, the modern pantry, in london and enjoy her imaginative approach to melding flavours from different cuisines to create intense and impactful dishes.

this approach reflects a range of things, including that she grew up in new zealand, was inspired by her danish grandma, embarked on a food career in london (as well as nz and australia) plus her long term links with peter gordon, who is known for having a creative and imaginative approach to cooking; mixing and matching flavours from around the world.

i think this dish reflects the book and her approach to cooking incredibly well – beetroot and lentils is fairly predictable. add to that mirin, miso and soy and the dish tilts towards japan, but then pomegranate molasses are added which sends it spinning off in an entirely new direction. fresh mint and orange zest add two more strong flavours which seem to come out of the blue, but just add more layers of deliciousness.

i originally made this to accompany a slow-roasted shoulder of lamb. leftovers were eaten on their own or as part of a salad, once with hunks of melty gorgonzola and once with sliced of fried halloumi. all worked incredibly well.

anna hansen’s beetroot, lentil and mint salad with pomegranate molasses and orange dressing (serves 6)

100ml extra virgin olive oil

1 small leek, cut in half lengthways and sliced

1 small red onion, sliced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

250g puy lentils

1 tablespoons each of chopped rosemary, thyme and sage

100ml mirin

40g white miso

50ml soy sauce

150g raw beetroot, peeled and cut into fine strips

a large handful of mint leaves, shredded

2 handfuls of bull's blood leaves

for the dressing:

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

juice and zest of half an orange

100ml extra virgin olive oil

a pinch of salt

heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan, add the leek, onion and garlic and cook over a high heat until caramelised. add the lentils, herbs and mirin and continue to fry for 4 minutes, stirring from time to time.

pour on enough water to cover the lentils by 2-3cm, then bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender (if they begin to look dry, add a little more water).remove from heat and stir in the miso and soy sauce. check the seasoning, adding more soy if needed, then leave to cool.

whisk together all ingredients for the dressing. toss the beetroot, mint and lentils together in a bowl with a generous slosh of the dressing. layer with the salad leaves and serve.