This Black Lentil Salad features a plethora of fresh herbs – fragrant mint, citrusy coriander and aromatic flat-leaf parsley perfect with the rich earthy flavour of the lentils and the nutty seeds.
A zesty salad that was just perfect for picnics as it travels well. Pair it with an Indian curry, grilled salmon, lamb, pork or any poultry. I made this salad for a picnic feast and served with some spicy lamb kofta and tzatziki.
The ingredients for this Black Lentil Salad…
Black or Beluga Lentils as they are sometimes called because of their resemblance to caviar are small, glossy black pulses that have a delightfully nutty, slightly earthy flavour. These black beauties are perfect for salads as they are fast cooking, require no pre-soaking and retain their shape when cooked.
The health benefits of black lentils…
- Black Lentils are high in protein (an important nutrient that helps your body grow and repair cells).
- High in Calcium which not only builds bones and keeps them healthy, calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, and our heart to beat.
- High in Iron an important dietary mineral that is involved in various bodily functions, including the transport of oxygen in the blood.
- Plus, they are full of anthocyanin, an antioxidant usually found in purple and blue foods.
Choosing and storing your black lentils…
You should be able to find black lentils in large supermarkets in the aisle with the other beans and legumes. Alternatively, try a Middle Eastern speciality store.
I prefer to choose organic lentils as they are free from synthetic fertilisers, sprays and have no added preservatives.
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
Substitution for Black Lentils…
If you are unable to find Black Lentils you may substitute them with Green Lentils, they have a delightful mild earthy flavour and nutty aroma and they also keep a firm texture after cooking.
Green lentils take longer to cook, (up to 40-60 minutes) and require a lot more water to cook in.
Rinse them well under cold running water and remove any pebbles and debris. Place them in a saucepan with 6 cups of water (the ratio is 1:3).
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender (approximately 30-40 minutes).
Strain in a colander and rinse under cold water.
Flat-leaf parsley is also known as Continental and Italian parsley – it originated from Italy. It is a great herb for blending as it is compatible with virtually all other herbs. It plays the role of an amalgamating herb in this salad providing a base of flavour to build on. Flat-leaf parsley is used as a pallet cleanser and digestive aid.
It has a fresh green flavour with just a touch of pepperiness. It holds up to cooking better than the curly variety. The stems are best used in a bouquet garni (a herb bundle tied with string) or in stocks and sauces, while the leaves are great in salads or chopped and used as a garnish.
The health benefits of parsley…
- Parsley is a good source of vitamins A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system), C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body) and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- It also contains minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function) and magnesium (involved in the regulation of muscle, heart and nerve function and keeping bones strong).
- Parsley contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
Choosing and storing your parsley…
Choose fresh-looking bunches and avoid yellowing or wilted leaves. Make sure that the leaves are dry before storing. Store in a plastic bag or wrapped in paper towels in the crisper section of your fridge.
The difference between flat-leaf and curly parsley…
Visually the differences are obvious – curly parsley has ruffled leaves while flat-leaf parsley has flat leaves.
Flat-leaf parsley has a strong fresh green flavour while curly parsley has a subdued grassy flavour that gets bitter with time.
During the cooking process, the robust flavour of flat-leaf parsley fairs better than the mild-tasting curly variety as its taste is lost.
The crimpled leaves of curly parsley lend themselves best for a garnish or chopped up in salads. Flat-leaf parsley is more versatile – it can be used as a garnish, in salads and to cook with.
They both have very similar nutritional values and health benefits. Both are a good source of Vitamins A, B, C and K and the minerals iron, potassium, and copper. Flat-leaf parsley also contains folate and has antioxidant benefits. Certain compounds in flat-leaf parsley also have antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
My personal preference for cooking is Flat leaf parsley as it is much tastier and versatile with a few more added health benefits. I tend to use the curly leaf variety more as a garnish or when making vegetable bouquets.
