A substantial and nutritious salad-as-meal with spice roasted potato, cauliflower and red onion, lemony lentils and a creamy curry tahini dressing.
Well, I blinked and it’s nearly the end of February already. The beginning of the year is a really busy time in our household. School holidays and time off work run into a series of public holidays, a start-stop return to school, work and life as usual, and all of our birthdays happen within the space of one huge month.
Mine was a big one this year and I’m not yet sure how I feel about turning 40. My life is full in so many ways, but I also feel like I could do with at least another five years in my 30s to really feel like I have my shit together at this adulting business.
Ignoring the relentless march of the years I celebrated my birthday with a decadent long weekend in Rarotonga, a sleepy Pacific Island ringed by a protected lagoon sanctuary and crystal clear waters. We hired a car and explored the tiny island (it’s only 32km around) and spent lots of time in the water. Bad weather meant I missed out on the diving I’d hoped for, but we packed in plenty of snorkelling and had a really great time.
Now life as usual has finally arrived, I’m committed to the goals I set at the beginning of the year – a more balanced life and a focus on wellbeing. I’m training for a half marathon and it’s going really well. Running never feels easy for me, but week on week I’m running longer, harder, faster and starting to feel like a 21.1km run is actually possible.
I’m fuelling myself with balanced meals, plenty of vegetables, plant protein and healthy fats. This potato, cauliflower and lentil salad ticks all of those boxes.
Roasted potato, cauliflower and lentil salad
Is there any vegetable that doesn’t benefit from a bit of time in a hot oven? Roasted potatoes need no explanation, and I also really love roasted cauliflower with toasty caramelised edges. There’s nothing tricky about roasting vegetables, but it’s always amazing how it intensifies and improves their flavour.
Roasted vegetables are of course fantastic straight out of the oven, but they’re also really good when cool and added to salads. For this salad I roasted small waxy potatoes (Perlas, for those in New Zealand) cut into 2-3 pieces per spud, cauliflower florets and quartered small red onions, along with a sprinkle of ground turmeric and coriander, and a bit of salt and olive oil. They came out of the oven smelling amazing, with lovely toasty edges and a vivid golden glow from the turmeric.
To accompany the vegetables, I tossed some cooked green lentils with parsley, a little olive oil and lots of lemon – using the zest and some cut segments. The little segments of lemon provide a really refreshing burst of sourness every now and then, which I love, but if you don’t enjoy sour flavours just leave the segments out.
I assembled everything on a bed of peppery rocket leaves, though you could use any leafy green you like – baby spinach or crunchy cos would also work really well. You could also toss it all together and store it in the fridge for a pre-done lunch or dinner, this salad makes excellent leftovers.
A smashing curry tahini dressing
The salad is brought together by a smashing curry tahini dressing. Seriously, I think this is the best tahini dressing I’ve ever made. I could have eaten it by the spoonful.
I’ve made tahini dressings before and I always enjoy them, but there’s something just perfectly, exactly in balance with this one. Even my kids raved about it and that’s saying something as tahini pretty much fits into the ‘weird food’ category for them.
I can’t take credit for any skill here. This delicious vegan tahini dressing was dumb luck, but fortunately I wrote everything down and we can all replicate this beauty any time we like. Thank goodness for that.
Just pop tahini, lemon juice, water, maple syrup, mild curry powder, garlic and salt into a jar and shake to combine. The result is a silky and pourable dressing the consistency of thick cream, that’s tangy, mildly spiced, slightly sweet and just right.
The recipe makes a fairly generous portion so you’ll probably have a bit left over (hooray!) which will store happily in the fridge for at least a few days. I used leftovers to dress a fairly basic pasta and courgette salad for lunch, and it was really yummy.
If you like lentils as much as I do, you might also like to try:
For the salad:
- 1/2 cup uncooked green (Puy style) lentils (or substitute one can of cooked lentils, drained and rinsed)
- 10 small waxy potatoes (about 500g/1lb), cut into 2-3 pieces per potato
- 1/2 head cauliflower (about 500g/1lb), cut into florets
- 8 small red onions peeled and quartered
- Spray or liquid olive oil for vegetables
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- 2 tsp lemon zest (zest of a small lemon)
- Segments from two small lemons (or one large lemon) see recipe notes
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3-4 handfuls rocket (or substitute baby spinach or cos lettuce)
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp mild curry powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 small clove garlic crushed or finely grated
- Preheat oven to 220C (430F).
- Start by soaking the uncooked lentils in plenty of water for half an hour. This step is not essential, but will speed up the cooking process and improve digestion of the lentils.
- Drain and rinse the lentils, then put them in a saucepan with plenty of cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until tender but with a little bite. Drain the lentils and rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process. If you didn't soak the lentils, allow 20-30 minutes cooking time.
- Roast the vegetables while the lentils are cooking. Give the potatoes a five minute head start: put them in a roasting tray, spray or brush with a little olive oil and pop them in the oven. When five minutes is up, add the cauliflower and red onions, spray or brush with more olive oil, then sprinkle evenly with ground turmeric, coriander and salt. Roast for 20 minutes, giving everything a shake and a little more oil half way through cooking, if needed.
- Mix the cooked (or canned) lentils with parsley, lemon zest and segments, olive oil and salt.
- To make the dressing, put all ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- To serve, assemble leafy greens, roasted vegetables and lentils on a serving platter or in individual bowls. Top with a generous drizzle of dressing and enjoy.
- Here's a good YouTube clip that demonstrates how to cut segments from citrus fruits.
- This recipe serves four as a light meal, or more as a side dish.
- Nutrition information is estimate.