This French lentil salad with feta, fennel and celery is aromatic and flavorful. It makes a hearty & healthy lunch, or side, and it's easy to make. Gently earthy and wholesome, it's a real bowl of deliciousness.
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I started writing this post with the next few sentences and thoughts I might need to preface them with a warning:
I'm about to talk about how good lentils are.
What makes French lentils special
I know, that might sound weird as lentils are not normally something you would imagine getting excited about, but hear me out. French, or Puy, lentils are a lovely dark green color and are, to me, a little bit special amongst lentils. For one, they are less likely to go to mush (as long as you keep an eye on them while cooking, of course) and have a great slightly earthy, nutty flavor that doesn't need too much with it to taste good.
Many other lentils I think need a bit of spice to perk them up, and, in all honesty can fit their boring reputation. But these don't, and this simple French lentil salad with feta, fennel and celery is a great way to enjoy them and makes for a great lunchbox meal.
French lentils have a few things that go well with them - feta, fennel and parsley are among them, and so they were pretty natural partners in this salad. They are also pretty hearty, without being stodgy, so this salad will definitely be one that fills you up instead of leaving you hungry a short while after you've eaten it.
It's the sort of dish that is perfect this time of year - it can be eaten cold or warm, is fairly comforting but not heavy. As goldilocks would say, just right. Kind of like other dishes I have made with these special lentils like my baked swordfish with asparagus, lentils and chermoula.
How to make this easy French lentil salad
You need just a few easy steps:
- Set the lentils to cook.
- Meanwhile fry the fennel and celery until soft.
- Once lentils are cooked, drain then mix in the oil and vinegar to dress them.
- Add the fennel, celery, feta and parsley and gently mix then serve or pack up.
While I like the flavor of fennel raw, here I wanted to go for a bit more of a softer, sweeter flavor. I think it balances better out the salty feta and fits the earthy flavors. It's all really easy and pretty quick to make, plus as I say it makes a great lunchbox meal. You can either make up a bigger batch and have some with dinner and the rest for lunch, or just cook it in the evening and box it up.
This French lentil salad with feta, fennel and celery is really easy to make, doesn't need too many ingredients but is varied and filling enough to be a break from boring lunchbox meals. While it works well cold, it's hearty enough to fit in with a chilly day as much as a warm one. It would also make a nice side dish or something to add to a potluck dinner (and if you need more ideas of salads to pack, try one of these make ahead salads). However you enjoy it, it's definitely worth trying!
Try these other tasty hearty salads:
- Butternut squash wild rice salad with cranberries and fennel
- Beet apple salad with maple vinaigrette
- Fall farro salad with roasted squash, radicchio and apple
- Plus get more ideas for make ahead salads and lunch recipes in the archives.
French lentil salad with feta, fennel and celery
- 225 g French lentils 1 ¼ cups, approx, also called Puy lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ bulb fennel
- 2 ribs celery
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste optional
- 4 oz feta cheese 120g
- 1 handful parsley
- Cover the lentils with plenty of cold water, add the bay leaf (and the stems from the parsley, if you like) and bring to the boil. Boil for a minute or two then drain. Discard the bay leaf.
- Put the lentils back in the pan and add water to cover them but only by ½in/1cm. Bring back to boiling and simmer for around 25min. They should be tender but not going mushy. Top up water if needed as they cook so they don't dry out. It's better to have too much and drain than have them stick.
- While the lentils are cooking, add the 1tbsp oil to a skillet/frying pan over a medium heat. Slice the celery and fennel, cutting larger slices into smaller chunks, then add to the pan. Cook for around 5min or more until tender and just starting to brown then set aside.
- When the lentils are cooked, add the 2tbsp oil, vinegar and salt and pepper and mix well, being careful not to break the lentils.
- Break up or dice the feta and roughly chop the parsley leaves. Add both plus the fennel and celery to the lentils. Mix through and serve either warm or at room temperature.
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