The Chef’s Manifesto, a non-profit food sustainability network, recently helped launch a campaign called Beans is How in an effort to double bean consumption by 2028. Legumes have been identified by nutritionists, agricultural scientists and key leaders as a great choice for both people and the planet, and are affordable, nutritious and low impact. I’ve teamed up with LegumeChef, which is raising awareness of the benefits of legumes, to come up with suitable zero-waste, whole-food recipes, and today’s dish combines earthy lentils, sweet beetroot, and sour cheese with a spicy dressing made from the beetroot leaves.
Lentils with beet leaf chimichurri, roasted beets, feta and fennel
I’ve always loved the combination of lentils, beetroot, and cheese: each ingredient complements the others so well, from the earthy lentils, sweet beetroot, and sour cheese, also working nutritionally to create a protein- and vitamin-rich to provide meals.
The freshest bunches of red beets with full leaf plumes can be found at the greengrocer or farmers market. Yes, some supermarkets also sell them in clumps, but because the food chain involved is so much longer, the leaves may already be deteriorating; that is if they have not already been removed, leaving only a few stems. If that’s the best you can hold, pick the best remaining leaves and any stems and make up the weight for the chimichurri below with flat-leaf parsley. The stems still add an earthy flavor and nice red color to the sauce. Once made, let the chimichurri rest for at least 30 minutes, and ideally a few hours: this will give the garlic time to soften and release the color from the beet leaves. It will keep for at least a week in the fridge.
Serves 2 as a main dish or 6 as a side dish
For the salad
1 bunch of beetrootideally with their leaves, washed
Salt and black pepper
240 g cooked green lentils (i.e. from about 100g dry lentils, cooked, or from 1 400g tin, drained)
100 grams feta or goat cheese
Fennel or dill leavesto finish
For the beet leaf chimichurri
40 g beet leaves (if you don’t have enough, make up the weight with flat leaf parsley)
3 sprigs of fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
3 cloves of garlicpeeled and finely chopped
1 small red pepperchopped (or to taste)
8 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Cut the beetroot into wedges, toss with a drizzle of olive oil, season to taste and roast in an oven at 210C (190C convection) / 410F / Gas 6½ for 35 minutes, until lightly charred and tender (preferably cooking something at the same time). otherwise in the oven). time, both to save energy and to get ahead with a future meal).
To make the chimichurri, stack the beet leaves (and flat-leaf parsley) neatly on top of each other and finely chop them from stem to leaf. Mix with the oregano, garlic, chili pepper, extra virgin olive oil and vinegar, season to taste and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes (see recipe introduction).
Finely chop any remaining beet leaves from the bunch and stir into the cooked green lentils. Dress the lentils with chimichurri to taste and place on a serving platter. Crumble the cheese on top, garnish with the roasted beet wedges and serve dressed with some more chimichurri and possibly a few fennel or dill leaves.