The most common types of mint sold for eating in Australia are regular mint and Vietnamese mint. Mint is a native to the Mediterranean region and has oval and serrated leaves that are indented with veins and come to a point
In this salad, we use regular or common mint which has a fresh, fragrant mint and cooling taste with sweet overtones. Vietnamese mint has a hot, pungent flavour and is not a true mint but a herbaceous perennial.
The health benefits of mint…
- Mint is rich in vitamin A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system) and Vitamin C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body)
- It also has the trace mineral manganese.
- Mint contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
Choosing and storing your mint…
Choose fresh-looking bunches, with green, pert leaves. Avoid blackened or marked bunches with wilted leaves. Mint leaves discolour easily so make sure that it is completely dry before storing wrapped in paper towels in the crisper section of your fridge.
All parts of the coriander plant are used in cooking from its seeds, leaves, stems and roots. Coriander leaves are scalloped and bright green with long narrow stems, they are sold in bunches with part of the root attached.
It has a citrusy, sweet taste like a combination between parsley and citrus. You either like coriander or hate it. Those that like it say it has a fresh lemony lime taste while those who hate it say it tastes soapy or mouldy taste.
The health benefits of coriander (cilantro)…
- Coriander is a good source of vitamins A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system), C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body) and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- It also contains minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), manganese and magnesium (involved in the regulation of muscle, heart and nerve function and keeping bones strong).
- Coriander contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
Choosing and storing your coriander (cilantro)…
Choose fresh-looking bunches with green leaves. Avoid wilted bunches and blackened or waterlogged leaves. Make sure that the leaves are dry before storing. Store in a plastic bag or wrapped in paper towels in the crisper section of your fridge.
The spring onion is believed to have originated in the Far East and has been a favourite in China and Japan for centuries.
Proper green/spring onions are harvested with about 40 cm of green leaves and a slightly enlarged bulb. Green/spring onions marketed in NSW are different as they are generally a white bulbing variety harvested when the bulb is immature and the leaves are intact.
The health benefits of spring/green onions…
- Spring onions are an excellent source of vitamin C and calcium, which not only builds bones and keeps them healthy, calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, and our heart to beat.
- They are also a good source of dietary fibre and vitamins A and B6, thiamine, folate and minerals (potassium, copper, chromium, manganese, iron).
- Some research suggests that spring onions may lower cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes and have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Choosing and storing spring/green onions…
Look for firm unblemished bulbs and vibrant green tops that are not wilted, yellowed slimy or dry. Store in the vegetable crisper part of your fridge in a plastic bag for up to a week.
Sesame seeds are tiny, flat oval seeds that have a nutty taste and a slight crunch. They are highly valued for their high content of sesame oil, an oil that is very resistant to rancidity.
The health benefits of sesame seeds…
- Sesame seeds are an excellent source of copper which provides relief for rheumatoid arthritis.
- They are a very good source of manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function)
- A good source of magnesium (supports vascular and respiratory health); calcium which not only builds bones and keeps them healthy, it enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, and our heart to beat.
- Also a good source of iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fibre.
- Sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans and protect the liver from oxidative damage.
Choosing and storing your sesame seeds…
Sesame seeds are sold in packets in Australia. Make sure there is no evidence of moisture and smell them before buying to make sure that they smell fresh. They have a high oil content and are prone to rancidity.
They should be stored in a glass container in your fridge to prevent rancidity.
Nigella seeds are native to the Mediterranean region and have been confused with onion seeds, black cumin, black caraway and black sesame seeds.
They are a black tear-shaped seed, they have no discernible aroma. They have a herby, oregano taste with a slight bitterness and a toasted onion flavour.
The health benefits of Nigella seeds…
- Nigella seeds are high in protein, a good source of fibre (both soluble and insoluble) and contain minerals including calcium, potassium, iron and zinc.
- They have ALA, an omega 3 fat similar to that found in oily fish and walnuts.
