This recipe comes from the Genius Recipes section of the Food 52 website. If, like me you're a super fan/food geek and have listened to the Food52 podcast episode on Genius Recipes, you'll know that they're not genius because they're easy, or fast, they're genius because there is something in each recipe that makes you think - huh! that ah ha moment, which is present in all the Genius Recipes will most likely change the way you approach cooking.
The genius part of this recipe is how the lentils are cooked; you're instructed to drop an entire tomato, four cloves of garlic with their jackets still on, some herbs and lentils in a pot to cook. Then boom, 25 minutes later you have the most flavourful, perfectly soft lentils. I know that lentils can be rather boring, but this recipe produces exceptionally delicious lentils, which would be good all on their own, with only a tiny bit more effort than making regular lentils.
As for the toppings, they're not to be missed! The roasted tomatoes bring an earthy, sweet flavour to the dish. The homemade garlic croutons add a satisfying crunch and the horseradish cottage cheese is a perfectly creamy addition to all the other textures and flavours happening in the bowl.
I'm not going to lie, this recipe isn't quick. There is a lot going on all at once, as there are 4 separate components to make, but the end result is divine and well worth the effort.
Lentils with Roasted Tomatoes & Horseradish Cream
For the lentils
1 1/2 cups (300g) Puy lentils, washed
4 cloves unpeeled garlic
1 small plum or beefsteak tomato
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of vegetable stock powder, or 1/2 a stock cube (optional)
A generous glug of olive oil
A splash of red wine vinegar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the toppings
14 ounces (400g) cherry or grape tomatoes
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
A couple handfuls of whole-grain breadcrumbs
A small bunch of fresh thyme
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons jarred (or fresh) grated horseradish
A scant 1/2 cup cottage cheese
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 425° F (220° C). Fill and boil a kettle with water and get all your ingredients together. You’ll need a big pot for your lentils.
Put the lentils into the pan with the unpeeled garlic, whole tomato, a few sprigs of the thyme, the bay leaves, and the stock powder or cube, if using. Cover with 1 quart (1 liter) of hot water, place on medium heat bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down. Simmer and blip away for 25 to 30 minutes, until the lentils are soft and the water has mostly evaporated. If they are looking too dry, top off with a little more boiling water from the kettle.
Meanwhile, roast the tomatoes. Cut them in half and put them cut-side-up on a rimmed baking sheet with some salt, pepper, and the zest of the lemon. Drizzle them with a little olive oil and put into the oven to roast and set a timer for 15 minutes.
Next, on another baking sheet, mix the breadcrumbs with the thyme and roughly chopped garlic and drizzle with oil. Season with a little salt and pepper and set aside.
Mix the horseradish with the cottage cheese and set aside.
Once the tomatoes have had 15 minutes, put the pan of breadcrumbs into the oven and cook both for 5 minutes more, till the breadcrumbs are browned and crispy and the tomatoes are softened and sticky.
By now the lentils should be cooked and all the water should have evaporated, so scoop out the tomato and the garlic and put them in a bowl. Once cool enough to handle, pop the garlic and tomato out of their skins and use a fork to mash them to a paste. Stir this paste back through the lentils. Taste, season with salt and pepper, then dress with a generous glug of olive oil and splash of red wine vinegar.
Serve in deep bowls—a generous ladle of lentils topped with the tomatoes, horseradish sauce and finally a scattering of breadcrumbs.