I know this is the season of all things baked: potatoes, puddings and pies. The cold can get into your bones and hearty food is one way of staving off the chill and refuelling for the equally wintry weeks ahead. There’s nothing like a hearty meal to see you through a long, dark evening but what can often get lost at this time of year is colour. Eating a rainbow of colourful foods doesn’t just guarantee a healthy mix of vitamins and minerals, it’s also superiorly pleasing to the eye and good food is so much more than just its parts: taste, texture, smell and sight all affect how satisfied we feel with our supper and if your plate is bland so too will be your palate. I realise that peppers are currently totally out of season, but you can get them everywhere from supermarket to farmers market, and roasting them brings out all their sweet and smoky juices making them the perfect foil for the earthy density of the puy lentils. You can serve this in a number of ways, with a baked potato and a generous dollop of hummus; with a roast loin of lamb, lots of garlic and rosemary rubbed in; or with some salmon fillets baked in foil with olive oil and capers. It’s the perfect accompaniment, though it also makes a very nice packed lunch: add a few scattered olives, toasted pine nuts and a green salad for balance.
PEPERONATA AND PUY LENTIL SALAD
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side dish
250g puy lentils
4 red, yellow, orange peppers
½ - 1 clove of garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley or coriander
Place the lentils in a large saucepan and pour over enough water to cover them by around 2-3 inches. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are just tender. Drain the lentils and then transfer them to a serving bowl.
Preheat the oven to 200c. Rub a little olive oil into the skins of the peppers and then place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes until lightly charred and soft.
Remove from the oven and place the peppers in a sealable plastic food bag. Seal the bag and leave to sit for 30 minutes. Take the peppers out of the bag and remove the skins, stalks and seeds – they should all just slide away so do this job with your hands.
Slice the peppers lengthways into strips. Crush the garlic and add the peppers, olive oil and garlic to the puy lentils. Tear in the fresh herbs and toss together seasoning to taste before serving at room temperature.