- They are a unique source of thymoquinone, a plant chemical that may have valuable abilities in reducing mutant cell proliferation.
- It may also reduce histamine production, helping to alleviate inflammatory conditions, and also reduces the activity of parasites and bacteria in the mouth and gut.
Choosing and storing your Nigella Seeds
You will find Nigella seeds in Middle Eastern food shops or specialty spice shops.
Keep them in a cool and dark place, in an airtight container, nigella seeds have a very long life, but discard them if there is a musty rather than sharp smell.
Preparing your Black Lentil Salad…
Start with the black lentils and while they are simmering, prepare your herbs, seeds and vinaigrette.
For the black lentils…
1Sift through the lentils to remove pebbles or other debris. Discard any lentils that are shrivelled or discoloured.
2Place the lentils in a colander and rinse them under cold running water, they will be clean when the water runs clear.
3Transfer the clean lentils to a pot and add 4 cups of water for the 2 cups of dried lentils (1 cup dry lentils = 2 cups of liquid). Use just enough for the lentils to absorb and cook in so that you don’t lose any nutrients. Add more water if necessary.
4Add 2 pinches of salt (1 pinch for every cup).
5 Cover the lentils and bring them to a simmer. Continue to cook them over low heat, stirring occasionally and adding liquid when necessary. Cook until tender approximately 25-30 minutes.
6 Remove the lentils from the stove when done, place in a colander and rinse to cool. Strain well.
For the herbs…
1Rinse well in a colander under cold running water, then pat dry.
2Remove the leaves from the stems by holding the stems and either use a chef’s knife to shave the leaves off with the blade pointing away from you. You can leave the more tender stems attached.
3 Gather the leaves in the centre of your board. Start from on one side of the pile and cut through them making only a few deliberate cuts. Gather them again in a pile and cut through them again until roughly chopped.
For the spring onions…
1Rinse under cool water to get rid of any dirt taking special care through the green leaves as this is where dirt accumulates, then pat dry.
2Peel off any wilted or damaged layers and cut off the root end and discard.
3Line up the spring onions on your board and slice through them with a sharp knife for thin slices.
For the toasted sesame seeds…
1Place your sesame seeds in a small dry fry pan on medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently until they are golden brown (approximately 3-5 minutes).
2Alternatively, preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Place them on a baking tray lined with baking in the middle section of your oven and roast until golden brown (approximately 8-10 minutes) be careful not to burn them.
3Take them out of the oven and allow to cool.
Black Lentil Salad
For the salad…
- 2 cups black lentils1 (dried)
- 2 cups parsley (chopped)
- 1 cup mint (chopped)
- 1 cup coriander (cilantro) (chopped)
- 3 spring onions (sliced)
- 4 tbsps sesame seeds (toasted)
- 1 tbsp Nigella seeds2
- 4 tbsps pistachios (crushed)
For the vinaigrette…
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsps lime juice
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- ¼ tsp chilli flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
For the garnish…
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds toasted
- 2 tbsps pistachios crushed
- Place your cleaned and sorted black lentils in a saucepan, cover with 4-5 cups cold water and 2 pinches of salt and simmer until tender (approximately 25-30 minutes). Remove to a colander when done and rinse with cold water, transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Add all the vinaigrette ingredients in a glass jar and shake until emulsified.
- Place all the salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl, pour over the vinaigrette and stir until well combined.
- Arrange the salad in a salad bowl and scatter with the sesame seeds, pistachios and serve immediately.
- You should be able to find black lentils in large supermarkets in the aisle with the other beans and legumes. Alternatively, try a Middle Easter speciality store. They can be substituted with Green lentils. Green lentils take longer to cook, (up to 40-60 minutes in total) and require a lot more water to cook (detailed instructions are in the post).
- Nigella seeds can be found in Middle Eastern food shops or specialty spice shops. They can be substitued with black sesame or poppy seeds.
You will find all of our legume salads here…
Some of our favourites…
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