Umbrian lentils have a lovely firm biteand using them as a base to this Niçoise salad makes it a hearty meal. Using Black Olive Tapenade in the dressing adds a lovely depth of flavour alongside fresh, seasonal vegetables.
200g Umbrian Lentils
4tbsp Early Harvest Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus extra for drizzling
2½tbsp Black Olive Tapenade
3tbsp Non Pareilles Capers, drained
300-400g asparagus, depending on size (allow around 2-3 large spears per person)
4 free range eggs
250g cherry tomatoes
Small bunch fresh flat leaf parsley (approx. 40g), roughly chopped (optional)
6 Anchovy Fillets, cut in half lengthways (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Rinse the Lentils under cold running water then place them in a medium pan with water and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid or a piece of paper then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid then continue to cook until almost all of the water has evaporated.
Make the dressing by mixing together the Olive Oil, Black Olive Tapenade and Capers in a small bowl. Once the Lentils are cooked and still warm, add the dressing, season with black pepper and mix well to combine.
While the Lentils are cooking, place a medium pan of salted water on a high heat and bring to the boil. Trim the woody ends of the asparagus off and then add to the boiling water. Depending on the thickness of the asparagus, cook for between 3-5 minutes. To check how soft it is, take one piece out and cut a small piece off. Most people like it to be cooked ‘al dente’, although cooking it a little longer and eating it softer also has its appeal, as the asparagus tastes sweeter, but it is up to you! Remove from the pan and place in iced cold water to stop them from further cooking (or leave the cold tap running). Remove from the water after 5 minutes.
Make a small hole in the base of each egg using a pin or point of a paring knife (this allows the air to escape and avoids the shell breaking). Add to the boiling water and cook for 7 minutes, then remove and chill in cold water for 10 minutes. Peel the shells off and set aside until ready to cut.
Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves, season with salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.
Cut the cucumber in half, then use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds. Discard or compost the seeds, then cut the cucumber into thin half moon slices.
When ready to serve, it is nice but not essential to warm the Lentils a little. Once warm, place in a mixing bowl, scraping out all the dressing, add in the tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and stir through. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed, remembering that the anchovies (if using) will also add salt to the dish. Divide between plates.
Cut the asparagus in half then divide between plates. Cut the eggs into quarters and dot around the asparagus then finally drape the Anchovy Fillets over the top of this.