Sweet, sour and musky-salty. Such a harmonious mixture in a really heady starter
Serves 2 – 4 as a starter salad
1/2 cup Puy lentils (You can use the vacuum packed precooked ones, but miss out the first stage and just reheat in microwave. Also,use about 3/4 to 1 cup lentils as they are already cooked.)
2 bay leaves
2 – 3 shallots, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp water
1 tsp caster sugar (superfine)
2 oz dried sour cherries (You can use dried cranberries, but the slight sourness of these dried cherries works better against the other flavors)
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
8 rashers of bacon (streaky, preferably)
3 oz baby spinach
4 oz creamy Gorgonzola cheese
salt and black pepper
1/ Wash the lentils under cold running water and then drain. Transfer to a saucepan and add enough water to cover them by 3 times their height. Add the bay leaves, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are al dente.
2/ Meanwhile make the sauce. Place the shallots in a pan with 2 tbsp of the olive oil and saute over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until golden.
Add the water, sugar, cherries and vinegar and continue simmering over a low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until you get a thick sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
3/ Drain the lentils (if you have cooked them yourself) and immediately add them to the sauce so they can soak up all the flavors. Stir together, taste and adjust the salt again.
It will need quite a lot, but remember you are adding bacon and Gorgonzola later, which are salty. Set aside to cool down.
4/ Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan and fry the bacon in it for 3 minutes on each side, until it turns quite crisp.
Transfer to a piece of kitchen paper to cool. Tear the bacon into large pieces and add to the lentils, then add the spinach and stir well.
Taste and see if the salad needs any more oil, salt or pepper.
5/ Transfer to serving plates and dot with broken chinks of Gorgonzola