There is something about very cold weather that gives one an enormous appetite. Most of us find ourselves beginning to crave rich steaming stews and hot apple pies and all kinds of delicious warming dishes; and because we are all a great deal luckier than we realize, we usually get what we want—or near enough.Roald Dahl
Some recipes just work. Some work even better when it’s cold outside. And it’s been cold outside for some time now. This is my go-to Friday night one pot, when I feel like something warming, and substantial, and stealthily healthy for me into the bargain. I’ve already talked about the magic of lentils here, and as predicted, this weather almost makes me crave them. It also incorporates one of the more underrated vegetables in my opinion, the lowly turnip – this is the dish that made me a convert. In any case, it’s cheap, dead simple, doesn’t take but a few minutes to toss together, impresses unexpected dinner guests, and usually leaves me enough for lunch the next day. Serious comfort food.
Salmon on a Bed of Lentils
2tsp Olive Oil
2 Tblsp finely chopped Shallots
1 small Onion, coarsely chopped (I like red onions for this)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 ½ cups (600ml) defatted, low-sodium Chicken Broth (or Veg Broth)
1 cup (190g) Green or Brown Lentils
1 ½ tsp chopped fresh Thyme (or ½ tsp dried)
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Ground Cloves
¼ tsp freshly ground Black Pepper (a good 6 grinds or so)
2 small white Turnips, peeled and cut into ¼” (.5cm) dice
2 Carrots, scrubbed and cut into ¼” (.5cm) dice
1 lb (500g) Salmon Fillets, cut into 4 portions
½ bunch fresh Parsley, chopped
1 lemon, quartered
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots, onion, and garlic and sauté until tender (@ 5 min). Enough time to finish your first glass of wine, the one you poured before all that chopping, and pour a second as a reward for your hard work. Add lentils and give a good stir to coat, let cook for a minute or so.
Add broth, thyme, clove, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender. Time enough to finish that second glass. If you’re using French lentils du puy, it might take a bit longer. Add the carrots and turnips; simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, give or take. Add more broth if necessary, the mixture should be slightly soupy. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Originally at this point (and if you want the lower fat version this is the way to go) I would lay the salmon fillets on top of the lentil mixture, cover the saucepan, and cook/poach until opaque in the center and tender-flakey, about 7-8 minutes. You then simply serve in shallow bowls, a filet on top, garnished with the parsley and lemon.
Lately, however, I’ve favored a quick pan sear after dusting the fish with salt, pepper, maybe a pinch of Herbes de Provence – high heat to crisp the skin side and lightly char the flesh. Adds a nice smoky counterpoint to the lentils. A bit of crusty bread to sop up the juices, an earthy wine, and cold weather doesn’t seem so bad.
If you wanted to go absolutely vegan, the lentil/turnip/carrot mix is satisfying on its own and I’ve been known to make up a batch of just that. It’s good hot or cold, stuffed into pita or tossed with a salad.
Rough nutritional breakdown: 410 calories per serving: 40 gram protein: 10 G fat (2 G sat fat): 42 G carb: 403 mg sodium: 42 mg chol.